Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Congressional justice quantified, Part 2

From a report on the House Rules governing how the US House of Representatives punishes its own members (paraphrased): 

A reprimand is a vote by Congress criticizing a member for his conduct.
A censure is a vote by Congress criticizing a member for his conduct, in which the member has to stand at the front of the group.

  • Republican Joe Wilson, for shouting "You lie!" during Obama's speech. Reprimanded.
  • Democrat Charlie Rangel, found guilty of 11 misconduct charges, ranging from ethics violations to improper solicitation for funds from parties with business before Congress. Censured.

It's all in who you know.

"This is why the American people have thrown you out"

Wow. Political theatrics, yes, but wow.  (And he's right.)

Tax "cuts" for the rich?

An interesting situation has developed in Congress. The tax rates initiated during the Bush administration are due to expire on December 31 unless Congress votes to extend them. Republicans currently want the rates for everyone to remain the same, while Democrats want the rates for "the rich" to go up, and everyone else’s to stay where they are. Democrats argue that with the federal government's financial precariousness, we can’t “afford” not to squeeze more out of the rich.

Notice how I have carefully avoided the term “tax cut.” That phrase implies something that just ain’t so. A tax rate cut (a decrease in the percentage of your income that is taxed) differs from a tax cut (a decrease in how much you pay in taxes.) Thomas Sowell has a recent column in which he explains more elegantly than I can the importance of the difference:

“These are not new arguments on either side. They go back more than 80 years. Over that long span of time, there have been many sharp cuts in tax rates under Presidents Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. So we don't need to argue in a vacuum. There is a track record.

“What does that record say? It says, loud and clear, that cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues. In all four of these administrations, of both parties, so-called "tax cuts for the rich" led to increased tax revenues-- with people earning high incomes paying not only a larger sum total of tax revenues, but even a higher proportion of all tax revenues.

“Most important of all, these tax rate reductions spurred economic activity, which we definitely need today.”

[Edit: Re-reading this later, I realized I missed my own point. The whole debate about so-called "tax cuts" is ridiculous, the opposite of what's happening, because no one's taxes are to be cut. The discussion is over whose taxes to raise!  Any claims Obama (who incredibly is arguing for keeping the current rates) makes about the economic stimulus from tax "cuts," are deceptive, because there will be none.  Rather, there will be economic damage if the taxes are raised. It's like Orwell's 1984 listening to the Democrats talk newspeak.  Tax raises are now called tax cuts.]

It would be nice if that historical track record were part of the discussion, and that the general populace knew the facts.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Al Gore: Politics, not science, motivated him

While Vice President, Al Gore pushed for subsidies for corn-based ethanol. He cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate in 1994 upholding the Environmental Protection Agency's requirement that ethanol be part of all gasoline additives.  As a result, 41% of the total corn crop that was previously raised for food (for people or livestock) is now diverted to fuel production.  This diversion has resulted in higher food prices.  (I've written on this before.)

Now, at a recent "green" conference in Athens, Gore confessed that the subsidies were a bad idea.  The energy conversion ratio from corn to fuel "is very small."  His support for the subsidies was based on his own political ambitions, not science.  Gore said, "I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee....and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."

We knew all this before.  The only thing newsworthy about this story is that Gore confessed in public.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

THIS is what politics is all about

Not to mention the reports that show public sector (government) employment has risen during the recession of the last two years, while private sector employment has gone down. And that federal employees receive 54% more in pay and benefits than private sector workers doing the same job. Coincidentally, government employees now represent more than half of all union memberships.

Whose for bigger government? The ones who get to keep taxpayer money, that's who.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yahoo News and Global Warming

Yahoo News posted one of its biased stories with this headline: "Poll: Most Republicans do not believe in climate change." It went on to say essentially that Republicans were a bunch of ignorant rubes who ignored the findings of  "97 percent" of scientists.

I tried several times -- even splitting it into several parts in case length was the issue --  to post the following comment, but for some reason Yahoo failed to publish it.  I wonder why?  

"Of course there's doubt about the theory of anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (AGW.)  First, scientists who promote AGW are rewarded with prestige, praise and millions (if not billions) of dollars in government funding.  Skeptical scientists are ridiculed, demonized, threatened and denied professional advancement by those whose funding is threatened. 

"Moreover, many of the claims have had to be withdrawn after evidence of shoddy scientific methods, overstatement, and outright fraud have come to light. Credible, respected scientists have condemned the effects of politicization on scientists and their research.  The "Climategate" e-mails exposed a culture of deceit, vindictiveness and lack of openness among the pro-AGW's leading authorities and institutions.  

"The UN's IPCC has based many of its claims on misrepresentation of scientific findings, shoddy science -- in one case on mere speculation by a single scientist -- and absolute worst-case (and least likely) scenarios. The InterAcademy Council, made up of top scientists from several leading scientific groups, criticized the IPCC for reporting "high confidence in some statements for which there is little evidence" and for "making vague statements [whose vagueness] make them difficult to refute."  

"The pro-AGW's highest-profile champion, Al Gore, was contradicted and criticized for one of his claims by Dr. Wieslav Maslowski -- the very scientist whose research Gore was citing as "evidence."

"Given all of this, anyone who is not the least bit skeptical about the apocalyptic predictions being made is proceeding on something other than logical, much less scientific, thought."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yet another reason I don't run for public office

This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Politico‘s Executive Editor Jim VandeHei discussed the temptations (and perils thereof) that await new congressmen when they get to Washington, DC -- "Especially unattractive members of the Congress who have not had women show attention to them maybe since college. They come here. Power is an aphrodisiac. Suddenly they have women who are interested in them. It’s a temptation some can’t withstand."  

Who needs that kind of trouble?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Decider haunts Mr. Nuance

In his recent article "The Decider returns to haunt Mr. Nuance as George W. Bush eclipses Barack Obama" for the UK Telegraph, US editor Toby Harnden begins with "...only Obama's stumbles could have made Bush look good again so quickly."

He also references their public images: "Who would have thought that the man hailed as a great American orator and whose stage at the 2008 Democratic convention was a faux Greek temple would be shown up in terms of the theatricality and articulation of the presidency by the man derided as a tongue-tied bumbler and global village idiot?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tarantino gets away with this a lot

One of the more famous scenes of the movie Pulp Fiction is when Jules spouts a biblical verse (supposedly Ezekiel 25:17*) before he blows away big-brained Bret:

...except Tarantino lifted this almost word for word from the 1976 Sonny Chiba chop sockey flick Karate Kiba, also known as The Bodyguard.  (Not to be confused with the Kevin Costner movie.)  Here's the section so that you can judge for yourself:

*For accuracy's sake, here's the King James Version of the real Ezekiel 25:15-17:

"[15] Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred;
[16] Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast.
[17] And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them."

So both movies pretty much made it up, except Tarantino (or Jules) stole it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Random Acts of Culture

You know how much I like this stuff.  From the YouTube description:

"On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers. To learn more about this program and view more events, visit the Random Actos of Culture website."  

My thanks to Jan d'O for bringing it to my attention.

Steve Martin's gospel song for atheists

How am I going to pass up a video with a description like that?  Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performed "Atheists Don't Have No Songs" on Austin City Limits back in April:

An "avid reader"* sent this in

An interesting word cloud of this page from wordle.net:

* "avid reader" = "way too bored at the keyboard."

Monday, November 08, 2010

I'm not normally a proponent of schadenfreude, but...

...given the historical arrogance of University of Texas fans, I found the following chart shamefully gratifying. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

This is how my mind works

A conversation with my daughter concerning diet and nutrition made me think about something.  Brown rice is considered to be a very healthy food, far better for you than white rice.  I read the backs of packages, including the nutritional label, and while I didn't remember the details, what I thought I remembered made me question that universal belief.  So I went to Nutritiondata.com, which is my go-to website when researching nutritional information.

Comparing amounts of cooked rice in equal weights -- 100 grams, for example -- I discovered that there is very little difference in nutrition.  One hundred grams of white rice has more calories (14.6% more) and carbohydrates (17.9% more) while brown rice has 2 grams of fiber and white rice none.  A bit of a difference, but not enough to make brown rice a superfood.

What I noticed, however, was when I changed my measurement to volume (one cup,) that a cup of cooked brown rice weighed more (195 grams) than a cup of white rice (158 grams.)  This changed the nutrition quite a bit, giving brown rice more calories and 4 grams of fiber vs. zero for white rice.

I've sent Nutritiondata a note asking about this -- does a cup of brown rice actually weigh more than a cup of white rice?  (I'll update this if and when I get an answer.)  For practical purposes the point may be moot.  We serve ourselves in volume -- a "scoop" or "spoonful" of something, a 'cup" or "half cup" if we measure.   

When experts compare the relative ability of boxers, they refer to someone as the "pound for pound" better fighter.  This acknowledges that the heavyweights, by sheer volume, can pack more power than the lighter weights.  More brown rice will have more nutrients than less white rice.  Conceding that there are slight advantages nutritionally, and pending an explanation from Nutritiondata's experts, brown rice's reputation as a far superior alternative to white rice may be exaggerated.

Update: Apparently I ask good questions.  Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N (that means she's an expert) devoted an entire column on December 13 (over a month later!) to answering my question.  Read "The surprising truth about brown rice." 

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Another historical first for Obama

"Obama to use teleprompter for Hindi Speech" screams a headline in the Hindustan Times.  (I just renewed my subscription.)  Apparently Obama will be speaking to the Indian parliament, using his trusted companion the teleprompter.  Doing so, he will be the first speaker in the history of India's 80-year-old Parliament House Central Hall to use one.

"We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address," said one Indian official.

Interestingly, like much else when discussing Barack Obama, his oratory skills -- so lauded when he was campaigning and in the first few months of his presidency -- seem to have been oversold, and he's not able to live up to the promise. His dependence on his teleprompter has become a standing joke.  Now India can laugh, too.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Morning After

I'm writing this post very early on November 3, the day after the 2010 midterm elections.  Republicans regained control of the House, and cut into the Democrat advantage in the Senate.  Before I hear or read any of the inevitable mainstream media or Liberal pundits say that "Democrats did better/Republicans did worse" than expected, I'm publicly posting this point:  Republicans gained the most seats in a midterm election since 1938.  With some results still not certain, Republicans picked up somewhere between 60 and 70 seats.  That's a pretty significant (historic?) achievement. 

Don't let the mainstream media undersell what happened to Democrats.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Why to vote Democrat

Dennis Prager wrote an interesting column recently on why he now votes based on party affiliation rather than on the attributes of a specific candidate.  (Well worth reading, by the way.)  In passing he mentioned three reasons why anyone would vote for today's Democrat candidate:

1. The voter believes in Leftist ideology.  (Essentially as much socialism as you can get.)
2. The voter believes the Left's demonization of its opponents as SIXHIRB (Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Racist, Bigots)
3. The voter is either employed by, or receives significant material benefit from, the government.  He votes for a Democrat bigger government because that's where his livelihood comes from.

All you have to do is look at the Democrat leadership and the direction Obama has taken the country to see their real agenda.  And they realize that most Americans disagree with their vision of America.  That's why Democrats hide their true intentions -- "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."  Using that example, in the six months since it was passed, we have discovered that Democrats misrepresented large parts of the Obamacare bill.  In other words, they lied to Americans because they knew the public would oppose it -- and we still do, six months later.  (Fifty-one percent of Americans want it repealed.)  The Democrat healthcare legislation, its effects, and the lies Democrats used to sell it, are some of the major reasons Democrats are projected to lose big today.

Today's election day.  If you fit one of the three categories listed above, then vote Democrat, and don't bother thinking.  That's a burden the rest of us are carrying for you.