Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The (Red) Welfare State

Back to what I was saying before. I am starting to think that we should let the red states secede. If they did, it certainly appears that they couldn't succeed (thank you) as their policies are failures. Here are conservatives again whining about Wisconisn while failing to smyte the bee what bit them in thou own bonnett. Or something like that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good On You Packers

I am constantly going on about pro-athletes having strong unions and expecting fans to understand but not coming out to support other unions. Unions that strengthen the middle class so that they can afford to be fans. I think MLB owes teachers and garbage men a sympathy strike or two. That is why it was great this week to see the Packers, if not as an orginzation than as individuals, come out and support public workers in Wisconsin. It is truly remarkable that Green Bay is a publicly owned team that just won the Super Bowl. I like it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Banksy

Banksy has some new LA stuff up. Is this his Oscar push?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All Hail Rail

I am not very happy about the new (Republican) budget that President Obama has proposed. I am excited about the $53 billion plan for high speed rail. I could make a passioned defense for why we need this. But I am going to save us both time. All I will do is point you in the direction of this. As an urban planning major in the New College at UofA I could have told you about this 12 years ago, but why spoil the surprise. If it was up to my master plan we would just ride golf carts through town, drive whatever the f we want on interstates and take sailing ships across oceans. But I am a romantic. Why get laid with a stranger on a train when you can listen to talk radio alone in your car? Right middle age Republican men?

Of course, conservative means never having to plan ahead so most of this plan will probably be torpedoed. Solar power torpedoed. This is the kind of stuff that a future middle class needs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crank That Should Be Yanked

By now I am sure you have all seen chief moron and snake-oil salesman Glenn Beck getting the state fair crowd all riled up over Egypt.

I understand it is a bunch of ignorant blather from someone who's personal motto is "them books is wrong." Nevertheless I tried to use it as a jumping off point to figure out if their was any kind of internal logic to this thing as it obviously is untethered from reality. Of course it has been commented on to death and there really isn't much to be added to a long balloon shaped into a floating question mark by a sad clown but....

Let's just examine a tiny bit of his hypothesis. We will leave the part about the Muslim caliphate taking over Europe. We will wait on Russia rushing back from the dead to reclaim all of the satellite countries around it becoming, what exactly? The USSR II? I want to look very narrowly at Beck's contention that Australia will fall under the control of China. Maybe New Zealand. Forgive me if I misquote anything here, I can't seem to find a transcript.

Beck uses the vague word "control." China will control Australia. I hope I am not being racist when I say this is fairly insulting to Australians. How will Australia be controlled? Is this a military form of control? How would that make sense? How would it be done? Australia is a huge country. A continent in fact. It is sparsely populated and spread out. Would the Chinese army come in boats? Would a Chinese army large enough to occupy the continent of Australia, go to Australia in boats? How long would that take? They would need to be fed the whole time as well. Would they sail past Japan and the U.S. bases in Okinawa? Then they would just turn south and have clear sailing? I supposes Australia puts up no fight. That they are no match for hoards of Chinese transport vessels. Maybe there is a vanguard of....? What exactly. And while this giant Chinese invasion fleet is off to capture Australia, what happens back in China? Sure it could probably be kept out of the news, but a force big enough to occupy a continent would have to be replaced or covered for as China has huge, vast borders that need to be protected. Can China make enough food to support this force? Can they be fed while destroying then occupying Australia? What will they do when they have Australia? Govern the Australians? Isn't that, again, a little insulting? Would Paul Hogan and the ghost of Steve Irwin put up with that? Would China use their manpower pursuing rebels through desert and bush? To what end? For what benefit? Who knows?

Beck never bothered to think this through, surely. Maybe he war gamed over a Risk board. I think his next quote gives away that he was just making it up and went. Just after declaring that the continent of Australia would be under control of the Chinese, he adds, "Maybe New Zealand." Why maybe? Why? Really? If they come all the way for Australia. Take it over. Occupy it. What is stopping them from taking New Zealand too? Gandalf? Maori dancing the Haka? Jonah Lomu? Again, I think New Zealand would be a terribly difficult country to take over and then occupy, but if you can do it to Australia then can't you do it there?

I think the real tip-off is he said it because it sounded like the better way to end the sentence. It sounded more like his side-show patter to say, "Maybe New Zealand." Then to say, "If they took over Australia, one would suspect that New Zealand would follow." I think this is the key to the whole thing. He is just making up stuff that is easy to say. In fact, he is just saying it because it is easy. Beck has already made the decision to not be a serious person and to say whatever garbage gets people to look at him. It sounds better, and more threatening in a mysterious way to dangle, "Maybe New Zealand" the to think through what any of this would involve.

Maybe he meant Australia would be under the economic control of China. Ok, but what of it? China is the number two economy in the world and we buy tons of goods from them. Possibly he meant cultural? So what? More Lo Mein. He didn't mean anything except for "Give me your money suckers."

To add onto this vacuous masturbation fest, deeply hurt Glenn Beck came out a few days later and begged for a hug from mommy in this abysmal hissy fit. Again, I don't have the transcript, and I can't turn on the sound at work, but it was another eruption of stupid. Except that this time Beck said that everyone had proved him right because they said he was wrong and then reported on things that he didn't like. I don't watch much Beck, pretty much for the same reason I don't watch Full House or read Nevada prostitution brochures, so I was a little taken a back at what a horrible person he was. Beck who has never had the courage to stand up for anything, certainly never the guts to take it to the streets (for the record I don't find being a privileged millionaire and setting up a sponsored rally while wearing a bullet proof vest to be any sort of valour) ridiculing a Egyptian protester for having the audacity to be misunderstood by Glenn Beck. What a misguided person she must be for knowing that sometimes you have to work with people who don't have all of the same values as you to achieve goals that you mutually desire. How mistaken she is. That would be like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich both being against the war. Impossible. That would almost be like the Nation of Islam and Jews both being for civil rights. Why do the Jewish people love Elijah Muhammed so much?

John Baez has a list of what constitutes a crank.

Hmmmm. If the shoe fits, take over Australia with the Chinese army.

The Great State of.....

A list of the states with the worst eating habits was released this week. I don't think it means that they let their dogs lick their plates or that they keep their elbows on the table. See the study for the methodology. I would wager that if you guessed the top ten you would not be far off. Seven out of ten probably.

While we are on it, here is a list of states by obesity levels. Again, no real surprises. Although I will make a slight exception for Louisiana because there is so much good food to eat. However, that is probably not the root of the problem. Especially in Baton Rouge or Slidell.

And then there is this: a list of divorce rates by state. This data is from 2009. And here is a ranking of teen pregnancy rates by state. Scroll down to page 13-14.

Here are the 2009 STD rates by state. Here are the 2009 crime rankings.

Here is the chart that I really feel tells an important story.

Here is a map of the states that went Obama/Biden in 2008.

And here is a historical map.

Finally, here is one of my favorite cognitive biases.

I am not going to bother tying together the threads on this one. I think you get it. But then we should ask, who's opinions are overrepresented in the media and in the power structure? Why is that? Why do we have to give in on everything to people who seem to be wrong about everything?

One statistical note: Population is not evenly distributed and we should be careful of that because even when dealing with things on a per capita basis, it doesn't tell the whole story. Smaller states are bound to swing wild sometimes.

Given that, here is a list of states by 2007 population data. And by population density.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Computer Canasta

As all three of you who follow this blog are well aware, I have a bit of a canasta problem. I don't mean my recent problem of losing every hand to DLB, no, a problem that predates that. A problem that began around the family dining table, carted back from somewhere out West on a dare from my Dad, the table, not the problem, and nurtured in many a borrowed dorm room. I have a mild addiction to the game of canasta. Its combination of luck and strategy of braggadocio and humbling retribution. Its symmetry of odd numbers. In Japan, outside of a small group trapped in a house during a typhoon, I have found no one to play canasta with. In comes the iPod. Now, I can play canasta whenever I want.

This brings its own issues however, it isn't the loss of conversation that a real human game brings, although that detracts from the experience, it is the absolute boneheaded way that your partner plays and the fact that their method can't be corrected through personal rebuke.

To be fair, I have noticed the same strategies from human opponents in Internet canasta; the same get the canasta and get out dash to the exit. To me the slowly building deck, the pot of soup that only one person will get to eat, is the fun of the game. Once you meet the challenge of melding and then get that deck, it is your obligation to stretch out the game and milk the other team for everything they have. Not so, says my digital teammate. The real challenge when you get up to melding 120 points is the meld itself. I can't see the logic in being roughly 1,000 points away from a victory, getting the difficult meld, getting a huge deck, having the other team in the position of every discard being a donation to your team fund, but deciding to go out after one canasta. A canasta that doesn't put you over the 5,000 point mark for the win. Now you have to struggle to meld 120 again and have no idea if you will get to pick up the deck.

Maybe it is the rule that you can go out with one canasta, natural or not. I am not a fan of that rule. I say two canastas where one must be natural is the only way to play. It makes for a more strategic game. Maybe it is just flawed programming. My teammate has been known to through a deuce on 6 eights for an unnatural and discard the eight in their hand on the same play. Or two lay down 3 sixes, which the opponent doesn't have, and then discard a Jack, which gives the other side a natural canasta.

Oh, well. That's what happens when you build robot people. Take that science!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kick Ass

I finally got a chance to see Kick Ass in a tiny, alternative movie theater in an upscale department store in Kyoto. I don't have many deep thoughts on it. I liked it. Natsuki's comment was, "I liked it. It was pretty shallow." I am not sure if those two quotes are connected by anything. What I did like about the movie was that it began with an interesting question and then answered it in a very real and understandable way.

The question was, "If super heroes are so popular, why don't more people try and be a super hero." The question was later answered by saying, and showing, that people don't because they find that they have people they care about and who care about them. That all of us have a responsibility to those people that would generally preclude running around and inviting death. It was no great coincidence that once the hero figured out that he like shagging his (insanely hot) girlfriend that he quickly lost the super hero bug. I thought where the movie succeeded was in showing the desire for super heroes not as a stupid fantasy, or a comical fantasy but, at its very heart, as a juvenile fantasy.

Whither Come the Tides?

I know this has been covered to death. It has been covered like a sore knee with icey hot. It has been covered like a (reference to a Japanese genre of porn film removed by publisher.) However this give me an opportunity to reference one of my favorite blogs, Bad Astronomy, which you might or might not be familiar with, but you should be now.

Bad Astronomy on the ridiculous, ridiculous, O'Reilly argument that the tides prove God's existence. I think the worst part of his contention was how pleased he looked with it. Being content with a thought so incompletely form is a small window into how actually ignorant O'Reilly himself is.

Further, I notice that O'Reilly always uses the construction, "Never any miscommunication." Each time he makes his assertion. Is there an underlying reason for this?

Lower the Retirement Age

If you have missed out on it for the last few months, James Galbraith has been talking up his plan to lower the retirement age. Most headlines that you can find on the subject characterize the plan as "radical." I can't see it as anything other than practical and am left scratching my head over why it is anything other than the prevailing belief. I am no genius economist, but this certainly doesn't fall into the "wow, I never thought of that category."

The central premise here is that lowering the retirement age clears off a section of the job market that young people in need of jobs can move in and fill, while older people, eager to retire can find their way out. It seems elementary to me. I don't know why it is radical and raising the age is a serious consideration. Actually, I do, it is because our dialogue can only function one way in America. Whether conscious or not, if it involves sacrifice and suffering to the middle class and below it is serious. If it requires anything of the upper classes, it is radical.

Something else important to notice in this conversation is that the "Life expectancy keeps rising" meme is only true of the white collar, upper classes. People with hard jobs and little or no medical coverage are not living longer. So they should suck it up and work two more painful years and then shut up and die with sub-standard health coverage and no end of life care discussions with their doctor.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Total Employment

This is something to think on. I am pretty much in agreement on all counts. I think the most telling thing is the owner.manager belief that wages are paid to get you to show up and that is the obligation, not that we are in it together to create a stable society and without solid wages, their businesses will eventually suffer. They just get trained to squeeze the dry rag and complain that it isn't wet like it used to be.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

UFC 126: Storm the Tower

Through a blaring chorus of "Rock the Casbah" played by a rental mariachi band, commissioner Dana White ambled to the podium in a Peace in the Middle East retro t-shirt and $900 jeans. "The show must go on." He declared with all the earnestness of the Israeli delegation at the Munich Olympics.

Kingsbury vs. Romero:

Romero has a great sub record against lesser competition. Kingsbury has been an up and comer for a while but doesn't impress me that much. Could go either way. Kingsbury should out-wrestle Romero, but I would like a crazy leg-lock. So, Romero by sub in the 1st.

Taylor vs. Ruediger:

Ruedigar had a lot of success in lower organizations but has done nothing but make a joke out of himself at this level. If you can't make weight for a fight, it means something is wrong with how you are approaching the game. While it would be fun to see a sub upset, it is hard to get behind a guy who would rather get a colonic than control his eating. Taylor by TKO in the 3rd.

Pierce vs. Robertson:

Pierce is a very good fighter. I don't see him losing this. The end.

Cerrone vs. Kelly

I think this is a bad style/size match-up for Kelly. While he can be a little fireball on the ground- posturing up in guard and whaling on guys- that is the exact wrong technique against Cerrone, who is always happy to triangle somebody. I think this is a good, back-and-forth battle, but I think Cerrone gets a sub in the 3rd.

Yamamoto vs. Johnson

Linearly, Yamamoto Kid should be my compatriot as he is a product of the same Gym. I have never been a big fan, however. What Kid brings, or brought, to the table is incredible athleticism, double plus power and excellent wrestling. But he has been injured and cowed and aged. What does he still have. Kid is always capable of getting the KO, but can he still pull the trigger? I am calling Mighty Mouse for the upset here. Probably on decision with lots of good striking exchanges.

Mendes vs. Omigawa:

What are they trying to do here? I really don't get it. If the goal is to wreck Omigawa on his return then I think they picked the right match-up. The real crucible for most Japanese fighters coming over is the level of wrestling in the U.S. There just isn't a comparable comparison in Japan. Omigawa is good. Very good. He has clean striking and a solid top game. He still has good judo balance. But he can be taken down. He will be taken down. I would love to see him win, but I have to call Mendes by decision.

Torres vs. Banuelos:

I do not hide my love for Miguel Torres. There was a time, not long ago, that I thought he was in the running for best P4P in the world. He fell off, but I hope he is on his way back. Banuelos can be entertaining, but I don't see him doing that much. I think Torres hurts him with the jab and takes advantage for a sub in the 2nd.

Ellenberger vs. Rocha:

I still can't get that interested in Ellenberger. That doesn't mean he is bad. He packs a lot of power, and knocks fools out. Maybe I will change my mind about him. I love Rocha's resume, but, as usual, it is not at this level of competition. I would love for him to bust out a knee-bar, but the positioning required to get to a knee-bar would probably mean that Ellenberger would get a chance to brain him. Ellenberger for 1st round KO.

Bader vs. Jones

Who isn't excited about this one? Jones, who channels Tony Jah, squaring off against the real life Ram-Man. These guys are both for real, they are both undefeated(really) and they can both make just about anything happen. Bader can take Jones down or he can knock him out. Jones could through Bader down on the mat and elbow out his orbital. Who knows? As a fight fan I am geeked. I will call it for Jones by TKO in the 2nd, but I have no clue.

Griffin vs. Franklin:

Another great match-up. Both of these guys are grinders with tons of stamina and a huge amount of fight experience. Franklin is the better striker. The ground game is probably a wash. Griffin has the size and strength. I think they both get pretty beat up. I think this looks a lot like Franklin's Loiseau fight, but with some more time on the ground. I don't know how how to call it. I am going a little more for Griffin, but I see Franklin's striking landing more. I would imagine, Franklin has worked on countering Griffin's kicks, which are effective. Err... Franklin by narrow decision.

Silva vs. Belfort:

There is one factor for me in this fight; Belfort's long layoff. A year out of the ring is just too much. Does he have the kind of striking to put Silva out? Absolutely. Belfort has great hands. One of a kind hands. But when has Silva looked that vulnerable? Against Sonnen? A lot of that, aside from the rib injury, can be explained by Sonnen's excellent take-down ability that was making Silva reticent. People are saying that SilvaBelfort's BJJ or wrestling is at a level to threaten Silva. I think Silva lands accurate strikes and gets the KO late in the 3rd or early in the 4th.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rush is as Dumb as Usual

You don't need me to tell you that what is happening in Egypt is important. Exceedingly important. You also don't need me to tell you that the conservative press is failing miserably in trying to report on it. Their first issue is that they start from their decided upon storyline and then try to cram everything into it until it works. But it never really does. Sometimes the mismatched corners stand out like a roll of fat under Rush Limbaugh's tight golf shirt. Sometimes it pours out like Glenn Beck's tenuous grip on reality. We have Glenn Beck telling us that the demonstrators are communists. But of course he would. We have Sean Hannity saying that this is a democratic revolution like Iraq. What?

It is hard for the Right. Democracy is a buzz word for them. But that is all it is. The real ground work of democracy is something they don't want anywhere near. So we have a democratic uprising, which should be good. But it is against as US client state. Hmmm. If the president were Republican it would be easy to back the dictator, but with a Democrat in power...hmmmm....The Right enjoys big shows of military power, but they hate Arabs and followers of Islam. Errr... What to do, what to do? Protesters, unless they are fake CIA hires or real American rubes, are stinky and creepy and something less than human, but everyone involved here is a light shade of brown anyway. Confusion.

So Rush gets on-air again today and proves the difference between himself and real journalists; journalists who are being beaten and stabbed and kidnapped and threatened with death right now. Journalists being kidnapped is a joke. Journalists dying is a joke. The next question- why are journalists being targeted- which occurred immediately to real journalist Nicholas Kristoff, was never even contemplated. Given the violence yesterday, I would assume it is because the government and the police plan to violently crush the demonstrators and don't want the story to get out. As a fan of real democracy that terrifies me. Does it terrify Rush Limbaugh. Not as much as the anal cyst that helped him stay out of Vietnam. Or should I say, not as much as fighting in Vietnam. But we shouldn't be surprised, the Right-Wing press is full of cowards who sell their sociopathy as strong will and resolution. They also wouldn't last a second on a rooftop there, even with Anderson Cooper there to hold their hand through it.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.