Saturday, January 31

ASCE 2009 Report Card For America's Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers have released a new report card for America's infrastructure and - no surprise - it is still bad. Horribly bad. Frighteningly bad. It's like we are a third world country. Furthermore, if you compare this new report card with the previous one in 2005, our infrastructure has maintained a solid "D" G.P.A. with our aviation services, roads, and transit systems functioning at a lower level than before. Everything else stayed the same - solid C's and D's all around. Oh, and infrastructure investment is only about 18% of the proposed economic stimulus plan. Unbelievable.

Video Of A Robot That Rebuilds Itself

Um, creepy! (h/t)

Two things: 1)I half expected the robot to mold into a replica of a human and slaughter the guy that keeps kicking it into pieces. Which makes me realize that I have seen Terminator 2 way too many times. And 2)I don't watch videos on YouTube very often, but the last time I did, it did not take 5 minutes to view a 3 minute clip. It buffered every 15 seconds or so. Is that a YouTube issue, a Google issue, or just mine? So annoying.

Friday, January 30

Updated Peanut Butter Recall List

The official FDA list pertains specifically to the current salmonella outbreak caused by peanut butter. I was planning on writing a long rant about how inept the manufacturers and the government regulators are at keeping us safe; however, it looks like Michelle Cottle at The New Republic said it all ( and more concisely than I would have, I'm sure.)

I would like to highlight a paragraph I read at the FDA site that might be missed by some people:

Product recalls include some pet food products that contain peanut paste that was made by PCA. While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands--and make sure children wash their hands--before and, especially, after feeding treats to pets. Further information for consumers is located in the Frequently Asked Questions section located on this web site. The pet food products are also included in the searchable data base of recalled products.

Go ahead and check out Cottle's piece. She links to a New York Times report that will both scare and anger you.

Army Suicides Up in 2008

At least 128 soldiers committed suicide in 2008, the Army said Thursday. And the final count is likely to be even higher because 15 more suspicious deaths are still being investigated.
"Why do the numbers keep going up? We cannot tell you," said Army Secretary Pete Geren. "We can tell you that across the Army we're committed to doing everything we can to address the problem."
The new suicide figure compares with 115 in 2007 and 102 in 2006 and is the highest since current record-keeping began in 1980. Officials expect the deaths to amount to a rate of 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, which is higher than the civilian rate — when adjusted to reflect the Army's younger and male-heavy demographics — for the first time in the same period of record-keeping.
Officials have said that troops are under unprecedented stress because of repeated and long tours of duty due to the simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yearly increases in suicides have been recorded since 2004, when there were 64 — only about half the number now. Officials said they found that the most common factors were soldiers suffering problems with their personal relationships, legal or financial issues and problems on the job.
But the magnitude of what the troops are facing in combat shouldn't be forgotten, said Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., a former Navy vice admiral, who noted he spoke with a mother this week whose son was preparing for his fifth combat tour.

Wednesday, January 28

Treasury To Citi: You Can't Keep The Jet

Timothy Geithner was finally sworn in Monday as our new Treasury Secretary. While the Senate delayed his confirmation, we learned that Citigroup - one of the many banks we taxpayers bailed out this past November - took ownership of a $50 million corporate jet. Well, yesterday the two stories merged. Geithner told Citi no.

Mr Geithner used his first day in office to unveil rules intended to make more transparent decisions over how much capital to inject into each bank under the Tarp, and to insulate these decisions from the influence of politicians and lobbyists.
The rules and the intervention over the Citi jet – which sets a new tone in the relationship between the government and banks – are intended to reassure a sceptical public that Tarp funds will not be misused.
Some Washington officials say they are amazed by the financial sector’s tin ear to public sentiment at a time when it is heavily reliant on government aid.
Asked about the Citi jet purchase, Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, said President Barack Obama “does not believe that is the best use of money at this point. That money should be used to lend to consumers”.
People close to Citi said the troubled bank could end up paying around $4m to cancel the order for the jet – believed to be a Falcon 7X made by France’s Dassault – unless it can find a buyer for the aircraft.

Tuesday, January 27

NYT Op-Ed: The Same Old Song

The New York Times has a great op-ed piece by Bob Herbert today. The question of the day: why does anyone still listen to the GOP?

What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?


Maybe the Republicans don’t think there is an emergency. After all, it was Phil Gramm, John McCain’s economic guru, who told us last summer that the pain was all in our heads, that this was a “mental recession.”
The truth, of course, is that the country is hemorrhaging jobs and Americans are heading to the poorhouse by the millions. The stock markets and the value of the family home have collapsed, and there is virtual across-the-board agreement that the country is caught up in the worst economic disaster since at least World War II.
The Republican answer to this turmoil?
Tax cuts.
They need to go into rehab.

Thank you! Another thing Republican politicians need to do is talk to the American people. Ask us what we want: tax cuts or spending to create jobs. Almost 3 million people lost their jobs in 2008. Hell, 70,000 just found out they will lose their job by Friday. The GOP thinks that tax cuts will solve our economic worries?
President Obama won in November in part because the voters decided his plan for economic recovery was more viable than Sen. McCain's plan. The people have spoken. We want Obama's plan. It would be nice if the Republicans in Congress would accept that reality.

Monday, January 26

WaPo: Surgical Checklist Reduces Complications

From the Washington Post:

Surgeons, it seems, are discovering what airline pilots learned decades ago: The human brain can't remember everything, so it's best to focus on the complicated challenges and leave the simple reminders to a cheat sheet.
"You take something as complex as surgery, and you think there isn't a lot that can be done to make it better," said
Atul Gawande, a Boston physician who led the study being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. "A checklist seems like a no-brainer, but the size of the benefit is dramatic."
The low-cost, low-tech intervention tested in eight hospitals around the globe could have enormous financial implications, as well. If every operating room in the United States adopted the surgical checklist, the nation could save between $15 billion and $25 billion a year on the costs of treating avoidable complications, according to calculations by the authors.
In the one-year pilot study involving 7,600 patients, the hospitals saw the rate of serious complications fall from 11 percent to 7 percent. Inpatient deaths declined by more than 40 percent overall, with the most drastic reductions occurring in hospitals with fewer resources

Two questions: 1) If your hospital does not implement the checklist before surgery, can the patient request that they do before operation? 2) Can we request the same for Chief Justice John Roberts? He's a smart guy so I'm almost positive he can have the Presidential Oath memorized in four years. But I don't want to take that chance. One index card. Is that too much to ask?

Download the surgical checklist

Wednesday, January 21

NYT: Millions Of Cardholders At Risk Of Fraud

From The New York Times about Heartland Payment Systems:

Robert H. B. Baldwin Jr., Heartland’s president and chief financial officer, said that his company believed the card numbers, expiration dates, and in some cases cardholder names were exposed after attacks on its computer systems at the one point where data had been unencrypted.
Once consumers swiped their cards, so-called sniffer software captured that data as Heartland sought authorization from the major payment companies and banks. Customers of
Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Financial were all vulnerable.

Furthermore, these vulnerabilities have occurred in spite of massive spending to reinforce security standards in the industry.

All this is happening after credit card companies and merchants spent over $2 billion on establishing the Payment Card Industry standards, Ms. Litan said. “And yet the breaches continue and they get more serious.”


Sunday, January 18

Rev. Robinson's Prayer Not Broadcast On HBO

Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal Bishop, delivered a moving prayer today at the request of President-elect Barack Obama to kick off the inaugural festivities in Washington D.C. this afternoon. Unfortunately, HBO did not broadcast his invocation. Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend talks about it here. I also read about it at Queers United and AmericaBlog. Which means this is going to get around very fast. If I were in charge at HBO, I wouldn't expect huge ratings on Tuesday for the inauguration (unless, of course, they also don't broadcast homophobe Rev. Rick Warren's invocation). People don't respond well to being ignored.

Here is a transcript of the Rev. Robinson's prayer:

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Saturday, January 17

Slate: Video Montage Of Bushisms

Jacob Weisberg of has compiled a list of his favorite Bushisms throughout the last nine years. He also included "The Best of Video Bushisms". I almost felt embarrassed for Bush while watching. Almost.

Friday, January 16

Letter From A Liberal: Be A Freakin' Liberal

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has written a long and detailed letter to the President-elect ( 4 days to go) on what he, in Krugman's expert opinion, should do to fix our current financial crisis, repair the institutions that allowed it to happen in the first place, and implement policies to keep it from happening again. He touches on public works programs, banking policies, and the absolute need for, if not Universal, then Universally Accessible Healthcare. It will be in the January 22, 2009 edition of Rolling Stone. His basic theme: If they're not calling you a Marxist, then you're doing something wrong!

Wednesday, January 14

Can Obama Top My Favorite Inauguration Speech?

Everyone knows President-elect Barack Obama gives great speeches. Let's face it - his oratory skills are a force to be reckoned with. My personal favorite was the nomination speech. My brother says the best was after he won the Iowa Democratic Caucus. Everyone has a favorite.

When it comes to inauguration speeches, two that are considered historically powerful are the first one by FDR and the only one by JFK. These were excellent speeches that did offer great insight into the characters and motives of our newly elected leaders. But there is another powerful inauguration speech of the past that I just don't think Obama can surpass. The first inaugural address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Halfway through the speech, President Eisenhower offers what he calls "certain fixed principles" for the nation. You can read the whole amazing speech here. As for the principles:

(1) Abhorring war as a chosen way to balk the purposes of those who threaten us, we hold it to be the first task of statesmanship to develop the strength that will deter the forces of aggression and promote the conditions of peace. For, as it must be the supreme purpose of all free men, so it must be the dedication of their leaders, to save humanity from preying upon itself.
In the light of this principle, we stand ready to engage with any and all others in joint effort to remove the causes of mutual fear and distrust among nations, so as to make possible drastic reduction of armaments. The sole requisites for undertaking such effort are that—in their purpose—they be aimed logically and honestly toward secure peace for all; and that—in their result—they provide methods by which every participating nation will prove good faith in carrying out its pledge.
(2) Realizing that common sense and common decency alike dictate the futility of appeasement, we shall never try to placate an aggressor by the false and wicked bargain of trading honor for security. Americans, indeed all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains.
(3) Knowing that only a United States that is strong and immensely productive can help defend freedom in our world, we view our Nation's strength and security as a trust upon which rests the hope of free men everywhere. It is the firm duty of each of our free citizens and of every free citizen everywhere to place the cause of his country before the comfort, the convenience of himself.
(4) Honoring the identity and the special heritage of each nation in the world, we shall never use our strength to try to impress upon another people our own cherished political and economic institutions.
(5) Assessing realistically the needs and capacities of proven friends of freedom, we shall strive to help them to achieve their own security and well-being. Likewise, we shall count upon them to assume, within the limits of their resources, their full and just burdens in the common defense of freedom.
(6) Recognizing economic health as an indispensable basis of military strength and the free world's peace, we shall strive to foster everywhere, and to practice ourselves, policies that encourage productivity and profitable trade. For the impoverishment of any single people in the world means danger to the well-being of all other peoples.
(7) Appreciating that economic need, military security and political wisdom combine to suggest regional groupings of free peoples, we hope, within the framework of the United Nations, to help strengthen such special bonds the world over. The nature of these ties must vary with the different problems of different areas.
In the Western Hemisphere, we enthusiastically join with all our neighbors in the work of perfecting a community of fraternal trust and common purpose.
In Europe, we ask that enlightened and inspired leaders of the Western nations strive with renewed vigor to make the unity of their peoples a reality. Only as free Europe unitedly marshals its strength can it effectively safeguard, even with our help, its spiritual and cultural heritage.
(8) Conceiving the defense of freedom, like freedom itself, to be one and indivisible, we hold all continents and peoples in equal regard and honor. We reject any insinuation that one race or another, one people or another, is in any sense inferior or expendable.
(9) Respecting the United Nations as the living sign of all people's hope for peace, we shall strive to make it not merely an eloquent symbol but an effective force. And in our quest for an honorable peace, we shall neither compromise, nor tire, nor ever cease.

Great stuff, huh?

Monday, January 12

Politico: Openly Gay Rev. Gene Robinson To Deliver Invocation At An Inauguration Event

From Mike Allen at Politico:

BREAKING: The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003 and last year entered into a civil union with his gay partner, will deliver the invocation for Sunday’s kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with President-elect Obama in attendance. The event is free and open to the public. An Obama source: “Robinson was in the plans before the complaints about Rick Warren. Many skeptics will read this as a direct reaction to the Warren criticism – but it’s just not so.” Robinson has been referred to as “the most controversial Christian in the world.” A Sewanee graduate!

This is wonderful news! I don't necessarily believe it was planned this way before the Rick Warren fiasco. I think this is a response to the outrage. Which makes me believe the President-elect's claim that he does read his negative press (unlike President Bush). Excellent!

I wonder what Warren will say about this? Something offensive, I'm sure.

1/12/09: Random Bushism Of The Day

"It's amazing I won. I was running against peace, prosperity, and incumbency." -George W. Bush, June 14, 2001, speaking to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Perrson, unaware that a live television camera was still rolling.

Sunday, January 11

Turley Talks About The Need For War Crime Tribunals

Rachel Maddow explains the situation we have regarding 15,000 Iraqi prisoners we have detained in Iraq. As of January 1st, we no longer have any legal jurisdiction with regards to these prisoners, most of whom are not charged with a crime. President Bush would like Iraq to continue this illegal process.

Also, Jonathan Turley explains to Rachel Maddow (and us) why the Bush Administration should be prosecuted for war crimes. With an adamant sense of urgency, Turley describes that not only are we Americans aware of the committed crimes, but other countries are as well. Do we want our justice system taken over by the justice system of other countries? If President Bush or Vice-President Cheney go out of the country, what risk do we want to take that another country will handle what we should take care of ourselves?

Saturday, January 10

The 17th Amendment


Amendment XVII: Direct election of senatorsThe Seventeenth Amendment was proposed on May 13, 1912, and ratified on April 8, 1913.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointment: until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

So, the Governor of the state could make a temporary appointment once a special election date has been determined, right? The appointed Senator would know that it was temporary, still participate in senatorial duties and decide whether or not to officially run for the seat. Am I missing something here? Why don't we do it this way anymore? Can the Senate say they will do it this way to avoid all of the drama? Because in my world, following the Constitution is pretty much drama free. And right now, that sounds pretty good.

Friday, January 9


From Politico's Wuerker:

Another San Diego Sinkhole

There was another sinkhole San Diego yesterday:

Northbound Texas Street is closed from Madison Avenue north to Camino del Rio as city crews repair the sinkhole at Texas and Madison. The street is expected to remain closed until about 7 p.m., said Arian Collins, spokesman for the city water department.

The 4600-block of Texas is without water and will remain so until 4:30 to 5 p.m., Collins said. The problem was called by a leak in a service line, which connects a water main to a water meter, Collins said. "That started undermining some of the street," he said.

However, the sinkhole itself is actually pretty small, Collins said. "I think the hole we made to get down to it was bigger than the hole made by the water," he said.

It may be small in size, but it is also the second sinkhole in an urban neighborhood in just the last two months. The previous one in November swallowed a car:

Needless to say, I am totally for infrastructure spending. The sooner, the better.

Photo from

Wednesday, January 7

1/7/09: Random Bushism Of The Day

"So I analyzed that and decided I didn't want to be the president during a depression greater than the Great Depression, or the beginning of a depression greater than the Great Depression." --George W. Bush, Washington D.C., Dec. 18, 2008

Saturday, January 3

01/03/09: Random Bushism Of The Day

President Bush: "Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?"
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times: "I can take them off."
Bush: "I'm interested in the shade look, seriously."
Wallsten: "All right, I'll keep it, then."
Bush: "For the viewers, there's no sun."
Wallsten: "I guess it depends on your perspective."
Bush: "Touche."
--an exchange with legally blind reporter Peter Wallsten, to whom Bush later apologized, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006 (Watch video clip)

Friday, January 2

What I Have Learned This Week

A lot of talk out there in the internet tubes about the slamming Joe Scarborough received from Zbigniew Brzezinski on "Morning Joe". It's nice to hear that there are people who are not afraid to be completely honest about his "stunningly superficial knowledge". However, while Joe tried to recuperate, Mr. Brzezinski mentioned the Taba Summit. I had never heard of this before. I know about it now. Thank you, sir.

New Mexico Rail Runner now runs from Santa Fe: The Central New Mexico corridor, which is home to half the state’s population, contains Santa Fe, the state capital, and Albuquerque, the largest city and economic hub of New Mexico. The two cities are connected by a single four-lane interstate highway, I-25...The high real-estate prices in Santa Fe mean that many of the people who work there must commute from the Albuquerque metro area. Furthermore, the capital is home to many of the state’s cultural institutions and tourist attractions, and most out-of-state visitors are forced to make the 60-mile journey from the Albuquerque International Sunport by car. As the population of the region grows, commute times are expected to increase 80% on some routes by 2025, making the introduction of additional forms of transportation a priority to local governments.[7]

Roland Burris, Blagojevich's appointee for Obama's Senate seat, has a mausoleum. It's actually quite nice. It's bigger than my kitchen. And really, really weird.

Charles Barkley feels that speeding is understandable if the possibility of sex is the reason. Alabama's future Governor, everyone!

Colorado Governor Picks Senate Replacement

The Denver Post is reporting that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has selected a replacement for Senator Ken Salazar:

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet has been chosen to fill the U.S. Senate seat, sources close to the process confimed (sic) this morning.
Bennet would fill the seat after the confirmation of Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary.
Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to formally introduce Bennet as his choice on Saturday.

Compare this to the fiasco in Illinois and the media circus in New York. Colorado knows how to do it.

Think Progress: 2008 Bush Accomplishments

– Number Of U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq: 322.
– Number Of U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan: 151.
– Number Of Jobs Lost: 1.9 million.
– Number Of Banks Federal Government Now Owns Stock In: 206.
– Number Of Uninsured Americans: 47.5 million.
– Change In Housing Prices: declined 18 percent.
– Change In Health Insurance Premiums: increased 5 percent.
– Change In Number Of Delinquent Mortgages: increased 75 percent.
– Change In Use Of Food Stamps: increased 17 percent.
– Change In Dow Jones Industrial Average: declined 35 percent.
– Change In Bush Approval Rating: declined 9 percent to 29 percent.