Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Job requires travel to Minnesota

As an accepted graduate student at American University's School of Public Affairs, I have been placed on a Listserv from which I get announcements about job openings, internship opportunities, and available housing.

This morning, I nearly fell off my chair laughing when I checked my e-mail. In fairness, the person who sent it indicated that he was just passing the information along for a friend.

Here's what I found in my in-box this morning (that sounded dirty):

For Immediate Release:
February 26, 2008

Craig Accepting Applications for Summer Interns

Deadline Quickly Approaching

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Idaho Senator Larry Craig is currently seeking intern applications for the summer term, which runs from May to August. The application deadline is March 15, however if more time is needed for the application process, please contact Senator Craig's office for an extension. Craig offers paid internships within the Washington, D.C., office. Preference is given to Idaho applicants attending Idaho schools who are in their junior or senior years of college (including graduating seniors).

'"Interns have the chance to be an essential part of a working congressional office," said Craig. "They participate in the legislative process as well as ensure that constituent services run smoothly. For those interested in politics, it is an incredible opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how our government functions while serving the people of Idaho."

This is for real! Just in case you missed it, meet Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

I don't think I will be applying for this one...because he is retiring in January and I will need a job after that. And I am not a Republican. His sexuality is irrelevant, but his message on the topic has been -- shall we say -- inconsistent. And long-running.


Prostitutes, guns, and money

As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961, yielding the presidency to John F. Kennedy, he warned the nation against the growing influence of the military-industrial complex. During that time, the United States was engaged in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Within months of Ike's speech, the East Germans erected the Berlin Wall. Profits could not have been better for the defense contractors as the American military was committed to battling all aggression, real and imagined, from the communist bloc.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 had the bean counters in the defense industry shaking. Peace is not good for profits if you are in the war business. Moreover, the few conflict between 1989 and 2001 (Iraq take 1, Panama, Kosovo, Somalia, a few rockets fired into Sudan and Afghanistan) could not possibly generate the type of profits that come from a protracted Cold War, punctuated by a couple of hot wars. So what's a Vice President with ties to a major defense contractor to do? Start a protracted war, of course. Do it in oil-rich Iraq, and a president with ties to the oil industry makes money, too. How's that for a twofer?

Observation: Oil hit $102 per barrel today. That's good news for the oil industry. Kinda bites for those of us who have to drive to work.

Here's an easy question. What is worse than an industry with undue influence in the government? Answer: A corrupt industry with undue influence in the government.

Thursday the Chicago Tribune, with the aid of federal investigators, gave us an insider's view of the world of defense contractors. It seems the best way to get a prostitute or Super Bowl tickets is to be an executive of Halliburton/KBR (the same people who are facing uninvestigated allegations of gang rape). However, they are going to use people infected with a non-communicable form of Hepatitis to prepare food. Here's the actual text:

KBR retested those 550 workers at a Kuwait City clinic and found 172 positive for exposure to hepatitis A, Lang told the judge. Khan tried to suppress those findings, warning the clinic director that Tamimi would do no more business with his medical office if he "told KBR about these results," Lang said in court. The infectious virus can cause fatigue and other symptoms that arise weeks after contact.

Retesting of the 172 found that none had contagious hepatitis A, Lang said, and Khan's attorneys said in court that no soldiers caught diseases from the workers or from meals they prepared. It remains unclear if that is because the workers were treated or because they did not remain infectious after the onset of symptoms.

Still, the incident shows how even mundane meal contracts can put troops at risk. Similar disease-testing breaches cropped up at cafeterias outsourced to firms besides Tamimi, former KBR Area Supervisor Rene Robinson said in a Tribune interview.

The Tribune article is rather lengthy, but it is well worth the read. Oh, and don't bother trying to find the story on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, or even the Drudge Report. I could not find a report on any of their archives. This nugget of information came from the Drudge Retort and it was only posted today.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feed the world

The latest news today is that, due to rising food prices and rising demand, the UN World Food Program is facing a huge budget deficit. That means that millions of people who rely on these donations will go hungry.

This seems an appropriate time to repeat my previous promotion of Free Rice. Full details are here.

And the Academy Award goes to...

...a documentary that a lot of folks will never get to see.

At the Academy Awards on Sunday night, Taxi to the Dark Side won the award for best documentary. The film tells the story of an innocent Afghani taxi driver who was tortured to death in 2002. It examines recent U.S. policy concerning "interrogation" techniques used in Gitmo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The award-winning film has been effectively censored for a large portion of American audiences. Taxi was originally slated to be aired on the Discovery Channel, a standard offering with most cable television packages. However, Discovery deemed the film "too controversial" and canceled plans to air the show to the mass market. They might air the film next year. Never mind that there is a little election this November 4.

The good news is that HBO has announced that they will air the documentary uncut in September. Unlike Discovery, HBO is a premium channel. There are quite a lot of cable customers who will not, or cannot, pay for HBO (myself included). The practical upshot is that a large portion of the American public will not see this important film because it will be airing on a premium channel instead of regular cable.

This situation might not be actual censorship, but it does not pass the smell test.

Here's a link to the trailer:

While I don't have a problem with legitimate interrogations of these buffoons who would like nothing better than to see a much bigger 9/11, we better make damn sure that the person being "interrogated" is a legitimate terror suspect and not an innocent taxi driver. Also, this country has no business torturing anybody anyway. Torture did not work during the Spanish Inquisition. All it did then was produce a lot of false confessions of witchcraft. Human reaction to inhuman torture has not changed in 500 years, so one has to wonder how many false confessions of terror plots we have obtained at Gitmo.


Systematic hysteria revealed

Correlation does not prove causation...

...nor does it disprove it:

Fair warning: the video is 17 minutes long.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Dispatches from ESS: What liberal media?

NEW YORK – I presented at the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual conference this weekend. Dr. Timothy Madigan at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and I conducted some research into media bias during the run up to the war with Iraq. Specifically, we looked at pro-war and anti-war biases in a daily newspaper in rural Pennsylvania during February, 2003. That month, some significant events took place.

Do you honestly believe in a liberal bias in the mainstream media? I don’t anymore. Dr. Madigan and I went to the trouble of counting every war and terrorism-related paragraph. We classified each paragraph as pro-war, anti-war, neutral, or hysteria. Hysteria paragraphs/stories included things like North Korea’s nukes, Iran’s saber rattling, and the government’s advice to stock up on duct tape in case of an attack. Our rationale was that the hysteria fed war fever.

Here were the results:

Hysteria: 42%
Pro-war paragraphs: 33%
Anti-war paragraphs: 16%
Neutral paragraphs: 9%

To put that in perspective, for every anti-war sentiment expressed there were two pro-war sentiments and three hysteria paragraphs. Moreover, the scant anti-war statements were often tempered by a strong pro-war refutation. Conversely, most pro-war statements ran unchallenged. What this means is that we were feed a steady diet of pro-war coverage while under constant fear of another attack on our own homeland or that of our allies. How's that for framing an issue and priming the audience?

My part of the presentation primarily focused on why we had these findings in the alleged liberal media. I identified four possible explanations for our findings.

First, war sells newspapers. This goes back to the Pulitzer/Hearst circulation war that basically caused the Spanish-American War 110 years ago. The logic (as well as the reality in the newsroom) goes like this: people consume news at greater rates during times of war, leading to increased circulation. Circulation=advertising revenue=profit=growth of your media outlet=greater voice in the mass media=increased circulation=advertising revenue…

You get the idea.

The second point is that this particular newspaper serves a region that voted approximately two to one in favor of W. This brings up this little observation: Is it ethical for a newspaper to slant its coverage to correspond to the prevailing views of its target market?

The obvious answer is “of course not.” You are supposed to be the unbiased media. That is not the reality, though (see the first point then image a headline reading “Newspaper Folds.”)

Third, the sources used in the stories slanted the coverage in obvious ways. For practical reasons, there were not too many journalists on the ground in Iraq working to verify or refute the claims of Iraq’s WMD stockpile and the country’s links to Al-Qaeda. Therefore, the reporters had to rely on “expert” claims. Most of these “experts” were W and his chickenhawks because there is a traditional and rational deference to the executive branch regarding foreign policy. As a country, you want a single voice speaking for you on the world stage rather than a chorus of 535 congressmen who are often out of tune.

Moreover, there was a definite and deliberate vilification of some of America’s allies by the Republican Party in 2002 and 2003. Friday afternoon, I had a big plate of french fries. In 2003, I would have been eating some concoction called “freedom fries.”

Finally, the vast majority of stories that we analyzed were from the Associated Press and not from the staff writers. That means the overt bias was emanating not from the local newsroom, but from the AP. The practical upshot is that we could have come up with approximately the same results by analyzing newspapers in Birmingham, Sacramento, Austin, or Bismark since newspapers in those towns probably use AP material as well.

The subtle difference is in the presentation of the material. We often encountered examples of the big pro-war story as the lead story on the front page. The anti-war protests and distention from Europe might, just might, land on page 4-D behind the religion section of the Saturday paper. We also encountered many examples of stories about Iraq running very close to unrelated hysteria stories. Technically, North Korea and Iraq were separate issues, but to the reader both issues were about WMD.

As someone who has done this, I can assure you that there is not an overworked, underpaid copy editor sitting at a desk at midnight pondering how he can slant his newspaper further to the right.

Instead, this study highlights one symptom of a larger problem. The MSM decided that the evidence for war was irrefutable and the local outlets went along. Basically, the media collectively came down with a case of war fever. They are just now getting better.

I ended the presentation with this quote from Ben Bradlee, retired executive editor of the Washington Post. He said this in 1977 in reaction to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution (probably written months before the actual event; President Johnson just needed an actual “crisis” to justify expanding military operations in Southeast Asia): “Just think for a minute how history might have changed if Americans had known then that their leaders thought the [Vietnam] war was going to hell in a handbasket? In the next seven years, thousands of American lives and thousands more Asian lives would have been saved. The country might never have lost faith in its leaders.”



In the course of doing my first systematic content analysis, I was reminded of all of the reasons why the W. administration decided that launching a preemptive strike against a sovereign country was a good idea. Here's a review:

First Point: Saddam had WMD and was ready to use them.
Snarky reaction
: We found hundreds of stockpiles of WMD with enough killing power to annihilate the planet several times over.
Reality: Lying about having WMD was Saddam’s only real deterrent against hostile invasion (read: U.S. or Iran).
Here's the latest: British government releases "sexed up" dossier draft,
Personally, I liked this sentence: Ex-U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said last year he believed Blair had replaced "question marks with exclamation marks" in intelligence dossiers to justify the decision to invade Iraq.

Second point: Saddam had significant ties to Al-Qaeda.
Snarky reaction: All of those love letters exchanged between Saddam and Osama proves the link.
Reality: The 9/11 Commission (scroll to section 10.3) concluded that there were no links at all between the two other than a similar interest in hurting the United States. Osama and Saddam had about as much in common as Kruschev and Ho Chi Minh
The Latest: American connection to the problems in Waziristan
Read the third point that the writer makes

Third Point: Saddam Hussein mistreated his own people.
Snarky reaction: Once we get the Iraqi government up and running we will have 100 percent democratization and no human rights abuses.
Reality: North Korea, Iran, Palestine, Darfur, China, Burma, Belarus, Saudi Arabia
The summer Olympics will be held in China this year, despite that country's horrible human rights record. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Both the Soviet Union and China (had) have repressive regimes, but China trades with the U.S. I guess making a buck trumps human rights abuses.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Not even tenuous at best

I was not planning to do a post this evening, but this gem from the BBC was WAY too good to let go:

Israeli politician blames earthquake on gays

At least they are not blaming all of their problems on Palestinians freedom fighters, er... terrorists, er... let's call them militants for now. I'll do a future post on what exactly to call these folks.

This weekend I am presenting at the Eastern Sociological Society in New York City. The next post will detail how that goes.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Watching Headline News so you don't have to...

Here was the actual content in the order it aired on CNN Headline News for the 4:00-4:30 p.m. time slot this afternoon. This is what passes for the news you need to know at this hour.

McCann girl may have been spotted (by5:30 p.m. they were reporting this was a false lead)
NIU shooting update
DNA from co-ed's panties may lead to her killer
New Jersey College in lock down after bomb threat
Brush fire threatens North Carolina town
Multi-car pile up shuts down I-94 in Indiana
Breaking news: NIU police hold press conference
School bus crash kills four students in Minnesota
Will bad weather scuttle plan to detroy malfunctioning spy satellite?

Market Watch Segment:
Dow is up 90.47 points at this hour
Oil price exceeds $100 a barrel, does not affect markets
Consumer prices rise .4 percent, largely due to increased fuel costs
HP profits up 38 percent

Space Shuttle touches down fine in California
Teaser: Lunar eclipse is tonight

Two minutes of commercials 4:10-4:12

Shuttle touches down just fine (in California again)
Scientific analysis of lunar eclipses (the graphic actual actually read, "Happening Now: Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight")
Teaser: Is Clinton losing her base?

Two minutes of commercials 4:16-4:18

Politics segment:
Teamsters to endorse Obama
Obama wins 10th straight primary
McCain wins primaries in Wisconsin and Washington state
Huckabee: "It's not about ego"
Teaser: Democratic debates at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow
The debate airs in Spanish on Univision at 11:30 p.m. (I might be awake to catch it.)
Al-Sadr threatens to end cease fire

Your Money segment:
What if your 401(k) is mismanaged?
Court shuts down over leaked documents in Swiss bank's legal case *
Stocks up 90.04 points at this hour, oil price spike does not affect market
Teaser: Man with no pants orders coffee

Two minutes of commercials 4:22-4:24

Couple scams Girl Scouts, buys cookies with bogus $100 bill
Man with no pants orders coffe from Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru
Man sentenced for his 19th DUI
Pregnant tiger stuck in a tree
Eight-year-old nails buzzer-beater trey from NBA range for win (it was probably the producer's kid)
Teaser for next hour: McCann story

Two minutes of commercial

There you have it. That segment included 32 stories in 22 minutes; the "Bottomless" cup of coffee accounted for approximately two of those minutes. I think will be giving up on Headline News.


*note: "Ramblin' Man" was playing at the bar during the Wikileaks story, so I did not hear whether or not they mentioned that the site is still accessible.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

So that's what it sounds like

This is just a quick update to yesterday's post concerning the website wikileaks.

The site is back up and running. You can access it here now. It seems that they have numerous backup sites and the site is also accessible from foreign addresses such as and As they point out, these backups are necessary to circumvent censorship efforts. They just really never expected to have to protect themselves from domestic censorship.

Happily, the site is planning to increase its activity in light of this intrusion on free speech. Kudos. The main story currently regards the bank records that led to the shutdown in the first place. Gee. I hope the damaging records don't get out now.

"The horse got out of the barn! Quick! Close the door so the horse doesn't get out!"

Much thanks to De Warf Rat and POAC for the info.


Voting for Jesus

While reading POAC today, I came across this link. As I listened to these ladies, who I am sure are very nice people, two things came to mind. First, there is way too much religion in politicking. Second, the Internet has become the single greatest resource for anonymous libel campaigns. I will address the lies that have been propagated regarding Barack Obama later. For now, you can read the facts here and here.

There are two false premises going on in this video clip. One is that it is desirable to base American law on holy scripture. The other is that only Christians and Jews have a right to hold public office in the United States.

I once had a bumper sticker on my car that read, "If you want a country run by religion, move to Iran." That pretty much sums it up. Granted, it is disingenuous to assume that a legal code based entirely on Christian teachings would be tantamount to introducing Sharia Law. On the other hand, consider the similarities between these two sentences:

Recently, 12 states in northern Nigeria instituted laws based on teaching in the Koran.
Recently, Kansas attempted to institute laws based on teaching in the Bible.

Before the comments section blows up: It's not like anyone is calling for amputations and floggings for violations of the law here. Instead, the domestic movement toward a theocracy is much more subtle than that. This leads to the second fallacy noted above.

It is illegal to require a religious test for American public officials. At least that's the official verdict. The First Amendment is pretty clear on this point. The text reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The church's meddling in affairs of state led directly to Europe's wars of religion, pogroms, and inquisitions. The Founders were not looking for a repeat performance in the New World. Maybe they did not foresee the diversification of religion, but it happened.

Moreover, it is outright discrimination against non-Christians to assume that the legal code should be based on the Bible. Non-Christians are a growing minority and are theoretically protected under the First Amendment. The slippery slope starts with the indoctrination, er... teaching of school children Creationism rather than the scientifically accepted version of the beginning of life. If shenanigans like this continue, expect to see more from folks like this.

Theocracy efforts are doomed from the start. Theocrats practice a form of institutionalized discrimination. Granted, the discrimination is subtle. (How many non-Christians/Jews hold elected office?) Even as we become more accepting of alternate metaphysical world views, there is still a notion that a non-Christian will never be a presidential nominee because such a person would never be elected.

If the American race riots taught us anything, it is that a people facing institutionalized discrimination will eventually rebel. Then we will face a slightly bigger problem to deal with than whether or not it is legal for two men or two women to get married, as is specifically prohibited in a handful of Bible verses, notably in the Book of Leviticus. Of course, the practice of slavery is also sanctioned in the Book of Leviticus. Here is a humorous reaction to that particular argument.

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle. (I hope he doesn't mind the repost.)

If all of this sounds like a veiled attack on Mike Huckabee, it kinda is. The man is rather funny in a good way, but wanting to amend the Constitution so it is up to God's standards has me more than a little concerned.

As for the ladies in the video, they are certainly welcome to their opinions and it is not too difficult to guess for whom they plan to vote. I just think they should get out and meet a few people from outside of their own church sometime.


Monday, February 18, 2008

What's the sound of a whistle not blowing?

Yesterday, I ranted about the Executive Branch decision to shut down a website that provides easy access to all manner of economic data. Today, the good folks at Daily Kos brought us this little ray of sunshine from the Judicial Branch.

It seems that U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in California has ordered that Wikileaks be shut down. (The link is not intentionally broken; that is the message currently displayed.) According to the BBC, Swiss bank Julius Baer is in a tizzy because some information leaked on the site about the bank might reveal some shady dealings in the Cayman Islands. It seems the bank is in the middle of a court case right now.

Here is the official ruling:
"Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court."
I'm taking bets on when we hear a "further order" from the court. I'm taking 2182 AD. In the meantime, the site that claims to have leaked 1.2 million documents since 2006 has been entirely silenced over one court case and the documents in question are likely to be released in court sooner or later anyway.

Wikileaks was a powerful tool that allowed whistle-blowers to anonymously post government and corporate documents. It had particularly irritated the governments of China and Thailand because the site allowed people to documents regarding non-spurious issues like human rights abuses and misinformation about the Iraq War.

I guess corporate interests trump human rights and transparency yet again.

Yesterday, I made the point that democracy requires open government. Daniel Ellsberg proved that in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers and Senator Mike Gavel read them into the Congressional Record, making them a public record. (A congressional committee later determined that only .5 percent of the 7000 pages were indeed "top secret." I will add an attribution later.) That information helped end the Vietnam War.

As Daily Kos' stephen soldz so eloquently points out, Nixon did not try to shut down the New York Times and Washington Post entirely for printing the Pentagon Papers. My own educated guess, though, is that Nixon would not have been too upset about that, but he could not find a judge to go along with him.

Whistle blowers are an integral part of any democracy. As a nation, we entrust our government to operate in our own best interests. With such a large government entrusted with so much power, there will be abuses of power. That's the sad reality. The silver lining is that there are ways, like "blowing the whistle," that uncover abuses of power and that is the first step toward correcting abuses. Our judiciary did no favors today for American democracy or for democratization efforts across the globe.

Keep digging into those government records.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Come to the Dark Side

This is one of those silly little fun things I found. CAUTION: NOT REALLY WORK-FRIENDLY.

I know I'm a little behind the times with the Obama Girl thing, but this one was pretty neat. It was originally posted here.


There goes the sun

Some years back, the legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas spoke in our little town. She called the Bush administration one of the most secretive ever. Considering Ms. Thomas covered the Nixon Administration, that's a pretty strong indictment.

The latest is not quite on the level of the 16 words. It pales in comparison to the destroyed torture tapes. It is really not even in the same ballpark as the NIE on Iran. But it is one more example of the Bush Administration attempting to hide bad news. Seems kinda pointless really, considering Bush's current approval rating.

Due to "budgetary constraints," the Department of Commerce's Economic and Statistics Administration will be discontinuing this site on March 1. Up until now, this site allowed easy public access to a plethora of economic data as soon as it is released. The "we ain't got the money this week" argument fails when you consider that 1) the proposed budget for this year is a whooping $3.1 trillion and 2) millions of people operate websites absolutely free. Ye gods, just include a few Google ads, and the site will pay for itself.

The public is well aware that the economy is currently in the toilet. We just want to know how far it is to the bottom of the sewer.

In fairness, the Office of Budget Management Watch, an independent group, has announced that they will start providing the same information on their website.

The Bushies must think the less you know, the better. Here is a good list of some of the more egregious lies coming from the administration lately. The problem with secrecy is that the public and media have no chance to vet the veracity of government claims (like the 16 words) before the government pursues potentially disastrous policies (like invading a sovereign country, just as an example). A little probing by a critical press corps is essential to solid collective decision making.

Here are the original 16 words, by the way: "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,"... Too bad it turned out to be untrue. (More about this in a future post.)

Government needs to stop operating on the assumption that information should be classified unless it is okay to release it. Instead, the assumption should be a government record is open to public inspection unless there is a reason to seal it. My beloved Pennsylvania just got that message this week. As of next year, we will not longer have one of the weakest open records laws in the country. Thanks, Governor Rendell. With all that sunshine, Punxsutawney Phil should keep seeing his shadow for a long time.

We have the right to know what our government, the one we elected, is up to. We as a public need to trust that the information provided to reporters is complete and accurate. Then we can stop pursing policies based on misinformation.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

You scored 80 percent democratic

Welcome to (sort of) democracy in America. I'm talking about the super delegates of the Democratic party. This may be the most undemocratic idea in this country since the days of the smoke filled rooms. I guess the deals worked okay for the Republicans and Harding in 1920, but the modern super delegate is shaping up to be the modern and institutionalized political machine.

Here's a pretty good explainer from MSNBC. Check out the feature on the 21-year-old super delegate (and picture him walking out of a phone booth wearing a cape, tights, and a giant "S" on his chest).

The short version is that a person running for the nomination needs 2,025 delegates. When you vote in a primary or a caucus, you are technically voting for a group of people who are pledged to a particular candidates (Obama, Clinton, Gravel, Edwards, etc.). The number of delegates from each state are roughly proportional to the population of the state. The electoral college operates on the same principal. Additionally, the most of the delegates are apportioned based on the number of votes each candidate receives.

However, these elected delegates only amount to about 80 percent of the total delegates who will attend the nominating convention in August. The rest, 795 to be exact this year, are elected officials, party operatives and "elder statesmen" like Bill Clinton (I bet he votes for Obama). As Senators, both Obama and Clinton are super delegates. These people are not obligated to vote for anyone and can change their votes up until the convention. As a result, there is plenty of pandering going on toward this small and hardly diverse special interest group.

The upshot is that your vote in the Democratic primary counts, but only in a kinda sorta way. With the race for the nomination so close, there is a very good possibility that the nomination will come down to the votes of this elite special interest group. It's okay, though they are "potentially more in touch" with the issues than the rest of us.

Why is this such a big issue now? Simply put, it has been a while since the Democrats have fielded two strong candidates. Typically, most of the party rallies around one candidates early on. Considering the state of the loyal opposition (you know, the GOP) the Democrats have no excuse for not winning this thing, but a shady nomination fight might just do the trick.

If neither candidate stands out in the rest of the primaries (both Clinton and Obama lead in Texas), this nomination could come down to the super delegate vote...and whether the delegates from Florida and Michigan are counted or rendered voiceless because those states decided they wanted to vote before Iowa and New Hampshire. Come on. Let IA and NH go first. It's not like they get that much attention any other time and quite often, they are right anyway.

All things considered, it would just be cheaper and easier to let the party hacks select the nominee for us. Wait, wait. I feel better know. If your state hasn't voted yet go out and do it. Better a 80 percent vote than no vote. Sorry about that, Florida and Michigan.

It's almost stunning to consider that the GOP's nominating process is much more democratic than the big tent party.


Note: Update of original post from 60 percent to 80 percent. I had an issue with rudimentary statistics.

Define "abnegation"

Here's a site that I have a lot of fun with. It's called Free Rice and is an on-line vocabulary game that also helps feed the world's poorest people. Thanks to for pointing this one out.

The site generates a word and four possible definitions. If you select the correct answer, the equivalent of 20 grains of rice is donated to the UN World Food Program. The advertisers on the bottom of the screen pay for the donations. The banners are relatively unobtrusive, and I might -- just might -- have occasion to purchase an item from On the other hand, I now know the definition of "abnegation" and I intend to use the word often.

Since the site opened Oct. 7, 2007 nearly 19 billion grains of rice have been donated. That's a lot of meals for starving people, but it is still only a start.

There are 50 levels of difficulty. Three correct answers in a row moves you up one level. A wrong answer pushes you down one level. The site claims that it is a rare orator indeed who reaches level 50. Try the feature that saves your progress on your computer.

If you accept the premise that poverty leads to violence and extremism and that colonialism created much of the poverty in the Third World, it is easy to conclude that the developed world has both the moral responsibility and the self interest to eradicate poverty. At the 2002 Monterrey Conference, 22 wealthy nations pledged to donate .7 percent of the country's annual income (70 cents for every $100) to international aid. The United States is still the largest single donor, but still ranks 21st in terms of percentage of aid. Here's where it goes. Here's where we could do more.

Naturally, we have to make wise decisions with international aid. Sometimes our "help" works well...other times not so much.

Anyway, check the site out. It's a good way to kill time and help some people. Beware, though, you might actually learn something.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Believe it or not, I'm new at this...

Hello and welcome to my first attempt at this new-fangled blogging thing. I have been wanting to take a stab at this for a while. We'll see how well this works out.

This blog is going to be primarily comments on the political process. Of course, there will be plenty of room for a little fun. Check back often as I hope to update fairly regularly.

Please don't count on R&R to supply all of your news, though. Check out my links if that's what you are looking for. Getting your news from just one source is like reading Cat's Cradle and claiming to be an expert on Vonnegut.

Enjoy and have lots of fun.