Thursday, March 5, 2009


This is a test post.  Please disregard.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Telecom Amnesty

I'm far too angry right now to write properly on the topic, so I'll direct you to Glenn Greenwald, who does a great job of it.

Apparently, the Democrats in congress have come up with a "compromise" (presumably of any morals and beliefs they may have held about Americans' civil rights) which gives the White House exactly what it wants; effective immunity to the telecoms for wiretapping without a warrant, solely on the say-so of the President. The only concession that the Democrats apparently bothered to get was that the bill comes up for reauthorization in 2012. A bill which declares that judges must dismiss legal action against anyone who breaks the law in the aid of intelligence gathering on terrorists if the President approved it. Because that power would never be abused. Meanwhile, McCain says he approves of this bill, and Barack is nowhere to be found. We're all so screwed.


Listening to: BBC - Doctor Who
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Last Father's Day

So I found this ad (via Andrew Sullivan) from the Family Research Council yesterday, and it's just one of those things that really bothers me. "The next step will be to remove 'Father' from birth certificates." On what world? This is part of that "slippery slope" argument that says, if we allow gay marriage, soon all our families will be destroyed, and people will engage in bestiality and polygamy...AT THE SAME TIME! Which honestly, is just so much BS. The only reason we'd have to remove "Father" from birth certificates is if there were widespread options that no longer required both sexes to produce a child. If science could fertilize an egg with another, modified egg, then yes, we have no need for "Father" on the birth certificate. Until then, I suspect it's sticking around.

As to the idea that suddenly everyone is going to want to marry goats, or inanimate objects, or children...that's even more crazy than the birth certificate idea. Marriage, as administered by the US Government, is simply a contract between two people. As you may be aware, animals, furniture and children are all incapable of entering into a legal contract, as they are not legally recognized as being able to give consent.

Oh, and this will destroy traditional marriage? People still seem to be happily married in Massachusetts. People aren't abandoning their families, and this isn't going to convince anyone that they shouldn't get married to the person they love. If it does, perhaps they shouldn't be getting married to that person anyway. People aren't going to suddenly discover they're gay, and run off on their wife to marry another man.

Also, since this is a legal contract, filed with a secular body (the US Government), I'd suggest that religion should play absolutely no part in this argument. Yes, 71% of Americans are some form of Christian. Some major denominations allow openly gay clergy, and even marry their gay members. So don't pretend that there's some overwhelming national desire to deny people the right to marry in a secular society. Your church is not going to be required to marry them, so don't require the government to abide by all the rules of your church.

Stop blaming the "activist" courts. Simply disagreeing with you doesn't make a court "activist." "But they're opposing the will of the people," you might say. Well good. That's what courts are there for. If you want will of the people, talk to your legislator or your executive. The courts are there to uphold the constitution, and protect the rights of minorities from abuse by the majority. In the case of California, what the courts did was reinforce the idea—from Brown v. Board of Education—that separate can never be equal. That California had set up homosexuals with a parallel system of civil unions, including all the rights and benefits of marriage. What these civil unions did, which made them unequal, was to say, by merit of being the same thing under a different name, "You are different, and are not allowed to engage in the same kind of contracts as everyone else because of your sexual orientation."

Sexual orientation, of course, is biologically wired in, likely before birth as a new study shows. As such, it is as immutable as your race, and thus discriminating on that basis is unconstitutional. This was the reasoning of the court, and sound reasoning at that. This is not some liberal court full of people trying to change society. This is, by all accounts, a conservative, cautious court. All but two members were appointed by Republican governors, and most have been confirmed by popular vote of the people. This is also not entirely against the will of the people. Twice, the California legislature passed gay marriage laws, and both times (if I recall correctly) they were vetoed, by Governor Schwarzenegger. He said that he was leaving this to the courts. Now the courts have decided, and he is standing behind that decision. The Republican governor of California is opposing the attempt to alter California's constitution in order to outlaw gay marriage.

So I hope people enjoyed Father's Day. You should enjoy the one next year, too, 'cause it's not going away anytime soon.


Listening to: Foo Fighters - Cheer Up Boys, Your Makeup Is Running
via FoxyTunes

Water, Water Everywhere

Just a point of oddness. Up here in Wisconsin, the flooding hasn't been as bad as for Iowa and other places southward. Not that Lake Delton draining didn't cause some problems.

So, I-94, the main east-west corridor, has 30 miles shut down in the 80 miles between Milwaukee and Madison due to the flooding. They're beginning emergency construction to create a crossover from westbound I-94 to get onto eastbound, avoiding the need for an overly-long detour.

In other news which, when I found it next to the first story, I thought was fairly ironic. US and Canadian officials will be in Wisconsin this week to discuss the near record low levels of water in Lake Michigan.

That is all.


Listening to: Foo Fighters - My Hero
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pres. Bush: Democrats Caused High Gas Prices

I'm just watching the brief speech George Bush gave on his new idea for energy policy (that John McCain started using last week); specifically, that he wants congress to lift the ban on off-shore oil drilling, and in return he would lift the Presidential prohibition on such drilling. He also spoke of oil shale and ANWR, though they seemed secondary. I'm not entirely opposed to these ideas, though with the stipulation that they be performed with strong environmental safeties, and that the American people understand exactly what we get out of this.

What we get is not cheaper gas. At least, not cheaper that you'd ever notice. Most studies I've seen cite something along the lines of a $0.02 decrease in gas prices in about 5 years. It would take time to prospect for the oil, then construction of drilling rig, piping, or whatever is necessary to carry it to refineries, and then we can start pumping. All of which will likely take a couple years, maybe under one year if everything is rushed. Then we run into the problem of refining it. We need more refineries. We have for a while. The newest refinery in America is, I believe, almost 10 years older than I am. So if we get the oil from our own shores, at best it will replace oil coming from elsewhere, as refining is currently a bottleneck in getting usable forms of energy to the market. This is often cited as part of the idea of "energy independence" and as a national security issue. While it may be somewhat true, if America stops buying Arabian oil (or any other foreign oil), China, India, and many other industrializing nations will quickly snap up the difference. That's part of the problem.

There's lots of blame to be had with the price of oil right now. Democrats are inclined to blame George Bush, and his unnecessary war in Iraq, today in his speech, George Bush blamed the Democrats in control of Congress (who came back to power when oil prices were already much raised, as opposed to his own tenure for the entire length of this price spike) and effectively suggested that the voters hold the Democrats responsible for high oil prices. He also put blame on former-President Bill Clinton for the ban on offshore drilling, despite the fact that his own father, the first President Bush, is the one to ban offshore drilling in the first place. Every party in government (with the possible exception of the handful of Independents) holds some responsibility for this. More than once before, oil has spiked to levels which leave people desperate. But they go back down eventually, and no one does anything to solve the problems. There are also a number of very real reasons why oil prices are on the rise.

First, the American Dollar. Our economy of late has been weakening as we skirt recession, lose jobs, deal with inflation (much of which is, itself being pushed by rising fuel prices), see widespread home foreclosures, and spend billions in Iraq on a war that is widely unpopular. The end result is the falling value of the Dollar. With the value falling, all imports become more expensive, and our exports become cheaper. What this means is that the quantity of our exports are rising, as people want more American products at the newly reduced prices. We've avoided a technical recession by merit of our increased exports, preventing by slim margins our economy from having two sequential quarters of losses. Internally, we're suffering the effects of import prices rising. Necessities (food, clothing, fuel, etc.) are rising faster than the rest of the marketplace, due to an inflexible demand curve. Part of the high price of oil and gas right now is simply an extension of the fact that our Dollar is so weak right now.

Second, China. But not just China. India as well, and a number of other nations. Africa is rising somewhat, as well as other countries in Southeast Asia and South America. Specifically, all these nations are industrializing. China and India of course comprise about half the world population (compared to America and Europe's combined 17%), and in the last few years, they've really begun pushing forward with modernizing their nations, building cities, commercial centers, and getting their citizens in automobiles. As more people in industrializing nations try to live like Americans, they'll be taking up more resources that we want in America. This is another reason that we need to set an example on alternative energy, and efficient use of energy; other nations are trying to emulate our quality of life, and if we continue to be as wasteful as we have been, we're setting a very poor example. America uses far more energy per capita than Europe, especially Western Europe, and the newly developed countries are going to be less efficient anyway. So imagine for a moment: China and India, as they try to match our lifestyles, using 10 times as much energy as America...if they're that efficient. Perhaps 12 times as much, or 15. That isn't a level of energy usage that the world can sustain for long. At this point, America needs to show leadership. It's been a while since we showed true leadership. We've spent a while now simply issuing dictates that we seem to expect other countries to follow. We're the greatest country in the world, or so I've been told. It's time that we take the lead again, and develop cleaner, more efficient technologies, and hopefully we can begin to create ones which run on a renewable resource. If all our world's resources are burned up by China and India, we all suffer.

Third is the suggestion that we are now, or soon will be, at the point of peak oil. Peak oil is the point in time where maximum possible worldwide petroleum production is reached. After that point, oil production will begin to drop off, never to recover. We've known for a long time that there's a finite amount of oil under the surface of the earth, but there's little suggestion of what to do once it runs out. Even the optimistic projections put the time for peak oil in the 2030's. Rumors of peak oil approaching seem to be driving prices upward. Some people suggest that peak oil is a lie, and that petroleum is formed by natural processes of the earth, meaning that there is an infinite supply of oil, and that peak oil is simply a conspiracy to make us give up comfortable lifestyles for ones that use renewable resources. Until serious scientists support their theory, they are (like Young Earth Creationists) officially crazy. Don't pay attention to them. Leave it to professionals.

I suppose the moral of the story is this: We need to reduce our overall need for oil, not just foreign oil. Whether that's making lifestyle changes, or just technology changes, it doesn't matter. We can't keep going forever (or quite possibly, even for the rest of my life) on the track we're on. We need to take a leadership role in the world again, and get us on to renewable resources to power our world. A stronger economy will dent the price of fuel, but won't bring it back down to where it was in 2000. Unless we make changes of some kind, we're going to run into a wall on energy, because petroleum is a finite resource. You know, unless these guys make it renewable.


Listening to: Punchline - Flashlight
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Barack Obama's Ad

Sorting through Barack Obama's YouTube channel is a little difficult. He has more than 1,000 videos, and more than 100 that respond to a search for ads. Barack has not yet begun general election advertising, so it was interesting trying to pick one out. I did come across one that could be used as a general election ad, and is an example of a good one:

It of course begins with Barack giving a speech, which is always good for him. He takes this opportunity to establish that he's not the usual Washington pol, coming up with only short-term answers. Then, over the video of his speech, he lays out a bulleted list of actual goals; $1,000 middle class tax cut, raising fuel efficiency, etc. This is an excellent commercial for a higher-information voter like myself. I also find it to be a fairly friendly and warm ad, like the second McCain ad I posted. Barack especially, though, has to watch out, in some of his other ads, that he does actually explain what he's going to do, and not just give a great speech. He's accused of being all words, and no policy. I know that he has good policy positions, and it's important for him to get them out there.

I'll probably come back to this issue as more campaign advertising comes up.


Listening to: Daft Punk - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
via FoxyTunes