Friday, February 29, 2008

The perfect photo of Hillary Clinton

Nothing needs to be said about this one:

(Hat tip to Reuters)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RIP: Global Warming?

"Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming"

This is how Michael Asher's blog over at begins. While the blog (which was reported by Drudge Report) is a bit over the top in it's declaration of the end of Global Warming, if you go to the sources Asher is using for this epithet, you will see there is a SIGNIFICANT trend in global cooling. Whether it is an actual trend, or just a blip, only time will tell.

Unless you listen to the "Religion of the Global Warming Scare" (headed by Pope Al Gore), you will realize that global cooling is a far greater threat to mankind than any amount of warming we have seen historically, with the "Little Ice Age" being the best example of how global cooling can hurt mankind.

Mind you, I am NOT sounding the alarms on global cooling. Nor am I heeding the scare tactics of the Global Warming crowd. The plain simple fact is that Global Warming was, and is, a scientific theory. If climatologists begin claiming that global cooling is happening based on the data, that too will be a scientific theory. The FACT is that climatology has NOT been able to accurately predict what global temperatures will do in the past (the Global Cooling scare of the 1970's is a prime example of this).

Ironically, in both the Global Cooling and the current Global Warming scares, mankind was blamed as the primary cause, in spite of the fact that significant global warming and cooling have occurred throughout the history of this planet prior to mankind's industrialization. Yet we still view ourselves as the center of the universe, with all things happening because of US.

I have said it before, but it is worth repeating:
If you look back on mankind's history, whenever something bad happened, such as famine or disease, mankind's natural reaction was that the gods were causing it to happen because they were displeased with humans. In essence, mankind was responsible for the famines or diseases they experienced.

To this day, we assume nothing happens in the universe unless mankind causes it.

In psychology, a human infant assumes they are the center of the universe, since they know nothing else except themselves. As a species, humans are being infantile when we assume that everything that happens in the universe is caused by us.

Grow up people.

My daughter and Egypt

My family got a Wii yesterday, and my 10 year-old daughter was playing her "Hannah Montana" game on it this morning before school. I was on my computer when my daughter came charging in, quite pleased with herself.

DAUGHTER: I'm going to "kayrow"! (that's the way she pronounced it)
ME: You mean Cairo?
DAUGHTER: Yes. Where's that?
ME: Egypt.
DAUGHTER: Oh...that must be why they have that dog-looking thing on the screen.
ME: Dog-looking thing?
DAUGHTER: Yeah. (then she proceeds to make herself look like the front of the Sphinx)
ME: Oh, that's the Sphinx.
DAUGHTER: Is that what it's called?
ME: Yes, and it's not a dog, it's a lion. With a man's head. Specifically, the pharaoh's head.

She proceeded to run off and continue playing.

I am still scratching my head over that exchange.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

John "Kerry" McCain

There is a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal today by Kevin Stach about John McCain's fiscal record.

There is an interesting tidbit about the infamous Bush tax cuts which McCain voted against:
"In 2001, with the bitter primary battle still fresh, Mr. McCain voted against the final Bush tax-cut package. Why would he deviate from a pro-growth, tax-cutting position, built up over 17 years in Congress and dozens of votes, even after running on a tax-cut plan himself in 2000?

Mr. McCain's protest that he wanted spending cuts to accompany the Bush tax cuts has persuaded few conservatives. But what is not remembered is that, two weeks earlier, Mr. McCain voted to approve the final version of the Budget Resolution -- the blueprint used by congressional committees for spending and tax bills -- which included $1.35 trillion in tax cuts (the Bush proposal) coupled with a $661 billion cap on discretionary spending. When the promised spending cap never materialized, Mr. McCain denounced the wasteful earmarks and pork-barrel spending that he felt jeopardized the budget, and lodged the now famous protest vote against the tax cuts.

In other words, McCain voted for it before he voted against it. But I guess we won't hear him saying that.

Obama-mania: Part 2

Continued from Part 1. As before, all quotes are taken from Obama's website.

"My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less." - Barack Obama

And his plan to do this? First:
"Catastrophic health expenditures account for a high percentage of medical expenses for private insurers. The Obama plan would reimburse employer health plans for a portion of the catastrophic costs they incur above a threshold if they guarantee such savings are used to reduce the cost of workers' premiums." - Obama's website

This is an idea I both like and dislike at the same time.

I like this idea because I personally believe that catastrophic healthcare costs should be handled by the government, and Obama's plan actually works in a good way.

I dislike this idea because it leaves the impression that we will somehow be paying less. While it may save us money in premiums, it will also cost us money in taxes. Moving an expense to a different column doesn't save money.

The second part of Obama's plan, called "Helping Patients", is mostly a bunch of nice sounding ideas that are pretty vague on specifics. However, one part is worth noting:
"Require full transparency about quality and costs. Obama will require hospitals and providers to collect and publicly report measures of health care costs and quality, including data on preventable medical errors, nurse staffing ratios, hospital-acquired infections, and disparities in care. Health plans will also be required to disclose the percentage of premiums that go to patient care as opposed to administrative costs." - Obama's website

Great idea! More government paperwork to fill out! Of course, compliance with this WILL cost money. Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies will have to hire staff to fill out the new paperwork, which means another increase in healthcare costs passed along to the consumer. Not to mention another layer of government bureaucracy to process all this paperwork, which will be paid for by your taxes.

But what is truly great about this part is the "quality" aspect. Fear of malpractice lawsuits clearly don't do enough to prevent "medical errors". We need more government to do that!

Unfortunately, Obama is big on the "quality" healthcare thing, as his third part is dedicated to it. Most of the third part sounds nice, but is light on specifics. But one part scares me:
"[Obama] will also challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care through quality measurement and reporting, implementation of effective interventions such as patient navigation programs, and diversification of the health workforce." - Obama's website

Note the last part in bold. Exactly how will affirmative action programs for our healthcare workers help anything? We will get better quality healthcare if we lower the standards to allow more minorities into healthcare?

The fourth part of Obama's plan is actually a decent idea:
"Most medical records are still stored on paper, which makes it hard to coordinate care, measure quality or reduce medical errors and which costs twice as much as electronic claims. Obama will invest $10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S. health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records, and will phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT. Obama will ensure that patients' privacy is protected." - Obama's website

This is one of those rare cases where spending public money could result in something useful.

The fifth part of Obama's plan is flawed in it's reasoning:
"The insurance business today is dominated by a small group of large companies that has been gobbling up their rivals. There have been over 400 health care mergers in the last 10 years, and just two companies dominate a full third of the national market. These changes were supposed to make the industry more efficient, but instead premiums have skyrocketed by over 87 percent." - Obama's website

The reason premiums have skyrocketed is NOT because of insurance company mergers. The reason is because most Americans have public or private health insurance, and little reason to shop their healthcare around. So they go to doctors or pharmacies who take their insurance, with no regard to cost. They use the healthcare system regardless of whether they NEED it, thereby creating a greater demand for healthcare. Under the very simple laws of supply and demand, we know that when demand goes up while supply remains constant, prices will also rise. Obama (and most of Washington) ignore this fact.

Let's see where Obama's ignorance will take us:
"Barack Obama will prevent companies from abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases. His plan will force insurers to pay out a reasonable share of their premiums for patient care instead of keeping exorbitant amounts for profits and administration. His new National Health Exchange will help increase competition by insurers." - Obama's website

By limiting profits for these companies, he will also restrict investment capital in new companies to compete with the existing companies. The great irony here is that he will be ensuring the monopoly status of the existing companies. His own idea shoots itself in the foot.

The next part is almost as stupid:
"The second-fastest growing type of health expenses is prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans more than double the price. Obama will allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the U.S. Obama will also repeal the ban that prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies, which could result in savings as high as $30 billion. Finally, Obama will work to increase the use of generic drugs in Medicare, Medicaid, and FEHBP and prohibit big name drug companies from keeping generics out of markets."

Tha last part in bold is the truly insane idea, because that will kill drug research in this country. Without the ability to market new drugs exclusively for a period of time, drug companies will have no incentive to research new drugs. The pipeline of innovative new drugs will come to a screeching halt.

Which brings us to Obama's "Fight for New Intiatives":
"As president, Obama will strengthen funding for biomedical research, and better improve the efficiency of that research by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships." - Obama's website

So as soon as Obama kills all private investment in medical research, federal funding will be the only source of new treatments. Translation: Instead of wealthy investors taking risks on researching new treatments, the risk will be transferred to the American taxpayer. Instead of stockholders holding companies accountable, it will fall to government bureaucrats instead.

Personally, I consider these two separate issues which he lumps into one because of "climate change" (note that it is no longer called "global warming").

Actually, this is one of the few areas I agree with Obama's plan, even if I don't agree with his reasons for it. We do need other energy sources. If government funding and tax incentives will help get us there, so be it.

The only areas I take exception with Obama's plan is his lack of any plans for expanding oil drilling within the U.S., as well as ignoring nuclear power as a potential source of power generation in this country.

Obama's plan here is right on the money, except for the last part below:
"Create Secure Borders
Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.

Improve Our Immigration System
Obama believes we must fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally
Obama will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Bring People Out of the Shadows
Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

Work with Mexico
Obama believes we need to do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.
" - Obama's website

In order to "fix" Mexico's economic problems, he will first have to rid their government of corruption. Short of taking over Mexico, I don't see that happening.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama-mania: Part 1

As Obama-mania seems to be picking up steam, I decided now would be a good time to see where he stands on the issues. The logical starting point is his campaign's website, where all of his quotes are taken below.

As the Clinton campaign once said, "It's the economy, stupid!" This is the primary issue with which any candidate has to deal.

I believe that America's free market has been the engine of America's great progress. It's created a prosperity that is the envy of the world. It's led to a standard of living unmatched in history. And it has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery…We are all in this together. From CEOs to shareholders, from financiers to factory workers, we all have a stake in each other's success because the more Americans prosper, the more America prospers.” - Barack Obama

The great irony is Obama can tell HOW we developed a strong economy, and yet he plans to restrain the free market as much as possible.

Following are the problems as the website describes them, and Obama's solutions.

PROBLEM:"While wages remain flat, the costs of basic necessities are increasing. The cost of in-state college tuition has grown 35 percent over the past five years. Health care costs have risen four times faster than wages over the past six years. And the personal savings rate is now the lowest it's been since the Great Depression." - Obama's website

SOLUTION(S): I will give Obama credit for attacking the economic problems on multiple fronts. Unfortunately, his ideas range from the same old sorry liberal ideas we have heard for decades (i.e. raise the minimum wage, more unions, more paid leave for workers, and more federal funding for education and job training programs), to brand new bad ideas. For example:

"Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama will ensure that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama proposal will save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees." - Obama's website

And when the IRS screws up my tax forms, who gets held liable for it? I thought so.

"Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers." - Obama's website

That's all well and good, but we are losing jobs to China and India, which brings us to:

"Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. Obama will also pressure the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports. - Obama's website

This is great, but he will actually have to get other countries to agree to this. Exactly how does he plan to bribe them?

"The Obama comprehensive energy independence and climate change plan will invest in America's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world." - Obama's website

"America's highly-skilled manufacturing workforce"? You mean the one in India?

The fact is that if you want to improve the economy, there are other ways besides Obama's "quick fix" solutions. We can start with improved basic education, not just offering retraining to workers who have already been ruined by our pitiful public education (more about his plans for that later).

Another way is to reduce unnecessary government regulations on businesses, especially small businesses. Unfortunately, Obama plans to INCREASE these regulations:

The [Family and Medical Leave Act] covers only certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Obama will expand it to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. He will expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24 hours of leave each year to participate in their children's academic activities; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address domestic violence. - Obama's website

In other words, let's hit even smaller businesses with more government regulations and expenses. This will make it even harder for smaller businesses to grow and compete with larger businesses. Keep in mind that larger businesses have the income to be able to handle more government regulation. This kind of burden placed on small businesses actually PROTECTS big businesses from competition. This goes against the free market which Obama himself has said made this country great. He is either an idiot or a liar (or both).

Most of Obama's education plan is fairly uneventful. Although one thing did strike me:
"Obama's comprehensive "Zero to Five" plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, Obama's plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state "zero to five" efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school." - Obama's website

How long before we see a Democratic candidate promising government-funded prenatal educational cd's?

Seriously though, at what point will parents be responsible for raising their kids? With ideas like this, you will get to hold your child for two minutes after birth, then they will be off to school!

Even more seriously, why would we hand our kids over EARLIER to an educational system that doesn't work NOW?

Obama was clearly against the Iraq War from the beginning, claiming:

"I thought our priority had to be finishing the fight in Afghanistan. I spoke out against what I called "a rash war' in Iraq. I worried about, ‘an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences.’ The full accounting of those costs and consequences will only be known to history. But the picture is beginning to come into focus." - Barack Obama

Even though Obama promises to get our troops out of Iraq "within 16 months", he leaves himself an out:

"[Obama] will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda." - Obama's website

In other words, you can expect our troops to be in Iraq for some time to come. Don't believe me? Check out this idea from Obama:

"Obama believes that America has a moral and security responsibility to confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis — two million Iraqis are refugees; two million more are displaced inside their own country. Obama will form an international working group to address this crisis. He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find a safe-haven." - Obama's website

Exactly HOW do you "ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find a safe-haven"? Pull out the military and throw money at the problem! Brilliant!

To be continued...

And When I Die: "Blood, Sweat & Tears" and David Clayton-Thomas

Last year on American Idol, contestant Melinda Doolittle reminded me of Gladys Knight. That is the great thing about American Idol for someone like me who used to work as a DJ: Hearing a new vocalist who brings back the memories of another great vocalist.

Last night, another contestant (I think his name was Michael Johns) reminded me of a vocalist I haven't heard in years: David Clayton-Thomas, former lead singer of Blood, Sweat & Tears, which was one of the most unique bands to come out of the 60's. Most people have heard their standard hits, such as "And When I Die", "You've Made Me So Very Happy", and "Spinning Wheel". Between the band's unique fusion of multiple musical styles, including big band, rock, pop, and jazz, and Clayton-Thomas's strong vocal style, Blood, Sweat & Tears was a one-of-a-kind band. I won't call them the best of all-time, but I cannot honestly say I have ever heard anyone do what they did, as well as they did it. They certainly deserve kudos as a band that stands out in the history of music.

Consider this: How many other bands could take "And When I Die", and make it fun, without turning it into satire?

The key, in my opinion, was Clayton-Thomas. The band was good, but his voice gave the music the "gravitas" it needed.

For example, check out this video from 1972, with Jerry Fisher doing the lead vocals on "And When I Die":

Now check out this performance from 1970, with Clayton-Thomas doing the lead vocals:

Even considering the poor quality of the second video, the difference is obvious. Clayton-Thomas's "lounge singer with a growl" vocals were sorely needed to make the song work.

But don't get me wrong. Clayton-Thomas can't do ANY song and make it work. On the following video, from 1993, he does Carole King's "Hi-De-Ho", and it's pretty bad. Personally, I recommend skipping to about 6:27 into the video, where there is a good quality copy of "And When I Die":

From that video, Clayton-Thomas has lost a little of the power in his vocals, but he is still better than most vocalists today. But his voice is still unique among vocalists.

And if another vocalist makes it on American Idol with Clayton-Thomas's sound, I won't shed a tear (or any blood and sweat).

P.S. If you're interested, here are some links to other butchered versions of "And When I Die" by different "artists" (and I use the term VERY loosely): link, link, and link. It is amazing what people will shamelessly put on Youtube.

(Hat tip to for the videos.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Primary Endorsement

Today, I voted for John McCain.

I know my blog buddy Myrhaf would object to my selection. While I would agree with Myrhaf that McCain is not the best choice, he IS the best choice available among the major candidates from both parties.

In choosing McCain, I had to first look at my own political values. First and foremost, I am a fiscal conservative. I want the government to take less of my money and be more frugal about how they spend it. Of all the candidates, McCain is the ONLY one who is, and has always been, a fiscal conservative.

McCain has been "porkbusting" since before his failed 2000 presidential campaign. Even though McCain has since said he was wrong, he was at least against the Bush tax cuts for a good reason. Most importantly, McCain was against the Bush Medicare fiasco for one simple reason: we didn't have the money for it.

What about the current economic stimulus package? As Bill Barker pointed out in the comments section over at Ragged Thots:
...but I do have a problem - a lack of respect - for anyone who would simply ignore McCain's support of this $150-billion mainly middle class giveaway using borrowed (with interest due!) money for the largess by a man who you claim to support mainly because he's supposedly a budget hawk.

To this I respond: Are there EVER circumstances where our government should borrow money? I am sure most of us would agree that war is one of those circumstances. What about an economic recession? I can only speak for myself, but pulling money out of the government and giving it back to the public during economic hard times seems like a smart thing to do. (Pulling it out of the government permenantly is even smarter, but that's another topic.)

According to some economists (from an article at, we are already in a recession. The last time we were in a recession, the government used a similar economic stimulus package, and it worked quite well. Even a fiscal conservative such as myself has to defer to history where it shows that government spending CAN be effective. In this case, I tip my hat to our government, and I applaud McCain for also being willing to stifle his fiscal conservatism in the face of needed government spending.

All in all, McCain is still the best choice. Romney and Huckabee are nowhere close to fiscal conservatism. And don't even consider using the word "conservative" in any context related to Clinton or Obama.

That said, I still reserve the right to change my pick in November.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Pigskin Pick'em Playoffs - Final Results

And the winner of the Pigskin Pick'em Playoffs is (drumroll please):
Bill Barker - 9
Audio Dave - 8
Robert A. George - 8
EdMcGon - 6
David Stefanini - 6
J. Mark English - 2

Congrats Bill! Sometimes, playing the "homer" works!