New Blog

I am no longer posting on this blog. I have a new political blog called The Burning Itch, which is updated regularly.

July 31, 2007

Why are we so scared of offending Muslims?

Should not the "moderate" imams of On Faith have been asked in direct terms whether they are, or are not, negotiating with a gun on the table?

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Creating Peace in the Middle East

The Middle East is a hellhole. I'm not saying America's much better these days, but I stand by my statement. To create peace in the Middle East and absolve ourselves of wrong doing, we must simply follow a few steps.

1) The Israel-Palestine-TheRestOfTheWorld Conflict has been going on for far too long and there's a simple solution. You simply irradiate the entire region. Sure, this will cause a refugee crisis, but there's a simple solution to that too. The Jews can have Florida and the Palestinians can have Oregon. Neither state has much use to us, so it works out well for everyone, especially those in Oregon and Florida who didn't realize they were living in such crappy states.

2) Next the problems in Iraq must be solved. First, the land must be partitioned into thirds. One third to Saudi Arabia, one third to Iran, and then the third with oil to the US. We then pay off the Saudis and Iranians with our oil money to keep the peace and allow the spice, I mean the oil, to flow freely. The Baghdad embassy could be Bush's palace as he oversees Arrakis, I mean Iraq, after his presidency.

3) Stop pestering Iran about their nuclear program, since they have now become now business partners in Iraq. Just keep a few Ohio class subs around Iran in case things get out of hand. Also as a secondary option, drill underneath Iran and take their oil. Without that, they'll go broke and won't have the money to continue their nuclear program. They'll then become desperate and accept our Iraq oil money gratefully and we will become the best of friends with them.

Now the Middle East should be quite safe and peaceful. If any other conflicts arise we will just have to irradiate the conflicting parties or drill under them and take their oil. Once that's all done, the Middle East should look something like the following artist rendered picture.

July 27, 2007

No, Fat Is Not Contagious

I awoke Thursday morning ready to read The Seattle Times. I'm sure many people read their local paper in the morning as well. It is an activity that seems retrospectively moot most of the time, since the paper mostly glosses over the news I already saw on the Internet the day before. But I digress.

I've become accustomed to sensationalism in the media, including in my newspaper. They have to make the lead story and the rest of the front page interesting to grab the attention of potential readers. I expect this, but I also expect that behind that relatively mundane sensationalist attired there to be some actual information. Unfortunately, Thursday morning my trusted newspaper let me down.

The lead story was about Boeing's 787 and its first flight coming up. It's at least a competent story, seeing as Seattle was once called the Jet City. But the story that took up the majority of page was actually one about a new study that had been released, titled "Is fat contagious?"

The piece was written by The Washington Post and was quite disappointing. First off, the title asserts that fat can be "caught" from one person to another. According to the "study", being around people greatly increases your risk of being fat. I presume these assessment techniques would also find that bread causes people to commit crimes, since many criminals had carbohydrates in their system during criminal acts.

The article even states:
"[T]he researchers are not saying that obesity is literally caused by a virus or some other pathogen, or that factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise or genetics are unimportant.

Rather, the findings suggest that once a person becomes obese, for whatever reason, it may make it more socially acceptable for people close to him or her to gain weight, and that new social norms can proliferate quickly."

In other words, humans are affected by their environment. Bravo researchers, bravo. You've stumbled across a textbook from psych 101, applied some simple statistics, and magically you have what the Times calls a "trailblazing study." I just hope the next time they decide to ignore a fairly large story, such as the fact that US Attorney General may have lied under oath to Congress, that they actually obtain material that can even be considered news.

Top 10 Alberto Gonzalez Quotes

Alberto Gonzalez has been taking his lashings in Congress and on national news due to his ability, or inability as it may be, to testify honestly. To honor Mr. Gonzalez's terrific service to his country, here are ten of his best quotes.

10) "We're talking about the lawyers for the United States of America. And I think it's very, very important that the lawyers be comfortable being very candid and open about their views on very sensitive issues affecting the United States."

9) "I want to be clear. No company is too big to be prosecuted, ... We have zero tolerance for corporate fraud, but we also recognize the importance of avoiding collateral consequences whenever possible."

8) "We're...looking very closely at the issue of fraudulent charities. We're looking at price gouging. I've asked the lawyers in the Department to be as aggressive and to be as creative within the bounds of the law to ensure that people do not take advantage of the situation in this tragic circumstance."

7) "Some in this country mistakenly believed it could not happen here, ... Today we have chilling evidence that it is possible."

6) "Justice must serve offenders and victims as well as the economy and the general public,"

5) "To preserve the integrity of our free market economy, individuals who defraud American businesses and consumers by participating in international price-fixing conspiracies will be prosecuted and sent to prison no matter where they live or where they commit the crime."

4) "I don't think you should be disqualified from being considered for an important position simply because you have a relationship with the person making the decision on who to nominate. You have to look first at a person's qualifications."

3) "I'm primarily worried about what does the president think,"

2) "There is no express grant of habeas corpus in the Constitution"

1) "I do not recall."

July 25, 2007

Is Congress Paid Too Much?

In a capitalist society, money is an important part of almost every aspect of our lives. In America, we don't do too bad, despite the increasing gap between rich and poor.

The median income for Americans over the age of 25 is about $32,000. Of course, those numbers increase with higher levels of education. The median income for full-time employees with a Bachelor's degree or higher is $56,000. This is more than enough money for a single to live off of, but still congress gets paid much more.

In 1815, Congress began getting paid an annual salary of $1,500. Before that they were paid $6 per session. To complicate things Congress went back to the per session pay in 1817, but this time it was $8 per session. In 1855, Congress went back to getting paid an annual salary, this time at $3,000 (about $65,000 in today's money). Since then they have been getting paid more than then average educated US citizen is paid currently, each year. The question I put forth is, do they really deserve to be paid as much as they are?

This year (2007), each normal Congress member will be paid $168,000. The median income for persons over the age of 25 is about $32,000. People over the age of 25 that work full-time and have at least a Bachelor's degree earn a median income of $56,000. Even the highest paid group of full-time workers, those with professional degrees, only earn a median income of $100,000. So does it still seem fair that they earn as much as they do?

There are 251 business days in a normal year (accounting for federal holidays). Assuming Congress members worked each of those days, which they don't due to their lucrative vacation package, they are making $669 a day in salary alone. At the same time, educated Americans are earning $223 a day. Should educated Americans make only 33% of what Congress does?

I am not saying being a member of Congress is easy. I probably wouldn't be very good representative myself. It takes quite a bit of hard work to get to that level of politics. But being a member of Congress should never be about the money, it should be about serving one's country. They should be willing to work for a comfortable pay, but not an excessive one. The ultimate question is should Congress get paid as though they are representing us, or as though they are representing an elite pay grade of society.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

July 16, 2007

No Man is Above the Law

"No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it."
-Theodore Roosevelt
Do we adhere to this simple doctrine in our society? No. President Bush is a perfect example of this. For some reason our politicians and many Americans seem to think it is okay that a president be above the law.

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
-Article II, Section 4; United States Constitution
President Bush has clearly ignored or incompetently misinterpreted many laws throughout his presidency. You can find books and material all over the Internet that lay out the case for impeachment on Mr. Bush, so I won't bother repeating them here. My main point is that nobody, including the president, should be above the law.

I understand the idea that impeaching our president may hurt the country. Gerald Ford thought this, and pardoned Nixon so we could just move on (or at least that was part of his reason). But we need to understand that holding our public officals under the fire of the law makes our country stronger. Thomas Jefferson once said that if the government fears the people, there will be liberty.

If government officals know that we are willing to impeach them for their breaches in the law, perhaps they will think twice before unlawfully destroying haebus corpus, or spying on law-abiding Americans. For once I would like to see some integrity in the people we elect into congress to do their job.

In the end, it is our duty to make sure our elected officals are following the Constitution and the law. If you believe your president is breaking the law, insist our lawmakers in congress to begin impeachment proceedings (I already know there is a bill gaining cosonpors in the house as I type this). If your congressperson is not willing to impeach those who break the highest laws of our country, than look into their record. Find out if your congressperson has been breaking the law and perhaps impeach them as well.

No person should ever be above the law, including those who make the laws and enforce them.

July 15, 2007

10 Signs You Use StumbleUpon Too Much

In no particular order, here are the ten signs that you use StumbleUpon too much.

  1. You miss a meeting because you went online to check your e-mail real quick and wound up spending an hour stumbling

  2. The first thing you do when you wake up is turn on your computer and start stumbling.

  3. You never use the word stumble to refer to walking.

  4. You wish there was a thumbs up and down button on your TV remote.

  5. You actually think of StumbeUpon as a social network.

  6. You get frustrated because you've see a page twice while stumbling.

  7. You watch more of the StumbleUpon video channel than actual TV.

  8. You accidentally press the "mod down" button while reading a stupid e-mail from a coworker.

  9. You've stumbled more pages today than words have come out of your mouth.

  10. You begin measuring time on the basis of stumbles (e.g., "How long was that meeting? Oh, about 40 stumbles.")

July 14, 2007

Baqubah in Video

On June 18th, the US forces in Iraq launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper. It is a large scale effort, mainly in the Baqubah region, with a strength of approximately 10,000 soldiers. One US soldier has been confirmed to be killed so far in the operation, with 12 being wounded. Seven other ally soldiers having been killed, with 10 being wounded. Over 113 enemy combatants have been killed, and over 100 detained.

The following videos are not all specifically from Operation Arrowhead Ripper, but are also from similar, operations in the region.

U.S. Army Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division battle Insurgents in Baqubah, Iraq.

American and Iraqi Soldiers take and return fire while clearing houses in Baqubah, Iraq, March 28, 2007. One American and one Iraqi Soldier were injured during the exchange.

U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers search for insurgents and interact with the local populace.

A Stryker battalion engaging insurgents immediately upon arriving to the area. Heavy house to house fighting with tanks and small arms fire.

Stryker Soldiers of B Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Division take up blocking positions on the western outskirts of Baqubah, Iraq in support of Operation Arrowhead-Ripper, a major military offensive to clear insurgents from the city. They make sure no one gets in or out of Baqubah, ensuring insurgents do no escape the city. Soldiers are equipped with the new Land Warrior System.

B-roll of U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi forces distributing food to local citizens in Baqouba, Iraq. Scenes include Iraqi women carrying a bag of rice, a large group of women waiting to receive flour and rice and U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi forces addressing the waiting crowd.

Finally, I show you a video montage of the faces of 3,480 of the soldiers that have given their lives in Iraq. No matter, whether you're for the war or not, these brave men and women must be honored and remembered for their ultimate sacrifice.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

July 13, 2007

If the United States Were A Free Country...

If the United States were a free country, its citizens’ mail, phone calls and electronic communications never would be subject to warrantless government snooping . . .

Read more here.

July 12, 2007


A Letter to Diggers

Dear Diggers,

Ron Paul will not be the next president. The iPhone is an over-hyped piece of crap. Possession of marijuana should have a minimum sentence of 20 years. Bush is one of the best presidents ever. The Wii is a wannabe gaming machine that looks like a toaster. Windows is better than Mac OS and Linux combined. The PS3 will trample the 360 and Wii in due time. Atheism is stupid. The new comment system is awesome. Fox News is actually fair and balanced. Kevin Rose is an ass. Global Warming isn't real. A picture section isn't needed. Ubuntu is a terrible operating system. Top 10 lists are idiotic. Steve Jobs is a douchebag. Osama planned and organized 9/11. Homeland Security is a necessary agency. The Iraq War was necessary.

Ted "King of the Internet" Stevens

July 11, 2007

We're Already Paying for Universal Health Care

According to the World Health Organization, France is ranked number one in health care. At the same time the United States is all the way down at 37. So should we change our system to mirror the French system since it seems to outshine us so well? Well, that would drown us in horrible new taxes wouldn't it? Nope. In fact, you may be already paying for universal health care, but not receiving it.

To figure this all out, we're going to have to know how much the French actually pay for their health care system. According to BBC, France spends about 9% of their GDP on their system. The French GDP is estimated to be $1.9 trillion in 2006. 9% of 1.9 trillion is about 170 billion. France's population is about 64 million. That means that the per capita cost of health care in France is about $2,700. Multiply that by America's estimated population of 301 million, and you get a cost of about $813 billion. That is definitely a lot of money, but we may be already spending it on socialized health care in America. It is estimated that Americans spent about $2 trillion on health care in 2005.

Medicare and Medicaid are government run health care programs. The House Ways and Means Committee stated that in 2002, Medicare expenditures for the government were about $257 billion. At the same time, premiums paid by Medicare subscribers were about $231 billion. Medicaid on the other hand had a budget of $295 billion in 2004. So, the total costs of Medicare and Medicaid in America is about $783 billion, just $30 billion short of equaling the relative cost of the French system.

Government spending on health care does not even stop at Medicare and Medicaid. According the the Journal of the American Medical Association, the government subsidizes about 45% of US medical care costs, covering Medicare, Medicaid, workers' compensation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, public hospitals, and government public health activities. It is estimated that in 2005, Americans spent about $2 trillion on health care. If the government is paying 45% of this, they are actually spending about $900 billion on our health care system, more than enough to pay for a French health care system in America.

So, now we have to ask ourselves if we're up to the task of matching the French health care system in America. I say we can do even better. No system is perfect, including in France, but for $2 trillion we should be blowing the competition out of the water.

UPDATE: The two Wikipedia links were fixed.

July 10, 2007

The Better of Two Evils

Often, when I ask people why they voted one way or another, they tell me it was the better of the two evils. Most of the time it is said jokingly, but there's always at least some hint of truth in their words. And it's true, we are often forced between two choices we do not like. This seems especially true when it comes to presidential candidates. But why can't we have the lesser of two goods to choose from?

The problem with the system is not necessarily the evils within it. There will always be people and candidates you probably won't like. The problem primarily lies with the fact that we have narrowed ourselves down to a two party system. There is nothing in the Constitution that states we must limit our votes to certain parties, or even a party at all.

There are lots of reasons why we have a two party system, such as the fact that the debates are controlled by an organization that is owned by the Democratic and Republican parties. But that's just part of the whole mentality that not voting for one of the two major parties is throwing your vote away, which has been shoved down are throats for longer than we can remember.

I hear people say, "Well I like this candidate, but they doesn't have a chance to win so I'm not voting for them. The proper way to look at it is, "This person supports most of my views better than anyone else. I'm going to vote for them and trying to support them as best I can." If everyone took more of an optimistic view towards elections, then maybe that candidate that you like could actually become president of these fine United States.

So go out and change the system so that you are voting for the better of many goods, rather than just limiting yourself to two evils.