Flimsy Sanity: March 2007

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Save $40,000, Take an aspirin

Most Angioplasties unneeded.
About 1.2 million angioplasties are done in the United States each year... The procedure already has lost some popularity because of emerging evidence that popular drug-coated stents can raise the risk of blood clots months later. The new study shifts the argument from which type of stent to use to whether to do the procedure at all.
It involved 2,287 patients throughout the U.S. and Canada who had substantial blockages, typically in two arteries, but were medically stable. They had an average of 10 chest pain episodes a week — moderately severe. About 40 percent had a prior heart attack.
All were treated with medicines that improve chest pain and heart and artery health such as aspirin, cholesterol-lowering statins, nitrates, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. Half of the participants also were assigned to get angioplasty.
After an average of 4 1/2 years, the groups had similar rates of death and heart attack: 211 in the angioplasty group and 202 in the medication group — about 19 percent of each.
Heart-related hospitalization rates were similar, too.

How do You Have a War on Terror?

Terrorized by 'War on Terror':How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America

By Zbigniew Brzezinski

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world...Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants...Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation...That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769.

Read this great essay published by the Washington Post. I just picked out a few sentences.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mark Twain Groupie

Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."
Mark Twain

Mark Twain was as famous in his time as Elvis. Few writers are still funny after over a century and time spent reading Twain is a wonderful diversion. The Gilded Age, a critical examination of politics and corruption in the United States during the nineteenth century, could have been written today with just a few changed names and events.

Bush the Editor

Hearings yesterday on CSpan featured this:
Congressional committee hearings in the US have confirmed a concerted effort by the Bush Administration to doctor scientific evidence supporting human induced climate change.

The former head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Phillip Cooney, told the House committee on oversight and government reform that he routinely watered down reports on climate change to ensure they fell into line with the Bush Administration views.

“My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his administration,” Cooney told the committee.

Documents made available show that in 2003 Cooney and other Bush staff made 181 changes to a climate change strategy paper to play down the scientific consensus over climate change, and the role of human greenhouse emissions in it.

The changes also played up possible benefits of global warming and replaced some government agency findings with those of the American Petroleum Institute, Cooney’s former employer, which argued the uncertainty of climate science. Cooney now works for oil giant ExxonMobil.

The Environmental Protection Agency objected to the changes but Cooney said they must be made and in exactly the wording he wanted.

Committee chairman, Democrat Henry Waxman, said the testimony proved their was a systematic attempt to distort the debate over climate change.

NASA climatologist Dr James Hansen also testified before the committee and reiterated earlier claims that the White House had tried to silence his warnings over the greenhouse threat. Press releases were being doctored by White House staff, Hansen said.

"The effect of the filtering of climate change science during the current administration has been to make the reality of climate change less certain than the facts indicate, and to reduce concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions."
Carbon News

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Democracy Now interviews the author of Blackwater today. I went to the author's site and captured this short 4 minute video.
Jeremy Scahill is a Polk Award-winning investigative journalist. He is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine and a correspondent for the national radio and television show Democracy Now!. Scahill has reported extensively from Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Nigeria. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army is his first book
. If you have the time, the Democracy Now interview is really REALLY interesting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Lessons of Vietnam

Don't show body bags.
Do Not count the enemy dead.
Don't let media show protests
. Of course, this is easier if the media is not independent. Very little is mentioned about the march on Washington, the AP report doesn't even estimate numbers, just says "thousands".
Do emphasize that soldiers are all good. Compare torture to fraternity hazing. Put murder and rape trials on page 16.
Do emphasize that Vietnam soldiers were spat on. According to several sources, this meme is overblown thanks to Sylvester Stallone's Rambo. Reports actually don't start showing up until the 80's. Re: Drooling on the Vietnam Vets, Unsolicited Opinion's "Salivating About Past, Ignoring Present", and The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam a 1998 book by Vietnam veteran Jerry Lembcke. Lembcke believes that the "myth" is involved in helping to promote the yellow ribbon campaign; it has led some to think that for one to support troops, one must therefore also support the war, because it ties together the ideas of anti-war sentiment and anti-troop sentiment.(Wikipedia)
At the march on Washington yesterday, the only spitting reported was pro-war's spitting on anti-wars.

Pilfered Poster

I stole this from Dan Mega's blog. I presume he stole it from someone else. I am pulling out all stops to try and improve this blog. I put my blog title into technorati's How Much is Your Blog Worth and it said I was worth $0.00. How humiliating is that?

Blog Hopping

Found this interesting comment on Juan Cole's comment section.
What our Democrat friends are trying to do is this. They want to put a troop withdrawal process in legislation that runs from March 2008 to Aug 2008. The Dems know perfectly well that the Bush White House will ignore these constraints. The plan is to use their failure as a political billy club against the Right wing going into the Nov 20008 national elections:both congressional and presidential.

This is not a completely stupid idea, just a mostly stupid idea. Why? Because we are more than likely to be embroiled with warfare against Iran. Checkmate against the Democrats. -- Joe

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

If Atheists Went to Church

Gays in the Military by Bill Hicks

A reply to Marine General Peter Pace.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Patriotic Company

Halliburton Takes the Money and Runs

Haliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL) is the latest U.S. company headed oversees for friendlier tax laws.
The company is relocating its corporate headquarters from Houston to Dubai, which the Associated Press points out has some of the world's most liberal tax and residency laws. Haliburton said its moving because of the growth opportunities in the region and analysts say its smart strategically. The company also is eager to jumpstart is stock price which has barely budged over the past year.
Though the stated reasons are financial, there's obviously a political dimension.
The Democrats who control Congress are going to make Haliburton's life miserable. Last month, federal investigators claimed that Halliburton was responsible for $2.7 billion of the $10 billion in contractor waste and overcharging in Iraq, the AP said.
Not surprisingly, bigshots in Congress were outraged.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called it "an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years." House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) may hold a hearing on the issue, an aide told Reuters.
There's been a hubbub over similar moves by Tyco International Ltd. (NYSE:TYC) and other companies. In reality, there's little the Congress can do. In fact, I bet some Democrats would be happy to help Haliburton box its stuff up.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bush's South American trip

All those poor Latin American countries have to budget $$$$ for riot control. Bush thinks his presence will promote capitalism democracy to offset Chavez's socialistic views, but it is just pissing people off.
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - The beginning of President Bush's five-nation Latin American tour sparked protests across the region, with thousands of demonstrators and police clashing in Brazil and students in Colombia lobbing explosives at authorities.

More than 6,000 students, environmentalists and left-leaning Brazilians held a largely peaceful march through the heart of Sao Paulo before police fired tear gas at protesters and beat them with batons. Hundreds fled and ducked into businesses to avoid the chaos, some of them bloodied.
- Guardian


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Every Breath you Take

Columbia Business School's Dean Glenn Hubbard sings about wanting Alan Greenspan's job that went instead to New Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.

Does it Pay to Be a Jerk?

Wise Bread article by Andrea Dickson poses the question of whether being mean or being nice gets one further. She not only uses Ann Coulter ("the bleached flamingo") as an example, but she also links to This American Life episode on NPR that discussed why the mean kids were popular. Much of the discussion centered on the revelation that aloof waitresses receive higher tips than nice ones. My compliments on an interesting article.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bumper Sticker

Read The Bills Act

Downside DC - Make Congress Read the Bills they Pass
Most Congressmen are lawyers, and many others are businessmen. They know what “fiduciary responsibility” is. For Members of Congress, fiduciary responsibility means reading each word of every bill before they vote.

Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead . . .
*They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote!
*Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will really cost.
*Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, in secrecy.
*They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose. (This practice is called “log-rolling.”)
*And votes are held with little debate or public notice.
*Oh, and once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?” they say.

Semantic Enhancement

Lawmakers and privacy advocates are concerned that a powerful new data searching tool being tested by the Department of Homeland Security could pose a threat to Americans' privacy as it sifts through mountains of information for patterns that might reveal terrorists.
Called ADVISE — for Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement — the program is capable of linking and cross-matching material from websites and blogs to government records and personal data.
Homeland Security has quietly been developing the ADVISE program since 2003, the same year another powerful data mining program at the Pentagon called Total Information Awareness was scuttled over privacy concerns.
Some leading lawmakers believe Congress needs to scrutinize these programs carefully, fearing data analysis capability is advancing so quickly that government oversight can't keep pace with it.
Feds test new data mining program USA Today.
Doublespeak is most reminiscent of Orwell's "newspeak" when it is used by a government agency to cover up something unpleasant. The government may find the need to talk about something that has negative connotations to large portions of the public, and avoids backlash by replacing the term with a new one that most people will not recognize as the same thing. Thus "area denial munitions" means "landmines", "physical persuasion" and "tough questioning" mean "torture", and "operational exhaustion" means "shell shock". The government even employs doublespeak against its own, for example the U.S. Army's recruitment motto is "Be an Army of One." This appeals to rugged individualism, yet the reality of soldiering is that of submission to authority and the following of orders without question. - Wikipedia

Monday, March 05, 2007

Cheney's Health

Tests Reveal Bloodclot in Cheney's leg.
He has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest.

You got to wonder why Cheney chose Cheney as the best candidate for "a heartbeat from the Presidency" knowing that his own heartbeat was so fragile. Besides Cheney's shooting a lawyer, his choosing himself for VP always makes me laugh.

Class Warfare

I believe there is a war on brown people going on and they call it the drug war. The prison and legal industry prospers by keeping the status quo. Corrupt police, fake and shell businesses, corrupt bankers lawyers and accountants all prosper. I believe most of the people making the big money hate the customer.

I have never lived in a ghetto or in inner city housing or on a reservation. I have driven through these communities and I think that if I lived there, I would turn to alcohol or drugs shortly. I believe some artificial delusion would keep me from going insane in a hopeless place where the only future was the drug business or the military. According to the book, Freakonomics, most street dealers make less than they would at a minimum wage job and probably live with their mothers. According to the book Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser, most of the people in jail for drug offenses are those that didn't plea bargain and betray their friends to get out.

2 cents worth about education

I was blog hopping and read Bad Tux, Quaker Agitator and Left in Dakota posts on the subject of schools.

School is a kid's work. If my job consisted of being in meetings all day with a boring speaker or a series of boring speakers I too would be disruptive or napping. In my own experience, the ratio of good teachers to mediocre or bad teachers is about the same ratio as I encounted in worklife managers and bosses. Most suck and an hour of class feels like two. It takes an exceptional person to be a good teacher and no amount of tenure or money can make a poor one improve, in fact I believe experience usually leads to less enthusiasm every year. It was my experience that the teachers with discipline problems were also the teachers with poor speaker skills. Steve Jobs says the problem is unions and the inability to get rid of poor ones and maybe that has a kernel of truth to it. I think the real problem is how school is structured so that kids can be good factory employees (when such things existed) and good soldiers and their true inquisitive nature is stymied. They are taught to follow orders rather than to self-motivate. The last thing society wants is more free thinkers. I think I read somewhere that the German education system made the students do the work of teaching themselves. They were given projects and the teacher talks very little - and this was before computers. How easy would it be now to educate yourself? Granted it would be worse than being in a class with a teacher that excites and inspires, but it would be better than the average fare.
DISCLAIMER: I taught for a year and a half and I was not a good one, but I knew it and got out. I was horrible at student teaching and I should have never been given a teacher's certificate even though I got good grades.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Alternate Bumper Sticker

The Repugs had a bumper sticker with Ted Kennedy as the driver. I think this one came as a backlash, but I could be wrong - maybe this was first. PS. I'm sure everyone knows Laura Bush was in an auto accident that caused the death of a guy.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

F*cking Sign Problems

Town of Fucking keeps getting sign stolen by "cheeky British tourists". You would think they could elect a mayor to come up with the idea of changing the name of the town. Truth or Consequences New Mexico did it for a game show so how hard could it be? Or print up signs to sell and make it an industry like Roswell does with UFO stuff.

Found On Julie Sweeney's Forum

If someone uses the bible as a basis in trying to convince me ANYTHING, I immediately dismiss it. I listen to what they have to say, but I have marked their input as "deletable" in my minds database. The Digital Soul

Science eventually led me to the inescapable conclusion that the Genesis account can't possibly be a factual history of the origin of our species. It also taught me that the universe is not the orderly clockwork that creationists like to teach it is. It is actually huge and messy and in a constant state of disorder. The only thing that allows us to believe in order is our incredibly short lifespan compared to the motions of the universe around us. Sure, we are going to slam into the andromeda galaxy in 150 million years, but it's easy to not think about that or ignore it when you only live for maybe 80. We are like microbes living on the surface of a cannon ball that's been fired at a wall, and we sit on it living out our microscopic lifespans saying, "Wow! Look how great this thing is we live on! It must have been made JUST to keep us alive!"

While science was teaching me about the 'messy' universe, history was teaching me about human nature. I came to realize that belief, no matter how powerful, has no affect on reality. Human history is filled with people who believed passionately in things that turned out to be nonsensical. Did the power of their belief make Thor and Odin more real?
Slash the Berzerker

Lots of people testify about why they chose atheism.

Bumper Sticker

Friday, March 02, 2007

Top Ten Modern Delusions

Francis Wheen's new book How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions provides an interesting outlook on the modern condition. Of course, it isn't only Bush that has an imaginary friend. Seems to me I remember Hillary talked to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Do It Yourself

I am planning on a move so I have been doing some home fix-it that I put off. Replaced the sink tailpiece that was too short so that the year old temporary brace could be removed, repainted over the painting technique that failed in the bedroom, took down pictures and repainted the nail holes (which showed so I ended up painting the whole living room). Desperately wishing for warmer weather so I can replace the back door and paint the outside.

Blizzard today. The short video of do it yourself projects gone bad is purloined from Wise Bread.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Scott Adams Blog

Respecting the Beliefs of Others
People keep telling me that I should respect the beliefs of others. That sounds entirely reasonable, at least until you think about it. The problem is in knowing where to draw the line. I can understand why, for example, Presbyterians should respect the beliefs of Methodists. They’re practically the same thing.

But what about those Heaven’s Gate guys who believed they should kill themselves so their souls could follow a comet? Am I obligated to respect those beliefs too? How about the people who give away all of their possessions because they have determined the exact date that the world will end? Do I respect their opinions up to the predicted end-time and then, after it passes, keep on respecting their opinion while they are begging the neighbors to give back their crap?

I respect the Mormons for doing a great job of creating good citizens. Whatever they’re doing seems to be working. You rarely hear about a gang of violent Mormons terrorizing a town. But must I also respect their practice of wearing special underpants to ward off evil? Is it a package deal, no pun intended?

I suppose you could argue that we should respect any religion that is peaceful and has good intentions at its core. And I certainly agree with treating all people with respect even if you’re not feeling it on the inside. But it seems to me dishonest to display respect for all beliefs equally. Surely there are beliefs that deserve slightly less respect than others.

This has to be an even bigger problem for those of you who have a religion of your own. You’re thinking something along the lines of “My prophet talked to a real angel whereas your prophet was evidently taking a drunken forest wiz and thought a tree stump was talking back to him.”

I also wonder if showing respect for all beliefs is causing more problems than it’s avoiding. The only thing that keeps most people from acting on their absurd beliefs is the fear that other people will treat them like frickin’ retards. Mockery is an important social tool for squelching stupidity. At least that’s what I tell people after I mock them. Or to put it another way, I’ve never seen anyone change his mind because of the power of a superior argument or the acquisition of new facts. But I’ve seen plenty of people change behavior to avoid being mocked.

Many of our biggest world problems are caused by different religious views. But it’s not socially acceptable to even discuss whether those views originate from the almighty or a drunken guy wizzing on a tree stump. At a bare minimum, just to pick one example, either Christianity or Islam is completely and utterly wrong. The beliefs are mutually exclusive. Muslims believe all Christians will burn in Hell. Christians believe that the Koran is fiction. They can’t both be right. (They could obviously both be wrong if the Heaven’s Gate guys turn out to have it right.)

I fantasize about becoming President one day and insisting on settling the question of which religion is “right.” I’d assemble all the experts on history and religious and science, and televise them arguing the merits and evidence of their sides, with cross-examination and – most important – mocking. There would be no stop date for this debate. It would continue until even a child could recognize which positions are the most easily mocked. Sometimes that’s as close to wisdom as we can get.
Dilbert Blog entry.

Moron Joke

A moron calls 911 and says in his moron accent, “My wife just collapsed!”

The dispatcher says, “Calm down. Where are you located?”

The man says, “I’m on the corner of Eucalyptus and Pine.”

The dispatcher asks, “How do you spell Eucalyptus?”

There’s a long pause and then the moron says, “I could drag her to Oak.”

Bee News

Using bees for bomb detection: I saw a program about how bees could be used for bomb detection. They are strapped to a block and exposed to the smell of bomb components and then given sugar water. After repeated exposures, they will stick their tongues out when they smell the right smell. I bet people will break down doors to get the job of looking through a magnifying glass at bee tongues all day. The lifespans of bees is pretty short compared to that of a dog. While a dog can travel from item to item, the bee has to have the suspected luggage (or whatever) brought to it. How many different bomb materials exist anyway and will they have to be passed by a committee of bees?

Also in the news is the loss of bee populations that is stumping researchers. How will we get our illicit drug supplies if the beekeepers go out of business?