Senator Coburn Threatening to Read Health Care Bill

Quoting Politico:

Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who developed a close friendship with President Obama when they served together in the Senate, is threatening to have the entire health care bill read on the Senate floor.

More government stupidity -- the stupidity being the fact that they aren’t required to read the bills they pass in the first place, and that the bill-creation process itself has been so perverted, its products rendered so absurdly unwieldy and unreadable, that actually reading them can be used as a threat.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Trust the Government

On the Factor on Monday, Bill and Cavuto made a couple of interesting points.  These two points are actually pretty obvious; the problem is that there seem to be large numbers of people who fail to realize them.

Regarding the 2000-page health-care bill that congress produced, Bill made the point that with this bill, the government is essentially saying just trust us.  That’s because few if any citizens -- or politicians for that matter -- will actually read the bill, since a) despite Obama’s promises of transparency they likely will not release the bill to the public, and b) even if they did, 2000 pages is absurdly, shockingly, stupidly long, and it will be incomprehensible regardless.

It should be alarming to everyone, Democrat or Republican or otherwise, that this is how our government operates.

Then Cavuto pointed out the fact that the bill will still leave millions of Americans uninsured.  But "millions of uninsured Americans" is what this bill was supposed to be fixing in the first place, so what’s the point?  The point is not so much to improve health care; it’s for the federal government to effect a massive power-grab to the tune of one trillion dollars.

The phrase "out-of-control spending" is cliched, but that’s exactly what this is: out-of-control spending from an out-of-control government.  So many of these politicians are tax cheats and corrupt in other ways that it’s not surprising that this is how they operate, but it is surprising how so few regular people seem concerned about it.  The tea parties are on the right track, though, and despite what you hear from moronic hollywood and media types, the tea parties are not really about Obama and they’re certainly not about racism; they’re about corrupt government and out-of-control spending.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Government Crap

Here are two depressing and disturbing stories I read this week:

Congressional leaders fight against posting bills online:

Quoting Washington Examiner:

At town hall meetings across the country this past summer, the main topic was health care, but there was a strong undercurrent of anger over the way Congress rushed through passage of the stimulus, global warming and bank bailout bills without seeming to understand the consequences.  The stimulus bill, for example, was 1,100 pages long and made available to Congress and the public just 13 hours before lawmakers voted on it.  The bill has failed to provide the promised help to the job market, and there was outrage when it was discovered that the legislation included an amendment allowing American International Group, a bailout recipient, to give out millions in employee bonuses.

Criminalizing everyone:

Quoting Washington Times:

Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, and ranking member Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, conducted a truly bipartisan hearing (a D.C. rarity this year).

These two leaders have begun giving voice to the increasing number of experts who worry about "overcriminalization."  Astronomical numbers of federal criminal laws lack specifics, can apply to almost anyone and fail to protect innocents by requiring substantial proof that an accused person acted with actual criminal intent.

Mr. Norris ended up spending almost two years in prison because he didn’t have the proper paperwork for some of the many orchids he imported.  The orchids were all legal - but Mr. Norris and the overseas shippers who had packaged the flowers had failed to properly navigate the many, often irrational, paperwork requirements the U.S. imposed when it implemented an arcane international treaty’s new restrictions on trade in flowers and other flora.

These issues infuriate me.  There’s something seriously screwed up about a system that not only can, but does routinely imprison people for accidental and trivial issues while simultaneously letting rapists and child molesters go free with merely probation -- and which is constantly passing new laws that the lawmakers themselves haven’t even read, much less given the public a chance to see.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Windows 7 Launch Party

This can’t be real, can it?  Ridiculous doesn’t begin to describe it.  It’s actually embarrassing.  It’s nearly painful to watch.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Toxic Waters

Great reporting by The New York Times on the appalling state of enforcement (i.e., virtually none) of water quality and safety regulations, at both the state and federal levels, throughout the US:

Quoting The New York Times:

In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times.  The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.

However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment.  State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene. [...]

Some violations are relatively minor.  But about 60 percent of the polluters were deemed in "significant noncompliance" -- meaning their violations were the most serious kind, like dumping cancer-causing chemicals or failing to measure or report when they pollute.

Finally, the Times’s research shows that fewer than 3 percent of Clean Water Act violations resulted in fines or other significant punishments...

"I met our inspector at the spill site, and we had this really awkward conversation," [DEP regulator] Crum recalled.  "I said we should shut down the mine until everything was cleaned up.  The inspector agreed, but he said if he issued that order, he was scared of getting demoted or transferred to the middle of nowhere.  Everyone was terrified of doing their job."

Mr. Crum temporarily shut the mine.

In the next two years, he shut many polluting mines until they changed their ways.  His tough approach raised his profile around the state [of West Virginia]. [...]

In 2003, a new director, Stephanie Timmermeyer, was nominated to run the Department of Environmental Protection.  One of West Virginia’s most powerful state lawmakers, Eustace Frederick, said she would be confirmed, but only if she agreed to fire Mr. Crum, according to several people who said they witnessed the conversation.

She was given the job and soon summoned Mr. Crum to her office.  He was dismissed...

The 7-page report focuses on some specific West Virginia problems but deals largely with nationwide issues.  They’ve also compiled a national database of pollution-discharge compliance and violations.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Interesting Videos

Here’s a video about whether you should quit your job to become a musician, and in particular about the (un)glamorous life of a touring rock band.  It sounds about right from what Andy tells me.

This is apparently the greatest freakout ever.  Someone sent it to me a few weeks ago, and then I saw it again last week on The Factor, so you’ve probably already seen it by now.  Be warned though, it’s probably as disturbing as it is hilarious.

Finally there’s the most effective alarm clock in the world.  I just placed my order.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies

We're Bankrupt Because Republicans Didn't Make Enough Profit!

On an NPR story about California’s bankruptcy, there’s this unbelievable comment:

The Republicans won’t admit that the tax revenue problems are due to the abject failure of the private sector to earn money on which taxes are paid.  The budget is set using economic predictions about the income and spending in the state.  When the economy collapsed due to fraud and abuse (by Republican company CEOs!), they blame government for overspending.  They need to look in the mirror, it was their failure to maintain a stable economy and earn money that is causing the problems.

This is so absurd that it seems likely to have been written in jest, by someone intending to make fun of extreme liberal positions.

On the off chance that it’s meant to be taken seriously, well, I don’t even know where to begin.  I guess I would want to point out the flaw in the overarching viewpoint here: the idea that budget problems are income issues rather than spending issues. 

When an individual spends more than he earns, we call it irresponsible, and we say he must spend less.  It would be absurd to suggest that he go to his boss and demand a higher salary to pay for his irresponsible spending.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would believe that the reverse is true for governments.  But even if you did believe that, you’re still bound by the laws of reality: you can’t simply create more income, but you can simply reduce your spending.

Posted by Anthony on reply

AutoCorrect Masterpiece

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Posted by Anthony on reply

iTunes: Erring on the Side of Stupid

I love my iPhone.  It’s the most amazing and useful device.  Unfortunately to use it, you must also use iTunes, and iTunes is nothing short of an abomination of an application.  Here’s just one recent example.

A week or so ago, iTunes started crashing about a minute after launching.  I noticed that the crashes happened a few seconds after it started updating my podcasts.  So I set it to stop auto-updating the podcasts.  This is a bug, and it should be fixed, but it’s no big deal; bugs happen.  And I can always use my iPhone’s built-in ability to update podcasts in the meantime.

But now I wanted to sync my iPhone to iTunes in order to get some new music.  However, since my podcasts in iTunes are now a week out of date, I didn’t want it messing with the podcasts on my iPhone -- in particular which ones I’d already listened to and which ones I was partially into.  So in iTunes, in the iPhone settings, I unchecked the "sync podcasts" checkbox.

Now what do you think a user means when he tells an app "don’t sync podcasts"?  Seems pretty obvious to me.  But I can tell you for darn sure what it DOESN’T mean: it sure as heck doesn’t mean PLEASE DELETE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE 2 GB OF PODCASTS ALREADY ON MY IPHONE.

I really wish iTunes were a person so I could strangle it to death.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies

Poison Ivy

I never in my life got poison ivy until last year when we moved here; this place is apparently crawling with the satanic plant.  But never having worried about it before, I’m not very good at identifying it, and now I’m paranoid, so I think that any plant with leaves in triplets is poison.

Some of these look like they’re definitely poison; others I’m not sure.  What do you think?

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Posted by Anthony on 9 replies

How People Find Me

People come to because they want answers, and they know they can find those answers here.  For example, here are the search queries used by two of my satisfied visitors just today:

Why is June my lucky month?

What does the Bible say about Ubuntu

Posted by Anthony on reply

Pope Excommunicates Entire Species of Birds

No, seriously:

Due to the large size of their flocks, the [passenger pigeons] were seen as a threat to farmers.  In fact, in 1703 the Catholic bishop of Quebec actually excommunicated the entire species.

No word on what the response was from the passenger pigeon community, other than eventually going extinct.

Posted by Anthony on reply

President pledges 'accountable' government that cuts down on wasteful spending

This statement, immediately after railroading us with the largest wasteful spending bill in history, is simply insulting.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Not a Great Start for Obama

Seriously, do any of these people pay taxes?  Not Daschle, not Geithner, not Killefer; and let’s not even get into Franken, Rangel, and Dodd.

What’s absurd is how many of these people are (or will be) in positions responsible for financial oversight.

Hope and Change!

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Failed Palindromes

Quoting The Areas of My Expertise:


Slow speed: deep owls
Drat That Tard
Two Owls Hoot Who Owls Hoot Too (Owt)
Desire still lisps: Arise! D.
A man, a plan, a kind of man-made river, planned.
Hobos! So!

This book is one of the funniest things I’ve ever come across.  It’s especially funny if you can imagine John Hodgman actually speaking it, which I fortunately am able to do, since I know his voice well from all those Get a Mac ads and from his several appearances on TWiT, and also because Kim has the audio version of the book on her iPhone.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Only in PA?

Quoting Fox News:

A family did not realize they had an unexpected Christmas guest until a man who had been in their attic for days emerged wearing their clothes, police said.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Fuel Economy

Am I the only one who’s disgusted by these car commercials touting "28 MPG" and "30 MPG" cars?  My 2000 VW Golf has been getting 28 miles per gallon FOR THE PAST 9 YEARS.  A cynical person might think that fuel economy doesn’t matter one bit to the car companies.

It seems absurd to tag this post as "Tech" when the "technology" involved doesn’t seem to have progressed at all in the past decade.

Posted by Anthony on reply

High-Speed Getaway

From Ars Technica:

According to The Seattle Times, a Craigslist ad was placed last week, offering road construction work at $28.50 per hour in Monroe, WA, a city northeast of Seattle.  About a dozen men replied to the ad, and all received instructions to show up outside a Bank of America wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask, and a blue shirt.

As the men gathered outside the bank within the proper attire, however, another man wearing the same getup used pepper spray on a guard transporting cash from an armored truck into the bank.  The suspect grabbed the duffel bag, ran 100 yards to Wood Creek, and made his getaway (floataway?) on what police believe to be an inner tube.  Seattle FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs told the Times that armored car robberies are "quite uncommon," and that she’s never heard of an inner tube serving as a getaway vehicle.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Not Disclosed

Pirates.  Real live pirates.

Navy Lt. Nathan Christensen told The New York Times "several destroyers and missile cruisers" had joined a U.S. destroyer already following the Faina, effectively surrounding the pirates.  The Navy’s plan for dealing with the maritime hijackers should they refuse to surrender was not disclosed, the U.S. newspaper said.

I don’t suppose that you need to disclose your plan when you’re the one who’s got the several destroyers and missile cruisers.

This follow-up story has quotes from the pirates themselves:

Mr. Sugule said that his men are treating the crew members well (the pirates would not let the crew members speak on the phone, saying it was against their rules). "Killing is not in our plans," he said.  "We only want money, so we can protect ourselves from hunger."

When asked why the pirates needed $20 million to protect themselves from hunger, Mr. Sugule laughed over the phone and said: "Because we have a lot of men."

Posted by Anthony on reply

Roger Ebert on Sarah Palin

Roger Ebert has posted this about Sarah Palin:

I think I might be able to explain some of Sarah Palin’s appeal. She’s the "American Idol" candidate. Consider. What defines an "American Idol" finalist? They’re good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they’re darned near the real thing.

Does Ebert honestly not realize that he’s describing Obama, or is he just in denial?  I don’t know which would be worse.

Meanwhile, the Lightworker himself claims that he’s got more executive experience than Palin because he’s been running for president for 2 years.  That’s right, Obama thinks that running for president is a good qualification for actually being president.  You can’t make this stuff up:

"Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years," Obama said.

Someone needs to tell Obama that after Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, she was the governor of Alaska.

But what do I know; I’m from Pennsylvania, so I’m probably just clinging to my guns and religion.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

9/11 Truther Alert: Ahmadinejad Crazy-Go-Nuts Edition

Quoting Ahmadinejad:

the names of the 3,000 people were never published

Oh really?

Quoting Ahmadinejad:

nobody was able to respond to the main question, which is how is it possible that with the best radar systems and intelligence networks the planes could crash undetected into the towers

Yes, just how did those "terrorists" sneak 2 giant commercial airliners into the US?  How is it possible that they didn’t show up on our radar?

The mind boggles.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Ban Pennies

From an article titled "Penny Dreadful" in The New Yorker:

Quoting David Owen:

[P]roducing a penny now costs about 1.7 cents. Since the Mint currently manufactures more than seven billion pennies a year and "sells" them to the Federal Reserve at their face value, the Treasury incurs an annual penny deficit of about fifty million dollars...

A modern penny simply isn’t worth enough to worry about.  In 1940, an average one-pound loaf of bread sold for eight cents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  That means that a penny in those days bought enough bread to make a good-sized sandwich.  These days, a penny doesn’t buy much more than a bit of crust.  Accurately comparing monetary values (and bread loaves) across decades is impossible, but by almost any economic measure a 1940 penny had more purchasing power than a modern quarter does; in 1940, then, consumers got by, quite contentedly, without the equivalent of our penny, nickel, or dime.  And many people continue to get by without these coins today, since in the actual marketplace consumers tend to treat the quarter as the smallest meaningful denomination.

I never pick up pennies off the ground.  I regularly leave pennies behind if I receive them as change.  And I’ve been known to angrily throw pennies out the window of my (non-moving) car if I find any of them contaminating my change tray, in which I keep only silver change.

I knew I wasn’t crazy.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies

iPhone Hater? Apple Hater? Or Just a Complete Nutjob with an Absurd Sense of Entitlement?

This week, Apple released slightly-revised new versions of the iPhone and the iPod Touch.  The only change is increased memory capacity: 16 GB for the iPhone, and 32 GB for the Touch.  In a news article about the updates, one commenter said the following:

Quoting nutjob:

I decided - after the iphone pricing initial debacle, where I paid $600 for the 8GB model, which then dropped to $400 after 2 months, and now is being replaced by a 32GB [sic; actually 16GB] model for $500 - that I’m never ever, again doing business with Apple. The iphone will be my first and only ever Apple product.

You can sort of understand his frustration, but the fact is, anyone who buys any kind of technology has to deal with this, whether it’s a TV or a DVD player or an MP3 player or a phone.  For virtually anything you can buy, the price will always go down over time, and a newer better version will always be released.  Does this guy honestly think that Apple has an obligation to never change its prices and never improve its products once they sell one to him?

And this sentiment is not uncommon in forums where people are talking about Apple products.  There are lots of people who get really upset when Apple lowers its prices and when Apple releases improved products.  Any rational person realizes that it’s completely insane to be mad at a company for doing those things, which every single company does.

Another commenter in this particular thread pointed out Matthew 20, in which the owner of a vineyard hires men to work in his vineyard.  He goes out into the street and offers the men some work for a certain amount of pay, and the men agree.  The owner goes out into the street again every few hours and hires more men, who also agree to work for a certain price.  At the end of the day the owner is paying the laborers, and it turns out that he pays all the men equally, even though some have labored all day while others only for an hour.

Quoting Matthew 20:

But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.  And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

It’s not every day that you see biblical parables applied to iPhone sales, but the lesson is certainly spot-on.  When you agree to buy a product or sell your labor at a certain price, you are not automatically entitled to the benefits of a different agreement that happens later, just because you decide that you like the new agreement better.

As for me, I just wish Apple would have bumped the iPhone to 32 GB instead of only 16 GB.  SecondRotation will give me $240 for my current 8 GB iPhone, which means I’d have to pay $260 for the new one.  I would do that in an instant for a 32 GB iPhone, but for only 16 GB, it’s harder to justify.  I’d love to have 16 GB in my iPhone instead of just 8, but since my MP3 collection is about 35 GB, a nice 32 GB iPhone would put me much closer to being able to fit my whole collection on it.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Verizon is the Worst Company of All Time, and Vonage Rocks

Or, "How to Save a Wad of Cash on Your Landline Phone Bill."

My hatred of Verizon started sometime in 2004, when I started hearing horror stories from Kim about the despicable, greedy, and just plain evil things that Verizon did in the course of providing her cell phone service.  And I don’t mean 1 or 2 small issues; it was 5 or 6 or 7 totally unbelievable instances in which they either intentionally or through gross incompetence tried to defraud her of vast sums of money.  I wish I would have written them down.

As an aside, it’s funny to read posts by iPhone haters saying that it’s doomed because it’s tied to the evil AT&T, and if only they could get it with service from Verizon instead, then they would get an iPhone.  I’ve had zero problems with AT&T in the 6 months that I’ve had my iPhone, and their coverage is far better than Nextel’s ever was, and I’m pretty sure that their $20/mo for unlimited data is the best data deal going.  But the fact is, all of these giant telecom companies pretty much just suck if you give them enough time.

Anyway, back to Verizon: the only reason I have a landline at all is for my business.  When I signed up for this business line, we ended up moving a couple months later.  And despite the fact that now you’re supposed to be able to transfer your phone number to a different provider, Verizon couldn’t even let me keep my number while still using Verizon service at the new house.

As if that weren’t bad enough, they also told me they couldn’t provide me with voice-mail at the new house, which makes no sense whatsoever because it’s not like the voice-mail is stored at my house -- it’s stored on Verizon’s servers anyway!  So I actually had to use something called an answering machine -- a physical device used by primitive peoples before the invention of fire or dirt -- to get my messages for the past few months.

Verizon’s website is as terrible as such a terrible company’s website should be.  Literally every time I log in to my account, it displays the following 2 messages:

We are temporarily unable to retrieve information for this phone number. Please try again later.

We are temporarily unable to retrieve current billing information for this phone number. Please try again later.

And most unbelievable and frustrating of all, when you try to call Verizon for support, they don’t put you on hold like a decent company would; instead, you get a recording that says "all representatives are busy; please try again later" and then THEY HANG UP ON YOU.

Now to the bill: it was nominally $30 or $40 per month, but virtually all calls are "local long distance" or regular long distance, so it always ended up being $70 or $80, even though I hardly used this phone line (for outgoing calls) at all.

Of course, Verizon is the local monopolist, so as much as I would have liked to tell them to go take a long walk off a short pier while I switch to another provider, the fact is that there is no other provider that I could use.

Well, I finally found a way to escape Verizon’s evil clutches: I switched to Vonage.  Vonage is a VoIP phone service provider, which means your service comes in over the internet instead of through a phone line.  But it sounds and acts just like a regular phone line: you can plug any normal phone into it, you get the normal dial tone, etc.  They provide all the standard stuff like voice mail, and unlike Verizon, they let me keep my existing number no problem.  They also have some cool and innovative features like sending copies of your voice mails to your email account.  But here’s the best part: Vonage costs just $25 per month and that includes unlimited local and long distance.  There was a setup fee of about $40, but the first month is free, so there’s effectively no setup charge.

But here’s the real best part: Vonage calls your existing phone provider and takes care of the cancellation and transfer and everything, so you don’t have to do any of that.  But once that happened, Verizon called me (of course I didn’t answer) and left a message crying about the fact that I was leaving, and "we’d really like to keep your business" and "we have some very competitive plans that we’d like to discuss with you."  Yeah, like you really have anything competitive with $25/mo with free everything, you scumbags.  And then, a couple days later, I got a "DHL EXPRESS EXTREMELY URGENT" package in the mail, containing a letter from Verizon still begging me to stay.  No wonder their service is so expensive when they’re wasting money on overnight shipping instead of working on, oh, I don’t know, VOICE MAIL SERVICE maybe?

Posted by Anthony on 9 replies

Channeling the Iraqi Information Minister

Quoting ABC News:

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, however, called the incident "ordinary"

Yes, a speedboat jaunting around in the wake of another country’s warships is entirely ordinary.  These guys were obviously trained by Baghdad Bob himself.

It’s certainly possible that Iran is trying to provoke us into war, but nonetheless the above statement is absurd.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the history of maritime incidents as they relate to the wars we’ve fought.

Posted by Anthony on reply
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