Saturday, May 3, 2008

More money equals more happiness--despite what people think

Live Science offers up a story about happiness in the U.S.

Americans who are the happiest are those with money, education, and fewer health concerns.

All of those issues are highly correlated too. Those with money have fewer health problems because they can seek treatment. Those with more education make more money. It's like a rock, paper, scissors sort of relationship.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Possible Irony Alert - McCain ineligible for Presidency

I've spoken repeatedly about this new controversy (if it amounts to that) regarding John McCain.

The Washington Post has a story on it.

Some have argued that it's a non-issue since McCain was born on a military base in Panama.

If we use Scalia's originalism as a guide (and I'm sure John McCain wouldn't object since Scalia is a conservative darling...), then the founders' intent when drafting the Constitution was that only those born in the U.S. qualified for the Presidency.

We'll see.

The irony would be that McCain would be ineligible for the presidency, irrespective of his war hero status.

Republicans losing their power base

Alan Abramowitz offers up a telling story at about the Republican strategy of cozying up to the white, Christian, married people. Apparently, this approach is a real loser proposition.

Even though white, Christian, married folk are loyal participants in the political process, they are fast becoming a minority compared to the growing constituencies of the Democrats.

Demographic shifts are harder to fight in political battles, so it looks as though the future may belong to the Democrats, unless the Republicans shift allegiance and co-opt some traditional Democratic support.

Right Wing nuts get a pass, but Left Wing nuts get nailed

E. J. Dionne writes in the Washington Post something similar to what I mentioned in a previous post.

He notes that right wing preachers seem to get a pass when engaging in ridiculous blather, but that black revisionist preachers do not.

The sweet smell of hypocrisy.

Comeuppance for Credit Card Companies.

The Washington Post leads with an article about new rules governing credit card companies.

This is a long time in coming.

Credit Card companies are notorious for such things as making their agreements subject to the state law of states with few or no limits on usury.

What this means is that if you sign a credit card agreement and you reside in Tennessee, your agreement will be subject to Delaware law. If the agreement was subject to the law of Tennessee, the credit card company could only charge 21% interest as a maximum, but we all know that's not what they charge. Delaware allows higher interest rates, so that's where they go to profit.

I'm a strong advocate of requiring credit card agreements to be subject to the state law of where the debtor resides. It's only fair, since all other debts belonging the the debtor are subject to the state of the debtor's domicile.

Self-promoters may be hurting themselves

Science Daily again offers an interesting take on high self-esteem as compared to healthy self-esteem.

Apparently, those with fragile, high self-esteem can be rather insufferable when their ego is challenged by circumstances.

Defensiveness is a hallmark of the fragile, high self-esteem individual.

Winners cooperate to success; losers punish their way to the bottom

In another study reported in Science Daily, it turns out that punitive approaches turn out to be less effective than cooperation.

This should speak to ongoing conflicts around the world.

What the researchers found was that punishment leads to cycles of retaliation that waste energy and position.

Winners, it seems, avoid the waste of energy and focus on getting ahead.

I suppose there is some truth in the forgive and forget paradigm after all.

It's the little things that lead to fundamental change.

A new type of electronic circuit element has come closer to fruition. This is great news from Science Daily.

Most will probably find this rather dull, but the "Memristor" could finally end those long boot up times for computers. You know the frustration of having to wait almost a minute to get to the web?

The new circuit element would join the resistor, capacitor, and inductor bringing the basic circuit elements to four (4).

This particular element would allow computers to operate faster and to be more human-like in their ability to remember information.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

W.W.L.R.H.D. - What would L.Ron Hubbard Do? offers up a slice of that "old time religion" as begun by none other than L.Ron Hubbard.

The article links to a contract that all prospective members of the Church of Scientology must sign.

The contract is designed to limit liability for the Church when members feel they've been mistreated.

I don't know about you, but doesn't it seem rather odd that a church needs a waiver of legal rights by it's members? What are they doing that could expose them to liability?

McCain & Clinton offer gimmicks to gain electoral advantage

Washington leads with a story about the gimmicky nature of the gas tax rebate supported by McCain and Clinton.

Here's the problem with politicians, especially those on the right. They offer up short-term fixes enticing people immediately. However, the long-term solution may be painful at present and take some time to fully work its way through a highly complex economy.

The electorate is becoming savvy to the tricks used to win elections. No longer are they gullible to Rovian machinations.

If we, as a nation, are to mature into a stable and long lasting republic, the citizens must become wary of those who offer nothing more than economic snake oil.

Such tax rebate schemes may help now, but offer no substantive change to the economy.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Florida ready to legislate in favor of stupidity

It seems politicians are at it again in the Sunshine State.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel offers up a story that even the Miami Herald won't touch.

Right wing conservatives in need of re-election have pulled out the old Creationism trebuchet to hurl missiles of doubt about the faith of their foes. (A little much...maybe?)

The Florida legislature has passed a bill requiring that evolution be subjected to critical evaluation. That's right. Let's subject a well-founded and supported theory to critical analysis, as if it hasn't already run the gauntlet.

While we're advocating running notions through critical evaluations, lets put every religious dogma on the chopping block too.

What this goes to prove is that politicians are more interested in fanning false notions than in actually doing their jobs.

Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin are rolling in their graves.

Austrian Incest: Possible murder link

The London Times reports a possible murder link with the Austrian incest case.

Haven't we all been grossed out enough over this?

I'm done with it.

U.S. wealth in free fall

The Financial Times notes that housing prices are still falling.

In reference to an earlier post, this bodes ill for the U.S. since the vast majority of wealth in here is linked to home ownership and the equity therein.

When equity dries up then wealth is disappearing. Without wealth, people cannot borrow, since they have nothing to pledge as collateral. Without borrowing, the economy slows down even further.

For months now, I've noted that the U.S. economy needs a steep correction. In my opinion, the stock market needs to lose about 1000 - 2000 points to reflect the needed correction.

Once that occurs, then we can begin building again properly.

Stop-gap measures, like rebate checks and temporary tax cuts, will not fix this problem. Fundamental change must occur in the form of significant infrastructure spending to update our economy and provide job and wage stability.

Volatility does little to calm the situation and gimmicky fixes, like those proposed by the Republicans will not reduce pain for the long term.

German's tout Obama

Der Spiegel a German magazine akin to Time, has a story by a non-American looking at the Obama situation for the Democratic party.

It makes the point that the superdelegates are in a tough position, but that in the end they must choose Obama.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pride Comes before a fall with Rev Wright

Bloomberg News reports that Obama's former reverend, appears to be shooting the candidate in the foot.

If one takes the view that the Reverend is a smart guy, and for the sake of argument, let's say he is, then what purpose would be served by undermining the first African American candidate for president with a chance?

Perhaps the Reverend is suffering under the delusion that his agenda takes precedence. It's not unusual for the clergy to inflate their values into "truth." Jerry Falwell was prone to such self-aggrandizement.

The reverend could be smarting from Obama's pragmatic handling of the reverend's tendency to place his foot firmly in his mouth. This sounds reasonable if you realize that the reverend already has an ego far in excess of what the good book suggests is healthy.

In the end, I suspect that the reverend is realizing that his will shall not be manifest in Obama. Reverend Wright would rather see Obama lose than to give up his self-satisfied need to bend the flock to his will.

I don't know.

Bush a broken record boob

Bush has a laughable and broken-record like view of the economic problems of the country.

Blame doesn't sit well when action is needed.

Bush makes his incompetence evident by relying on what amounts to favors to cronies when he asserts drilling in ANWAR as a solution.

Let's be clear: Oil is on the way out, so finding more oil won't resolve the issue. Furthermore, even if ANWAR were drilled, there's no guarantee of oil being found. Even if found, there's no guarantee that it will be in sufficient quantities to offset the demand. Additionally, there's a time lag before such oil could be brought to market.

Our problems are NOW!

Why I still get angry over Bush escapes me. His incompetence is known by all and he's really incapable of changing it.

Health insurance for all.

Live Science paints a gloomy picture of health insurance.

Employer provided health insurance premiums have gone up at double the rate of inflation.

What does this portend? Simply that employers or employees must bear the cost. If employers bear the cost, elimination of group insurance plans is more likely to occur. If employees bear the cost, then they have less money for other fixed expenses.

Next question: Who are the most likely to go without insurance? The poor. Who are the most likely to have poor health habits leading to shortened life expectancy? The poor.

The poor are placed in an untenable position when it comes to their health. They have no alternative to externalize their health costs to society at large. That leaves the rest of us to pick up the tab.

I suppose you can see where this is going.

We need to seriously consider some type of health system where costs are spread evenly throughout society, so that costs can be brought under control.

Am I advocating socialized medicine? No. I am advocating some form of socialized insurance, which is NOT the same as socialized medicine.

Things will need to change and soon because we cannot afford to keep paying the tab for a system that is punitive towards poverty and the poor.

Health care costs must

Smells like Tween Spirit---Hardly

Well, it seems that Miley Cyrus is managing to garner some more adult-like attention.

I don't know why anyone bothers being bothered by this sort of stuff.

Most teenage girls around Miley's age are flexing their nascent sexuality. It's just par for the course. It's become a right of passage for teenage girls to go too far because they haven't the experience to know limits.

This is all part of a larger plan to expand market share of a celebrity commodity, viz. the Miley Cyrus franchise.

Research show marijuana calms people down.

Science Daily offers further proof that marijuana calms people down.

Good to know that we now have scientific evidence of what every stoner already knows.

Actually, the study provides clues to parts of the brain affected by THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The hope of the researchers is to use fMRI (Functional MRI) to target specific areas of the brain for further drug development to treat anxiety.

One thing missing from this: Instead of creating new drugs, why not just use marijuana?

Probably because there's no money in using weed.

Soft drinks again found to be bad for you.

Live Science reports that soft drinks aren't good for you.

This would really be a "duh" story except that it speaks of the exact results from drinking two or more soft drinks a day.

Women should pay particular attention since osteoporosis is linked to greater soft drink consumption.

Foreclosures foretell years of economic woes.

The mentions how foreclosures are up 112% over the same time last year.

This dramatic shift cannot be blamed entirely on homeowners.

The problem that emerge from this mess are not being felt yet. When a foreclosure occurs, the owner most likely loses any equity they built up.

The borrower's ability to buy again will be hampered for years to come. Where do lenders expect to find potential borrowers in the future when so many have lost everything?

New and risky loan products will once again find their way to market in the next few years and we'll be in this mess again.

Most borrowers facing foreclosure would prefer to keep their homes, but they either don't have the income or the loans are too onerous.

Changing loan terms in one solution, but without comprehensive job growth and economic improvement nationwide, the ability to pay will remain elusive into the future.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Democrats are coming from the woodwork

The Washington Post contends that Democrats are registering in vast numbers.

Republicans will likely suffer the consequences of their party's high degree of croney-ism for the past 8 years.

Croney-ism was necessary for republicans who found it necessary to sell their political souls to remain in office during times of democratic dominance.

Who else would back a politician with scant political power except those who knew they could buy the political favor, whatever favor there may be, of the politician they backed. The hope would be that such political investment would pay dividends once the table changed.

When the paybacks occurred, it caused a stir that resulted in a sea change of attitude and opinion. The change foretells a tectonic shift favoring the Democrats for years to come.

McCain's laughable economic populism

McCain is apparently peddling some economic hilarity by attempting to paint Obama as out of touch with the poor.

McCain notes that it's really tax cuts that help the poor, through trickle down means.

Check out AP News for the story.

Farm Bill unnecessary

The Sacramento Bee offers up an editorial about the new farm bill.

America loves its farmers. Farmers get special protections throughout the law.

Unfortunately, the image conjured up in the public's minds about the gritty tiller of the earth scratching a living from the fruit of his toils is now a myth.

Farm legislation has grown into a another form of corporate welfare. It serves to subsidize an industry dominated by large agribusiness.

Any mention of eliminating farming subsidies though causes the proponents of agribusiness to trot out images of the family farmer barely getting by, threats of bad weather causing losses of family farms, etc.

Got a news flash: Family farming exists only in nostalgia.

Nostalgia fails as a rationale for farm subsidies.

Reaganism is dead.

The New Republic sports an excerpt of sorts from Sean Wilentz, detailing the shift in U.S. politics from Reaganism and its aftermath to a new form, as yet to be defined.

Interesting article. Long, and chronological in its format, but useful by providing some depth and context to the subject.

The author notes how Bush has managed to end Reagan's legacy, leaving room and desire for something new.

The people are the ultimate sovereign.

Financial Times notes how the people of Africa are finally flexing their power when it comes to Mugabe's garbage.

This result could be the beginning of what our founding fathers sought to dampen: Democracy's tendency for mob rule.

Our founding fathers sought to temper mob rule by marrying it with republicanism. In so doing they managed to supplement the will of the people with the cooler heads of elected representatives.

Africa may represent the worst result for a republicanism. When the leaders devote too much time looking out for their own interests above that of the people, then the people, by right may exert their sovereignty and rule directly.

This can have dire consequences when the will of the people is marred by emotion and short-term solutions.

Oil prices not likely to fall, but it may be a good thing

The rise in oil prices hurts us directly in the wallet. relates a common theme.

The bad news is that we have less money to spend on travel and that undermines the dynamism in the economy.

Fortunately, the rising prices highlight our need to explore alternatives and the costs of fuel will push us to find new energy supplies.

In the long run, we'll be better off, but it's sure to be painful until that time.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Upholding the Constitution is NOT a part of a solider's oath.

Apparently, the oath all soldiers take to uphold the Constitution allows for fudging when it comes to religious bigotry.

Thanks a lot guys. Maybe someone should instruct your leaders on the finer points of THE LAW!

Let's call it for what it is: Bullshit

Unfortunately, some doctors feel perfectly ethical with their decision to deny someone a liver transplant because they've smoked pot under doctor's order.

This is the drug war actually killing someone.

Thanks to those who started this whole drug war mess. You're nothing if not nimrods.

Western Union's bank-killing bullet.

The beginning of the end for Banks is near. Western Union, that behemoth of a bygone age, has managed to back a winning horse.

The gist of their new enterprise is thus: Cell phone users can use their cell phone accounts and cell phones to transfer money to others WORLDWIDE!

All that will be involved is a small transaction fee.

What place do banks have in a system where people can digitally transfer money via the ubiquitous cell phone?


Gone will be overdraft charges. Gone will be the need to write checks (that incidentally favor banks if something goes awry).

Welcome to the future of money.

Kudos to Western Union.