"I wish they would only take me as I am" - Vincent Van Gogh               "How Can I believe in God when just last week I got my tounge caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?" - Woody Allen              "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake" - Henry David Thoreau              "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia" - Woody Allen            "When promulgating esoteric cogitations, eschew platitudinous ponderosities" - Mark Rowan, my father            "Up, sluggard, and waste not life, for in the grave there will be sleep enough" - Benjamin Franklin             "What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." - Albert Einstein            "Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence" - Ronald Reagan            "It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don't quite fully share the hell of someone close to you." - Lady Bird Johnson              "I still want to be the candidate for guys with confederate flags in their pickup truck" - Howard Dean

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Silver Lining

I see a lot of statments like "The median sales price, however, fell to $208,600, down 6.3 percent from a year ago" as a catastrophic sign that hurts everyone. While I understand that the housing market affects the entire economy, I have trouble believing that falling prices of homes are a bad thing. While it is certainly not what the owners of those homes want, it is of benefit to first-time home buyers, and will likely serve to increase their numbers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If his Online Store is any indication.....

...Then McCain will be very efficient as President.

On Monday morning I ordered two McCain notepads using his online store. When I got home from work on Tuesday, they had already arrived at my door!

When was the last time you ordered something online and it arrived the following day (without any shipping and handling charges!)?

Is this an indication of how efficient his presidency will be?

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Economic Confirmation

Despite my conservative viewpoint, early on in the primaries I put forth some thought into voting for one of the Democrats (I could legitimately see myself voting for Sen. Biden, and I have a lot more respect for Edwards than I do for Sens. Clinton and Obama). Part of this was my general malaise for McCains policies, part of this was my perspective that policy issues matter more for legislators than executives, and part of it was a hope that spending and government expansion would be curtailed for a little while if the Congress and White house were controlled by different parties. In other words, I wouldn't be as opposed to a Democrat in the White House if I knew that Republicans would be in congress (think 1996 Welfare reform).

It didn't take too long to realize that Biden and Edwards didn't have a shot for President, and Republicans don't have a snowball's chance in hell to regain a majority in either chamber of congress. Its most likely that we'll have a spend-happy Democrat in the oval office, working with a Democratic congress, and government spending will be even worse that it was from 2000 to 2006. What should we expect?
Obama has not made balanced budgets a priority. Instead, he promises numerous tax cuts likely to make the situation worse, including subsidies for education, child care, homeownership, "savers" and people who work. Obama also vows to extend the Bush tax cuts for families who earn less than $250,000 a year. According to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of Brookings and the Urban Institute, his tax plans would deprive the Treasury of nearly $900 billion in his first term, and increase the national debt by $3.3 trillion by 2018. ..
"I suspect that McCain will be more constrained and will have a veto power over the Democratic Congress," said Alice M. Rivlin, who served as the first director of the Congressional Budget Office, as well as one of Clinton's budget directors. "If it's Obama, the Democratic Congress is going to be pushing for spending and it's awfully hard to rein in your own folks. No Democrat is going to want to go to war with Congress." Emphasis mine

Hooray.

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FISA doublespeak

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."
-Bill Burton, Obama Campaign spokesman
October 24, 2007

"There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority... But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program"
-Sen. Obama, speaking after the passage of the bill
June 20, 2008

"He has talked repeatedly about making sure somebody watches the watchers. I don’t think you should necessarily trust an Obama Administration anymore than you should trust a Bush Administration or a McCain Administration."
-Robert Gibbs, Obama Spokesman
June 23, 2008

So, just to keep everything straight....Obama promised to filibuster something, but didn't. He believes that President Bush broke the law on FISA, and promises that as President, he won't do that....but his Spokesman says he's no more trustworthy than Bush. Is that right?

Jim Geraghty over at National Review recognizes the contradiction here, too

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Respect for the Dead, and Lessons from our Mothers

When I was a child, my mother told me that 'if I didn't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all'. It's cliche, but its true. While I certainly haven't lived up to that advice, I've never sunk as low as Marc Cooper, who seems to have taken a great deal of offense that Tim Russert passed away on Friday. Cooper comments on how he "cashed in" by writing about his father (who Mr. Cooper shows serious contempt for), and rates Russert as a "just above median" journalist. Unlike Marc Cooper, Russert truly was a fabulous journalist. He was tough to everyone, including Obama.
The inexplicable amount of air time devoted to Russert's death surely was laced with some potent self-pity by the networks themselves. In the sudden death of Tim Russert they no doubt caught a passing glimpse and reflection of a fate they fear for themselves.
Possibly, Mr. Cooper. However, I would say that it is far more likely that the amount of airtime was a reflection of the widespread respect and admiration for a truly great colleague. I don't think Tom Brokaw tearing up was a reflection of his own mortality. I think he, like so many others, was grieving the loss of a friend.

Anymore, cable news is about partisan bickering. Nothing is fair, and nothing is neutral. Yet, Tim Russert was equally tough to all comers. I suggest Marc Cooper show some respect for dead.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Common Sense

I'm currently reading Gross National Happiness by Arthur Brooks (also the author of Who Really Cares). The premise of the book is how the things in life do (or don't) bring us happiness. Topics include family, friends, money, etc... The following section really rang true with me:

It is one thing to charge our government with helping us band together as citizens to take care of the most vulnerable. The mentally ill, for example, who do not have strong private support, truly deserve our help in a civilized society, and we cannot realistically rely on private charity to meet that need. It is another thing entirely to demand that the state take care of the rest of us--able-bodied, sound-minded, once-independent Americans--guaranteeing our wages and providing our medicines for free. This is to treat us like children. There is little freedom in the nanny state, and we can expect little happiness there, either.

It is one thing to entrust the government with the financing of massive relief efforts, such as rebuilding a city in the wake of a hurricane. But it is another thing to ask the government to meet every social want and need, from our desire for symphony orchestras to our longing for amateur sports leagues. The attitude is depressingly common that, if something is important to us, the government ought to provide it. The
ever-growing social welfare net diminishes our freedom by giving us less power to solve our own problems. It also places our social preferences in the hands of public servants--well-intentioned, perhaps, but with preferences of their own to pursue with our dollars.

It is obviously appropriate to invest the government with the responsibility to protect our nation against real dangers, such as the invasion of a foregin army or an attack on our interests abroad. But this is not the same thing as expecting governments--creating new bureaucracies in their
earnestness--to pacify us with ineffective security measures or to protect us from ourselves in the course of normal risks in our day-to-day lives. The dignity of the goal of defeating worldwide terrorism is hopelessly degraded when, in the next breath, we declare war on helmetless motorcycle riding and secondhand smoke. Osama bin Laden is a threat to America; trans fats in our food are an annoyance. We need to protest when our government fails to makes [sic] these distinctions and uses spurious logic to justify trading away our happiness. [emphasis mine].

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Surprising Trends for Youth Risk

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released data on trends of of Youth Risk behavior this week with some surprising and encouraging findings. As someone who was a student during the 90's, my impression has been that since 2000 (when I graduated) students have become more sexually active and use drugs and alcohol at a greater rate than when I was in school. However, the figures from the CDC report indicate that youth behaviors are actually improving in many regards.

With the exception of inhalant use, the CDC summary indicates that the use of drugs has dropped over the past several years, following increases between 1991 and 1999. However, the summary I saw did not include prescription medication abuse, which I imagine has substantially increased (this is anecdotal, based on recent experience tutoring high-school students in Marin County).

What was more surprising to me were the changes in sexual behavior. During High School I was involved with STARS (Students Today Aren't Ready for Sex), and abstinence education program for middle schoolers. I'll note that I actually don't support abstinence-only education, which is why the findings are so surprising to me. While abstinence-only education has been on the rise since 1996, several markers of youth sexual behavior are improving.

Here is a summary of the summary:
  • Fewer youth report ever having sex
  • Fewer youth have had sex with more than four partners
  • The number of youth who used a condom at the last sexual encounter has been increasing
  • Fewer youth have been taught about HIV/AIDS

The first three of those findings are very encouraging, indicating that youth are acting more responsibly towards sexual activity. However, the fact that fewer students are being taught about HIV/AIDS is certainly worrisome. This may be due to the fact that AIDS is no longer the death sentence that it was in the late 80's and early 90's. This is a concept that we have talked about at length in medical school. Because it can be treated fairly effectively now, many people see it as a chronic disease as opposed to a death sentence and are not as fearful about contracting it. This may be an explanation why it has fallen out of favor in sex education. Regardless of the reason, this should be an avenue for further improvement.

Of course, none of this proves that abstinence-only education is the cause of the improvement, but it does open my eyes a little.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A WTF moment, brought to you by Gloria Borger

I like Gloria Borger, the CNN political analyst, quite a bit. I imagine that we wouldn't agree on a lot politically, but she srikes me as someone who is willing to give spinless and objective commentary, despite her political beliefs (this seems to be a rare commodity on ANY cable news network these days). Nonetheless, I have to comment on this.

Tonight on AC 360, while discussing the possibility of Sen. Clinton getting the Veep nomination with Obama, Gloria suggested that 'there are plenty of positions other than Vice president that Obama could promise her; like Secretary of Defense." Really, Gloria Borger? Secretary of Defense? Really?