Saturday, April 25

Kindle 2 Is Cheaper Than You Think

Apparently, Kindle 2 owners are paying double the cost:

ISuppli estimated that the cost of parts to build the Kindle 2 totals $176.83, with $60 going toward an E-Ink Corp. display and $39.50 toward a module from Novatel Wireless Inc. to permit wireless downloads over Sprint Nextel Corp.'s EV-DO data network.
ISuppli believes that, when including manufacturing and battery costs, the device costs $185.49 to build.

Maybe it can be justified as a convenience fee?

Tuesday, April 21

Builders As Lenders

This is an interesting editorial in the New York Times about an unmentioned cause of the housing crisis in California: home builders doubling as lenders.

The industry promotes the practice as a one-stop-shopping convenience that saves time and money. Too many homeowners found it did neither. They were pressured into buying overpriced homes with interest-only loans that they didn’t understand and couldn’t handle. When the bubble burst in Southern California, that was it for their dreams and homes.

Homeowner advocates say that the system is rigged against the consumer, riddled with inherent conflicts of interest. What in-house appraiser is going to scrupulously and honestly assess a home’s value, especially if the market begins to tank? If a lender is connected to a home builder, it is going to try to find any way possible to make that loan, since making that loan means selling that house.

Progressive Quiz

The Center for American Progress has an interesting quiz to determine how progressive you may be. There are 40 questions and you answer them by responding on a scale of 1 to 10. Only takes about 10 minutes so give it a try. My score: 339.

Saturday, April 11

Sac Bee:Citizenship Of Undocumented Immigrants To Be Challenged At The Polls

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that a conservative group wants to vote to make it harder for a child born in the United States to undocumented parents to have citizenship.

The initiative, which proponents tout as the California Taxpayer Protection Act, is aimed for the June 2010 statewide ballot.
For undocumented parents to obtain the new "Certificate of Live Birth with Foreign Parent," they would have to be photographed, fingerprinted and pay an additional $75 fee.
Beyond the birth certificates, the measure also would limit welfare payments for the children of undocumented immigrants, as well as require that any application for public benefits submitted by illegal immigrants be handed over to federal authorities.

The initiative, according to the proponents' Web site, appears to be the first step to try to end citizenship rights for children of illegal immigrants.
That would bump up against the 14th Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution, which guarantees that every child born in the United States is a U.S. citizen.
"Our citizen's movement will launch the national debate we need to bring an END to 'birth tourism' and AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP in the United States of America," the site reads.
The initiative itself "does not say that," noted Dolz, who said that "personally we might feel one way or another."

I'm not sure how this is possible considering what the 14th Amendment states:

Amendment XIV: Civil rights
The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed on June 13, 1866 and ratified on July 9, 1868.
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Seems clear cut to me. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Friday, April 10

Easy Home Gardening

Tina McCarthy at lists the ten easiest vegetables to grow at home. She offers a lot of information regarding optimal pH levels, depth of seeds and watering tips.

Do The "Teabaggers" Know What Teabagging Means?

Republican citizens across the nation are forming "Tea Parties" in opposition to the Democratic budget. I guess they think this is a clever reference to the Boston Tea Party during the American Revolution. The major problem with this is that the Boston Tea Party was based on the idea of taxation without representation. The budget proposed by the Democratic majority has middle-class tax cuts and only raises taxes on the top 3% of the population to Clinton-era levels. Also, Republican citizens have representation - it's called Congress. Yeah, there are fewer Republicans but that is due to the voting decisions by citizens during the 2008 election. We, as a nation, voted for more Democrats to represent us.
So, what does the Republican minority do? Nothing. Well, I shouldn't say nothing. They voted against the stimulus. They voted against the budget. They came up with an alternative budget that offers tax cuts to the rich. They support "tea parties". People are sending teabags to D.C. and Fox News is promoting "teabagging". This is a joke. Or, more sadly, it is not a joke. It is the Republican opposition's grand idea to have people get together and complain about taxing the rich. The bright idea is "teabagging".
Look up the definition of teabagging here. Then watch the video below of Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox trying desperately to take this seriously. An "A" for effort, for sure.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


MADDOW: The Republican Party controls no real levers of power in Washington. They have yet to settle on any national leadership at all. They did come up with a Republican budget proposal in the House of Representatives, and 38 House Republicans even voted against that.
The GOP, in other words, is clearly in exile. But the conservative movement has found a reason to live. They have found something about which they feel very positive, something which they are ready to rally around. I speak of course of teabagging.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, “ON THE RECORD”: Angry taxpayers, or at least some of them, are taking to the streets in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party.
BRET BAIER, HOST, “SPECIAL REPORT”: More than 250 locations in all 50 states will hold rallies April 15th.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, “YOUR WORLD”: Americans sick of government ballots and wasteful spending, taking their message to the street and it‘s spreading fast. We‘re all over it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re going to try and send teabags to D.C.
D.C. - teabag the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teabag the fools in D.C.
MADDOW: Teabagging. After spending weeks mailing teabags to members of Congress, conservative activists next week say they plan to hold tea parties to proverbially teabag the White House. And they don‘t want to teabag alone, if that‘s even possible. They want you to start teabagging, too.
They want you to teabag Obama on Twitter. They want you to, quote, “send your teabag and teabag Obama on Facebook.” They want you to teabag liberal dems before they teabag you. And all this nonconsensual conservative teabagging is just the start.
All across America on Tax Day, Republican members of Congress are lining up to speak at teabag tea party events. Even Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina is getting in on the hot teabagging action.
Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, previously most famous for his self-admitted very serious sin with prostitution services - he wants to give teabagging the Senate seal of approval. He has asked the Senate to commemorate the day of anti-Obama protests in law.
In terms of - now, no laughing offset or I will lose it. I‘m only barely making it through this as it is. All right. Ready? In terms of media, our colleagues at Fox News are not just reporting on teabagging, they are officially promoting it.
GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”: Celebrate with Fox News. This is what we‘re doing next Wednesday. We want to be with you and your tea party, if you have a tea party any where that we‘re not covering one of those, E-mail me at We may cover your tea party live on April 15th.
MADDOW: Fox News Channel has described the Tax Day events on screen as FNC Tax Day tea parties. And they are dispatching some of their hosts to take part of in the teabagging. But amid the celebration of inchoate right-wing bad feelings and the denunciation of taxes, spare a thought for the man who you‘d think might have the most to gain from harnessing the power of mass-organized public teabagging.
That of course would be Republican Party chairman Michael Steele. Mr. Steele apparently asked to address a teabag tea party event in Chicago next week. But organizers turned him down, saying he is welcome to show up at the event but not welcome to speak. The organizers said they did think the event would be, quote, “a fantastic time for Chairman Steele to listen to what we have to say.” Though, presumably, if he is being teabagged while doing so, the message will be a bit muffled.
Joining us now, Air America‘s national correspondent and “Daily Beast” contributor, Ana Marie Cox. Ana Marie, thank you for being here.
CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: The Boston Tea Party was about taxation without representation, right? The protests planned for Tax Day are about the plan to go back to the Clinton-era tax rates for rich people. Is that the purpose of these and is this a parallel they‘re trying to draw?
COX: Well, it‘s the parallel they‘re trying to draw, Rachel. But you know, it is true that teabaggers are grossly unrepresented in Congress. I‘m trying to work on that personally. But one can only do so much. I think David Vitter really is the right spokesperson for the movement, though.
MADDOW: Well, that‘s a point well-taken and which I was afraid to allude to. And that‘s why you‘re here because you‘re braver than I am. So many Republicans are addressing the Tax Day teabag parties. Michael Steele has been rejected. Is he not considered a true teabagger by the movement?
COX: Well, you know, he said in that “GQ” interview that he thought teabagging wasn‘t a choice, that you couldn‘t change whether or not you would be a teabagger. I think the teabaggers now really believe that it‘s something they‘ve chosen to do, that they could change if they wanted to. But they won‘t.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of what‘s going to happen on Tax Day and what‘s been happening with the teabagging of Congress, which has been happening through the mail, which I didn‘t even know was possible, I sort of never believed you can be held responsible for the people who say they agree with you.
So we had this enthusiasm expressed for the teabagging events by white power groups like storm front and by the secessionists and by the armed militias. And I don‘t think you can really hold the teabaggers responsible for that. But is there a radical message here? I mean, the whole idea here is about revolution, sort of, right?
COX: Well, yes. I mean, I think that the people - the teabaggers would like it to be more radical than it is. But the fact is people have been teabagging for a long time and they probably will continue to do so.
MADDOW: Fair enough. Most of the energy of these events seems anti-Obama. You saw all, you know, the Facebook and Twitter things, “Teabag Obama. Teabag Obama.” But then, there‘s the rejection of Michael Steele and I wonder if there‘s also a chance that this sort of gets channeled into being teabag Arlen Specter, teabag John McCain, against Republicans who voted for any of the bailouts.
COX: Well, who wouldn‘t want to teabag John McCain - that‘s all I have to say. But I really think actually it‘s probably going to be more directed at Obama. And this is actually very much a part of, I think, the midterm strategy. You know, it‘s going to be teabagging like 24/7 when it comes to midterms.
MADDOW: Well, is there an effort to divide the conservative movement from the Republican Party once again, though? Because there is something about the origin of the current Republican Party that owes very much to the conservative movement which was not organized within the party. It was sort of organized without and took it over.
I wonder if they‘ve trying to cleave themselves again and say, “No, we‘re teabaggers, and you‘re not. And we‘re, therefore, the future of the right wing”?
COX: You could say there‘s a big split between the teabags. I think that you‘re right. I think the social teabaggers and sort of the fiscal teabaggers are really starting to move apart from each other.
MADDOW: Actually I just heard from standards we‘re not allowed to talk about fiscal teabags. But thank you for bringing it up. Ana Marie Cox of Air America Radio and “The Daily Beast,” it is always wonderful to have you on the show, particularly more tonight than ever. Thanks.
COX: All right. Thanks, Rachel.

Tuesday, April 7

Making Work Pay

Have you noticed the extra money in your paycheck yet?

Since the enactment of the Recovery Act, American workers have seen increases in their paychecks reflecting the new credit and the Administration’s commitment to the middle class. IRS guidance asks that, by April 1, employers must have instituted the lower withholdings for their employees.

The Making Work Pay tax credit is the tax reduction centerpiece of The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (The Recovery Act) of 2009. The credit provides the most households ever with a tax cut—over 110 million or about 95 percent of working families.


For 2009 and 2010, the “Making Work Pay” tax credit provides a refundable tax credit of 6.2 percent of earned income up to $400 for working individuals and $800 for married taxpayers.
Families should see at least a $65 dollar per month increase in their take home pay.
The credit will phase out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $150,000 for married couples filing jointly and $75,000 for other workers, and thus is fully phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income in excess of $190,000 for married workers and $95,000 for other workers.

Our President wants to help those of us who are not rich. This will take time to get used to.

Monday, April 6

FT:Is There A Bit Of OCD In Us All?

The Financial Times has an interesting piece about obsessive compulsive disorder. Richard Thomkins goes into depth about the history of the condition, celebrities with OCD, and the different stories of people who are dealing with it.

But even those statistics could be only part of the picture. According to a paper appearing in last month’s American Journal of Psychiatry, an estimated 21-25 per cent of individuals could be said to have borderline OCD, meaning they have obsessions or compulsions that meet at least some of the diagnostic criteria. Admittedly, more than one-third of these people are also suffering from another anxiety disorder or depression – but according to the paper, that still leaves an estimated 13-17 per cent of otherwise “normal” people – about one in 15 of us – suffering from at least some symptoms of OCD.
So, what is this disorder? And could someone you know be at least partly afflicted?
The term “OCD” has recently displaced “anal” in contemporary slang as a way of describing people who are more than usually meticulous, pernickety or pedantic – the sort of people who are never satisfied unless things are just right. If this reflected a greater understanding of obsessive compulsive disorder, it might be no bad thing. In fact, it has simply increased the degree of misunderstanding by confusing two different conditions with almost the same name. “Anal” people do not usually have OCD at all; they simply have an obsessive compulsive personality type, meaning they’re a bit fussy. People with OCD, in contrast, are suffering from a serious anxiety disorder that greatly impinges on their lives.
While being “anal” can be an asset in some circumstances, as in a job that requires attention to detail, there are no advantages in having OCD at any level. All it does is cause distress by introducing obsessive, irrational anxieties into the sufferer’s mind, typically involving perceived dangers or appalling images of one sort or another. A defining characteristic of OCD is that sufferers believe just thinking about bad things will make them happen unless they act to prevent it; so they feel compelled to carry out little rituals which to other people look odd and unnecessary but which to them have the magical power to counteract the perceived threat. Typically, the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour reinforce one another in a vicious circle, causing the condition to become ever worse until it starts to interfere seriously with the sufferer’s life.
Although there are many possible obsessions, the most common of them fall into a surprisingly small number of categories. The best known is Howard Hughes syndrome – the fear of dirt and germs, commonly linked with compulsive handwashing and cleaning. Another common one is the fear of harming others or coming to harm oneself, often accompanied by compulsive safety checking – repeatedly making sure the door is locked, the cooker is turned off and the iron is unplugged. Many sufferers are obsessed with a need for symmetry, which results in compulsive rearranging of things. Others are tormented by thoughts that they will carry out some horrifying act of a violent, sexual or blasphemous nature, and often try to block out or neutralise these thoughts with mental rituals such as counting or the repetition of certain words or phrases.


Obsessed, obsessive and obsession are over-used words. People talk about someone being obsessed with recycling or being an obsessive gambler; there is even a perfume called Obsession. But it is not enough to be preoccupied or infatuated with something to qualify as an OCD sufferer. With OCD, the obsessions have to be unwanted, unwelcome and anxiety-provoking – they can never bring satisfaction or pleasure. They also have to cause a repetitive behaviour or ritual aimed at preventing some dreaded event or situation, and this behaviour must be irrational or excessive. On top of that, the obsessions and compulsions have to interfere significantly with the sufferer’s life and/or take up at least one hour a day.
These criteria are laid down in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in the US and used to a varying extent around the world. But as Mataix-Cols points out, “The definition’s entirely arbitrary. It’s just some blokes getting together in America and saying that if you spend more than one hour a day doing rituals, and if those rituals are distressing and interfere with your everyday life, then you’ve got it. If not, you don’t. But what we’ve found is that there’s a very large prevalence of OCD symptoms in people who don’t fit this definition.”

The personal stories in this piece are extraordinary. I was unaware of the true intensity of the disease for some people. The entire article is worth checking out.