Monday, December 21


Almost everyone's had to go to the car dealership and buy a new car. When you go, you go with a basic premise in mind; that both you and the salesman want you to walk out with a new car. Both of you want your situation to be different when you leave than when you came in. Starting from that premise, the negotiations are pretty easy. There about things like warranties, accessories, and price. When you leave with a new car you might say to yourself, " I paid a little bit more than I wanted too, but, I got an extended warranty and a new mp3 player installed. All in all, I'm happy with the deal." The salesman, after you walk out, might say to themselves, " You know, I didn't get them to spend as much as I wanted. However, my commission will still be nice, and, I got another sale so I'm closer to getting that ' Salesman of the Month' bonus. All in all, I'm happy with the deal." This is possible because both you and the salesman on the otherside of the table knew you would both benefit from getting you into that new car.

Now imagine that salesman doesn't want to sell you that car. Imagine he thinks that you'll just make the car dirty if you get it so he's determined to make sure none ever leave the lot. Negotiations are gonna go a little bit differently. You ask if you can have an extended warranty, NO. You ask if you pay above sticker price if you can have a new and better stereo, NO. If you can pay under sticker price and let them off the hook for the warranty, NO. After awhile your gonna get fed-up and say, " Forget you then! I'll just go and build my own car." Now how many of us know or could afford to build our own car? Probably not many. So, you have to go ask someone to build it for you. They say, " Sure, but I wanna use it 3 days a week." You need a car so you agree. You borrow money to buy the engine, but the person you borrow the money from says they don't like speeders, so their only gonna give you enough money to get an engine that tops out at 60 mph. You agree. You go to buy the spark plugs, but you can only afford the economy ones that don't fire well so it's always rough to start the car. Lastly you get the shell but you can only afford an ugly rusty one. So what have you got: An ugly piece of junk that's hard to start, won't go past 60 mph, and you only get to drive 4 days a week. Now there's an argument to be made that you should scrap the car, get your money back, and come back at the endeavour when you've got better means. There's also an argument to be made that at least with a car you'll be able to get around better, thereby increasing your possibility for getting the means you need to improve upon your crappy car. There are valid points on both sides. However, let's not forget the reason for this predicament, i.e, the salesman being completely unwilling to negotiate with you for a good car in the first place.

Democracy is based on one unchangeable principle: Nobody gets everything that they want. We are all free and equal because we are all equally disappointed in what we get from the bargaining table. But if you want a seat at that table, you have to be willing to lose a little bit. Does anybody think that if 10-20 House Republicans had come up to the Speaker and said that they would be willing to vote for Healthcare Bill as long as there was no Public Option, that the House would have one in their bill? Does anyone think that if 1-2 Senate Republicans had been willing to cast their votes in favor of the bill if their was Medical Malpractice caps, that the Democrats wouldn't now being telling their trial lawyer friends to please not be mad at what had to happen? You sacrifice some things you want in order to get others. You want good grades, your not gonna be able to party 24/7. You want a nice house and money to spend, your going to have to be at a job that for most people isn't greatly satisfying. You want a family, your days of doing what you want, when you want, are going to have to go out the window. The ability to sacrifice some things in order to get other, more important things. There's a word for it: Adult. Let's hope that those in Congress who would rather say 'No' then ' Maybe' acquire this ability before the country turns into a slow crusty lemon that only works 4/7 of the time.

Wednesday, November 18

Telegraph: Encyclopaedia Britannica 1768

A few weird and interesting facts circa 1768:

Homo sapiens were sub divided into five varieties: the American, the European, the Asiatic, the African and the monstrous.

Cures for flatulence included drinking chamomile tea and blowing smoke from a pipe ‘through the anus.’

The US state of Callifornia was spelt with two ‘L’s’ and is described as ‘a large country of the West Indies. Unknown whether it is an island or a peninsula.’

Side note: Apparently in 1768, words were "spelt" and not "spelled". Hmm.
(In honor of my "Rent-a-Muse" know who you are.)

Saturday, October 31

MediaMatters: Comparing FOX/MSNBC

Jamison Foser of Media Matters wrote a great piece about the FOX/MSNBC/White House nonsense. In a nut shell, the White House has come to the conclusion that FOX News is not a real news organization, FOX says that MSNBC is the left version of them, and a ridiculous amount of people in journalism have decided to not only defend FOX, but also accept that equation. This is something Aaron Sorkin would pitch as a movie idea. Foser puts it all into a perspective that ignores the petty pundit soundbites and gets to the heart of the controversy.

First, he discusses the actual programming content and the time allotted to partisan ideals on both networks:

But hey, guess what? Maddow, Schultz and Olbermann account for three hours of original programming a day -- exactly the same as Joe Scarborough, who hosts the agenda-setting Morning Joe. That's conservative Joe Scarborough. Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough. And if you watch MSNBC during the day, you'll see a parade of anchors and reporters who frequently adopt conservative frames, pass along GOP spin, and routinely fail to challenge obvious falsehoods from conservative guests. I'm not saying these daytime reporters are conservatives, but I am saying they frequently (unknowingly, I'm willing to assume) traffic in conservative misinformation. Taken as a whole, it's awfully hard to say with a straight face that MSNBC leans to the left.

And yet reporters keep insisting that not only does MSNBC lean to the left, it leans as far to the left as Fox. (And, in the process, they ignore or downplay the central truth that the real problem with Fox isn't merely that it leans to the right, but that it is fundamentally dishonest; that its goals are not to inform the public, but to destroy people it sees as its enemies.)

Next, Foser demolishes CNN's Campbell Brown for attempting to capitalize on this feud by agreeing with the FOX/MSNBC comparison:

And in Brown's telling, MSNBC "leans left" just as much as Fox "leans to the right." Of course, Brown doesn't actually provide any examples; doesn't even name any names. In a segment that ran nearly 1,000 words, Brown didn't provide a single example of slanted commentary, flawed journalism, false claims, or anything else at all. No facts, no details, nothing.

It sure is easy to insist that Fox and MSNBC are equivalent when you don't have to actually assess what they do, isn't it? But that isn't really journalism; it's just pontification and spin.

But Brown can't offer examples; can't get into details, because if she did, the fantasy she constructs that Fox and MSNBC are polar opposites would fall apart.

She'd have to try to find MSNBC equivalents of Fox -- not just Hannity, but Bill Hemmer and Brett Baier, too -- falsely accusing an Obama administration official of covering up statutory rape. And of Hemmer falsely claiming Democrats "voted to give special protection to pedophiles."

She'd have to find the MSNBC equivalent of Fox reporter Jon Scott repeatedly being caught passing off GOP talking points (typos and all) as his original reporting. She'd have to find the MSNBC equivalent of Fox anchor Martha MacCallum having to apologize for passing off a six-month-old Joe Biden quote about the economy as a current comment -- a clip Fox deceptively cropped to make it appear Biden was saying something that he was actually criticizing John McCain for saying. And of White House correspondent Wendell Goler cropping an Obama comment and taking it out of context, completely reversing the statement's meaning in the process. Not Sean Hannity, not Glenn Beck -- Wendell Goler.

She'd have to find the MSNBC equivalent of Chris Wallace calling the Obama administration the "biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington." Anyone think David Gregory ever said anything like that about the Bush administration?

Campbell Brown knows she can't find any of these things, so she doesn't even try. And I haven't even scratched the surface of Fox's malicious and deeply dishonest attacks on those they disagree with; their assault on fact and reason, or their cheerleading for pet causes.

But even if Brown could find the MSNBC equivalent of all that and more -- which, again, she simply cannot do -- she'd still have to find the Fox equivalent of MSNBC handing over three hours a day to former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough. And of MSNBC employing Pat Buchanan, the nation's most famous bigot. And of raging Clinton-hater, liberal-basher and on-air misogynist Chris Matthews hosting one of MSNBC's signature shows. And of MSNBC's "straight news" reporters regularly adopting conservative frames and failing to challenge right-wing lies during interviews. She'd have to find the Fox version of MSNBC's use of Michelle Bernard, a right-wing activist who has been sending out false and despicable anti-health care reform attack emails, as host of a special forum dealing with health care.

Campbell Brown can't do that, either.

Read the whole thing here.

100 Hilarious College Courses

I find this list fascinating for many reasons. First, the list is in subsections that do not prepare you for the actual class titles. For example, under the section reasonably titled "Life Skills", there is a Princeton course called "Getting Dressed". Furthermore, the section titled "Literature and Language" has a course called "Those Sexy Victorians". I'm willing to bet that class has a wait list.

I also like the way the list was set up. Not only is there a brief description of every class, but each course title is linked directly to the school's actual catalog description. This way, you don't have to hunt for that Temple University course about UFOs in America. Instant gratification.

The biggest reason this list fascinates me: I would definitely take a few of these classes. As odd as they sound, I have to admit I would take them. A few that stood out to me:

Comparative History of Organized Crime. Henry Hill, Donnie Brasco, and more. Sign me up.
Purity and Porn in America. Because, well, you have to take a class in porn, right?
Nuthin' but a "G" Thang: I don't listen to Gangsta Rap. I want to embrace my inner thug.
The Office: Awesome, Awkward, & Addicting: I watch the show so might as well get credit.

Which classes would you take?

Saturday, September 19

What Cocktail Are You?

Curious? Take the quiz.

Apparently, I should be drinking a Martini. Who am I to argue? Where's the gin?

Make Up Your Mind

This picture from is associated with an excellent post regarding taxes and the military. For those of you who hate snark, do not click the link. Oh, and get a sense of humor, dammit.

Sunday, August 23

Taliban Cuts Off Fingers Of Voters

For the purpose of intimidation, the Taliban announced their plan for violence during the Afghanistan Presidential elections. They were not kidding.

From CNN:

Making good on a threat of election day violence, the Taliban sliced off the index fingers of at least two people in Kandahar province, according to a vote monitoring group.

After they cast their ballots, the fingers of Afghan voters are stained with ink to prevent them from voting multiple times. The fingers of the two women in Kandahar, a stronghold of the Taliban, were cut off because they voted, said Nader Naderi of the Free and Fair Election Foundation.

So, the next time Election Day comes around for you and all you can think of is the many excuses not to vote, think of this story. Think about these two brave women and the many more who voted knowing they were risking their lives. Then vote.

Saturday, August 22

Time:High Price of Cheap Food

Brian Walsh has written a disturbing yet informative piece about the high price of cheap food here in America. The article covers many aspects including farming techniques, price-to-calories ratio and environmental costs:

But cheap food is not free food, and corn comes with hidden costs. The crop is heavily fertilized — both with chemicals like nitrogen and with subsidies from Washington. Over the past decade, the Federal Government has poured more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for the crop — at least until corn ethanol skewed the market — artificially low. That's why McDonald's can sell you a Big Mac, fries and a Coke for around $5 — a bargain, given that the meal contains nearly 1,200 calories, more than half the daily recommended requirement for adults. "Taxpayer subsidies basically underwrite cheap grain, and that's what the factory-farming system for meat is entirely dependent on," says Gurian-Sherman.

So what's wrong with cheap food and cheap meat — especially in a world in which more than 1 billion people go hungry? A lot. For one thing, not all food is equally inexpensive; fruits and vegetables don't receive the same price supports as grains. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit. With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories. Given that, it's no surprise we're so fat; it simply costs too much to be thin.

This leads to a discussion I recently had with my brother about health care reform. The debate about reforming our health care system has been about cost from the very beginning: insurance premiums, deficit control, etc. This is understandable and expected. However, the strong (and sometimes twisted) debate has yet to turn to actual health care issues. The money aspect of the debate is important, but so is disease prevention, obesity control and exercise options. Food production and consumption plays into all of these issues. But this has yet to enter into the discussion. It is past time that it does. Health care reform without debating health is just health insurance reform. Just read the article. Money does not solve the whole problem.

Wednesday, August 12

Perseids, Rat-Eating Plants and More Random Links

Just a few quick hits before work:

Have you checked out the Perseids yet?

Do you remember the movie "Little Shop of Horrors"? Disturbingly funny flick about a man-eating plant and his owner? Well, a recently discovered pitcher plant eats meat. Not just flies and mosquitoes. Rats. The plant eats rats. Creepy.

It turns out, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota can draw the U.S. freehand in about 3 minutes. No kidding. Very cool.

Thursday, July 30

The Health Of Nations: A Comparison

Canada has earned a steady “B” on this indicator for nearly five decades. Japan’s impressive increase in life expectancy has set a high bar for attaining an “A” grade on average in this decade, a standard that only Switzerland has met. Moreover, Japan, which had among the lowest life expectancies in the 1960s, has been a steady “A” performer ever since. Of the five top-ranked countries in the 1970s, only Japan has been able to consistently maintain its “A.” Switzerland lost its “A” in the 1990s, regaining it in the current decade.

The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, on the other hand, have all lost their top-ranking status.

The U.S. has also seen a decline in its relative performance. It earned a “C” in the 1960s and 1970s and dropped to a “D” in the 1980s, where it has remained.

More links and charts here.

Wednesday, July 29

The Stimulus Is Working

From Fast Lane, the Department of Transportation blog:

Here's the scorecard:

•$22 billion--nearly half of DOT's stimulus money--made available to the States;
•Over 6,600 projects approved
•Over 3,200 projects underway right now

And the future promises even more boosts to economic activity:

•$8 billion in high-speed rail development
•$1.5 billion in TIGER discretionary grants

Sounds great to me. Let's remember, there was never a promise of immediate relief. The President never said that no one would ever lose their job ever again. The stimulus is about creating and sustaining jobs as well as rebuilding our national infrastructure and expanding green technology to have a more robust economy and a better national future. There is a long way to go, but we could not have started without the stimulus.

Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, says it more succinctly:

I know the stimulus can't make up for every job our economy has shed. But we have supported over 5,000 jobs already, with up to 500,000 more on the way once the full effect of this landmark program is felt in the transportation industry.

And every job we do create or preserve should be counted as a victory.

Saturday, July 18

PopSci: 10 Facts About Apollo 11 Moon Landing

With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaching, I thought I would present this post from Popular Science. It is a list of 10 interesting facts about the mission. Personally, #2 really caught my eye: "The Apollo computers had less processing power than a cellphone."

One can only imagine the possibilities if we, as a nation, had continued our initial investment in space exploration and massive science education. Hopefully, the upcoming 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon will renew that spirit of challenge and curiosity.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win... President John F. Kennedy, September 12th, 1962

Monday, June 29

Random Stories That Intrigued Me

NPR: Soldiers are not alone in their suffering of PTSD. Dr. Anthony Feinstein estimates that up to 12% of combat journalists suffer as well. Word of the Day: clandestine. Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: skimble-skamble. M-W wins.

UPI: There is a major radio ad campaign happening that you probably haven't heard about. People in Nova Scotia are being asked to not flush certain items down the toilet. Why? Due to a major failure at a sewage treatment plant, the beaches in Halifax are littered with tampon applicators and other "floatables". Gross.

Reuters: Queen Elizabeth wants to know how many swans she actually has. This involves her Swan Marker and her Swan Warden and skiffs. There is a lot of prep work involved so the official count is in three weeks. A swan census. This is serious business, folks.

Gay Marriage Flowchart by Patrick Farley

Compiled by Patrick Farley

Friday, June 19

Links About LGBT Issues, Jailed Journalists, Cookie Dough and More

The Advocate: 2008 saw a 28% increase in killings of LGBT people. The 29 murders represented the highest number recorded since 1999.

The Business Insider: Lara Ling and Euna Lee are not the only journalists jailed in foreign countries.

The Wall Street Journal: Will someone please explain to me how the government will count married same-sex couples in the Census if same-sex marriages are not federally recognized.

Treehugger: Phoenix light-rail is exceeding daily ridership expectations.

The New York Times: Nestle has voluntarily recalled its Toll House cookie dough because a few dozen people got very sick after eating it raw. Interestingly, the recall does not include its ice cream products with raw cookie dough. Go figure.