The Good, the Bad, and the Habitual

Today’s question:

Do you think you have more good habits or bad habits?

I thought about going a little zen on this question and simply saying “yes.” I have good habits, I have bad habits, I don’t know that I ever bothered comparing the two. I suppose I’d like to think I have more good than bad, and there are people who might disagree.

Sorry, not the best post. But hey, yesterday you got a good rant!

In Closing: Stingray; the London Stone; Women of the Senate; with more people identifying as liberal, I wonder when politicians will stop fearing the word; climate denial; policy; and the Real Johnny Appleseed.

Happy Thanksgiving


In Closing: That would be bad; Googlegator; Japan Crush; Rolling Jubilee gets more press; the last cooler than average month was during the Reagan Administration (maybe hell froze over when he compromised with Democrats or raised taxes?); Lost Decade, American Style; Forbes and USA Today disagree on the buyer, but agree that somebody will make your freaking Twinkies (and screw workers in the process); of course, you could just make your own freaking Twinkies; maybe if the so-called adults made it clear that we must treat others with respect, this wouldn’t be a problem; vintage pictures of Japan; Susie’s right; so is Robert.

Stupid Government Tricks

It’s hard to know where to begin.

Yesterday, Joe Biden announced the White House’s attempt to slam the barn door after the horse is gone. Or rather, “try again” to end tax cuts for the rich. Mr. Obama already had that opportunity: it’s called a veto.

Let’s not forget Joe LIEberman and the so-called “Internet Kill Switch” that has been getting a lot of press coverage lately — especially since it turns out Egypt can and did turn of the Internet this week. Senator LIEberman of course denies that his bill contains any such provision, but with bills being multi-hundred page monstrosities often partly written by corporate interests, who can tell. Of course the truth is that this is old news, recycled for the new year (how very environmentally friendly). More truth, it would be difficult to implement in the United States, to say nothing of probably unconstitutional. Not that this matters to the current crew in Washington.

Speaking of “who cares about whether it’s constitutional,” the PATRIOT Act is up for renewal. Further, it looks very much like it’s going to be quietly rubber-stamped while everybody is busy arguing about gun control, the National Debt, Social Security, austerity, and tweaks to last year’s health insurance “reform” bill. If you think that sucks scissors, click here and voice your objections. Look everybody from MoveOn to the Cato Institute thinks it stinks; let’s get rid of it.

Once we’re done with the PATRIOT Act, perhaps we can have some meaningful reform (or abolition) of the TSA, who decided this week that they aren’t going to let any airport exercise their legal right to opt out of having TSA grope their passengers. This despite the fact that “”Nearly every positive security innovation since the beginning of TSA has come from the contractor screening program….”

While we’re on the topic of unilateral decisions by government agencies that fly in the face of public opinion, the USDA has decided that not only can farmers plant genetically engineered alfalfa, it won’t even keep track of how much is out there or where it is. Since alfalfa is bee-pollinated, the genetic material from these plants cannot help but to spread wildly. This means, in the words of Alternet, that “you can now kiss organic beef, dairy, and many vegetables goodbye.” It also puts every farmer at risk of owing Monsanto a royalty for foolishly allowing bees to deposit proprietary genes on their land. (Yes, it has been a long time since I quoted Alternet).

But back to Congress. Is there anybody here who thinks it’s a good idea for girls 10, 12, or 14 years old to be having babies? Anybody? Bueller? Well, John Boehner and 173 co-sponsors think that’s just fine. At least, they don’t want any of their precious tax dollars or even your dollars in your own tax-exempt Health Savings Account to be used for an abortion if it turns out your daughter is molested. They have proposed that “rape” be redefined as “forcible.” So, drugged at a party and wake up with no underwear and find out you’re pregnant a couple months later? Pony up your own abortion funds or live with the “consequences”, sweetie. Your sister who was left quadriplegic in a car crash and was subsequently molested by somebody at the rehab hospital? Hope you’ve got cash. But clearly, I’m just being “emotional.”

Maybe John Boner is one of the few people to whom I should ascribe a special nickname. He’d be in rarefied company with Joe LIEberman, Pat “Go f*** yourself” Leahy, and That Asshat Michael Chertoff.

In closing: at this rate we’re on target for another record year of bank closures (and even bigger “too big to fail” institutions); too young not to work, too old to get a job; compare and contrast; HealthSouth; more VW; and 8 wacky jobs at great companies. Sorry, these positions are all filled.

Shorties Carpenter’s The Thing

Medical Breakthrough: 2 Hour tuberculosis test. Imagine being able to treat people now without risking that you’re treating something non-existent, and without waiting months to be sure.

When the Cows Come Home: Quite literally.

I owned one once: Bungalows.

On the President and the Economy: ‘Nuff said. Maybe we could use some good old fashioned labor uprising. And where are we going to get the jobs we really need out of tax cuts?

I am Lawful Evil: Heh.

Right On: Essential elements of filibuster reform.

About Effing Time: “You know, maybe we should hold banks to some sort of minimum capital standards!”  D’ya think??

Speaking of the Banks: Refreshing Candor.

Dave Nails It: “Can’t get by on $250K? Try leaving your bubble!”

One of the Smarter Things I’ve Read about Yesterday’s Court Ruling: Remember, only the individual mandate has been thrown out.

Worth Thinking About: I don’t agree with all of it, but these are things we need to think about.

I love Radly Balko: In an intellectual way of course. On the TSA and ACLU.

The 99ers: read this.

Hope for Following the Law: cracking down on firms that just turn employees into contractors.

Fail: The War on Drugs.

Robert Reich: Enthusiasm Gap.

That’s it for today. Keeping it Short but sweet.

Senate Republicans Acting Like Toddlers

Or, Senate Decides its Just Fine to be a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Fortune 500 and Special Interests.

Seriously. The Senate voted 57 to 41 on largely party lines to defeat what Harry Reid called “a bill whose principles both parties once supported and that 9 in 10 Americans want us to pass,” despite the fact that none other than the Supreme Court encouraged Congress to clarify the law on required disclosure of political donations.

Color me disgusted. They are in effect saying “NO! I want candy for dinner and you can’t stop me!”

Now don’t get me wrong, I think the disclosure requirements shouldn’t have loopholes for the NRA or unions. Then again, I honestly think you should have to demonstrate that you can actually legally vote for a candidate to give them money! Still, this act was a lot better than nothing. And as for Senator Snowe’s criticism that it was written too fast? How quickly she forgets how fast the mammoth pile of legislation known as the PATRIOT Act was passed. Where were her objections to swift legislative answers to problems then? Oh yeah, buried under a blanket of largely unfounded fear that the terrorists were going to try to get us again any moment now.

Got a Republican Senator? Remember come November.

In Closing: Goldman shows us where the money went; next time somebody talks about how great it would be to gamble invest Social Security money in the stock market, remember these 10 stock market myths from, of all places, the Wall Street Journal; No, I do not want bacon in my martini!; Susie‘s right again; “The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the US Department of Defence is unable to account properly for 96% of the money.”; employees becoming as mercenary as their bosses (no wonder); housing consolidation; “Document Leak May Hurt Efforts to Build War Support” (no really? D’ya think??); open letter to Lindsay Lohan from the ACLU; Angle Update; health insurance and small business; and a pile of big yellow dinosaurs that won’t die.

Nevada Firestorm

And no, I’m not talking about the two multi-acre blazes within 4o miles of Las Vegas.

Well, the internet has been all abuzz over the latest from Sharron Angle. Everybody and their dog has already had something to say about her latest interview, including the guy who interviewed her. No wonder she does so few of them! Ezra Klein points out that the choice should be fairly simple, given that Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, Angle thinks all those unemployed people should get up off their lazy asses and find a [nonexistent] job, and Reid keeps trying [and failing] to get unemployment benefits extended to at least try and prevent all those unemployed people from becoming homeless too. At least her website has been updated with a little less crazy. She still does think it’s unreasonably hard to get a ballot initiative up in Nevada. I have long urged people to Just Say NO to all voter initiatives, so this is just fine with me.

But wait! Let’s not forget that The Other Reid (he’d prefer to just be known as “Rory“) is in an election too, and his opponent Brian Sandoval has also been campaigning. This week he announced a plan for Nevada schools. It includes giving a “grade” to each school and allowing kids in poorly graded schools to transfer to better schools. Now, there’s 2 problems I see with this. First is that No Child Left Behind already allows the same freaking thing; why reinvent the wheel? The second problem is geography. Nevada is a big state with a small population, and 73% of the population is in one county. While the idea almost makes sense in the Las Vegas Valley, the Reno area, and the Carson City area, it makes no sense in the rural areas where the next school might be an hour or two away.

His second plan is the popular idea of making teacher pay dependent upon student performance. Well, here’s the thing. Teachers can only control what happens in their classroom, and even then only most of the time. When you’ve got kids worried about living on the street, kids stealing ketchup packets so they can have dinner, gang violence, child abuse, parents who don’t give a damn, official curricula that still use sight words*, limited ability to discipline students who are out of line, a bureaucracy that would make any government proud, and a half dozen impediments to learning in the classroom, merit pay is a sick joke.

And idea three is to outsource non-educational services. That would include janitorial services, human resources, and food service. It makes me wonder what firms I would find if I were to look closely at Mr. Sandoval’s investments! There is just no way that it’s cheaper to have a cleaning crew come in at night than to have one or maybe two people on hand all day to clean messes as they occur. Hiring a for-profit catering service to put the cafeteria ladies out of work is just madness. This is aside from the concern some parents will have over whether the employees of these firms might maybe have some desire to harm a child. As much as I would like to dismiss this as tinfoil hat lunacy, the fact of the matter is that Clark County School District has had incidents where non-teachers are accused of harming students.

* I was just horrified to learn what constitutes homework for a first grader!

In closing: A tangible Good Thing from health insurance reform starts today; mortgage rates at record lows, why aren’t we borrowing? (because unemployment is around 10% and most homes are worth less than what is already owed, duh); a financial reform package passed the House and is headed for the Senate, let the hunt for loopholes and political favors begin (it’s ok, banks will ignore what they don’t like anyway); fiscal austerity still doesn’t work; Real Socialists beg the wingnuts to stop calling Obama one of them; a bit of follow-up, the list of countries Van Der Sloot can be extradited to for more charges grows; both of these statements are logical, but both cannot be true; 100 Yen shops, the Japanese Dollar Store; vaccinate your kids!; smart pet tricks; flying cars; and libertarians.

The Internet Ate My Homework

In the last 24 hours I have switched cell phones and had my RSS reader suddenly stop working. As a result, I’ve spent much of the last day digging out and trying to organize things — and that’s no easy task. So as much as I would like to write something deeper, I’ll be talking briefly about the group of cowards and self-centered blow-hards in Washington DC who are our elected Representatives and Senators.

Thanks to our elected officials preferring the company of insurance company lobbyists to that of citizens that can actually vote for them, we still have a health care system that costs too much and does too little. At least we will soon have certain “rights” when dealing with these companies, but some warn that these “rights” will translate into even higher costs. The House of so-called Representatives did get up off their collective asses to fix a looming slashing of what doctors would be paid under Medicare. Why is this important? First, your doctor’s costs of doing business have not gone down. Second, most major insurers base what they will pay on what Medicare pays. So this would within a year put some doctors out of business.

The House also managed to pass a campaign finance reform bill that would force candidates and political parties to disclose the identities of most big donors. Except of course for the biggest and most powerful donors. They are still free to own their own Congresscritters. Now the bill is ready for slaughter in the Senate.

A couple of Senators are actually trying to do something for children — odd in an election year since they can’t even vote. It seems that an unintended result of some immigration raids is that there are kids whose parents have been taken away. Those kids are often American citizens thanks to the clarity of the 14th Amendment. The bill in question would allow the parents to arrange care for these little Americans, make sure that they have resources and can report abuse, and prevents authorities from involving the kids in interrogations. Think what you want about the parents, but the kids did nothing wrong and deserve the protections of law. The end.

But what could our elected officials not be bothered to do? They couldn’t be bothered to protect servicemen from predatory car salesmen, not even for Mrs. Petraeus. They couldn’t be bothered to extend unemployment benefits for a million people, despite the fact that there are at least 5 unemployed Americans for every available job opening. And no, Sharron, people aren’t living a life of luxury in Las Vegas on unemployment benefits.

So Remember Come November. Vote for those few who have been taking care of your business in Washington, and against those who have been trying to obstruct your business. In the meantime, click here to figure out how to contact your Senators, and here to find your Representative. You’ll need to know your Zip+4, so dig out some mail first.

In closing: fat people don’t walk (an essay on urban design); a “silly” lady who desperately needed the 911 operator to listen (need help? these people can help); they hate us for our electricity; what would Jesus do?; it’s not your typical state dinner — don’t tell Michelle they split an order of fries; and your dose of Japanfilter, the Pepsi Strong Shot.

Candidates “R” Us

Lisa Benson

Today I’ll be doing a little follow up on Tuesday’s Nevada Primaries, specifically the Republican nominees. If you aren’t curious about who Harry Reid is running against, scroll down to In Closing.

Harry Reid will be running against Sharron Angle, who has been endorsed by at least one “tea party” group. But it seems that some of the stances that got her that coveted support might not sit too well in the general election. Her website has been cleansed of some of her more… controversial positions. Apparently the teaching of phonics is way too hot an idea to be confessed now. But she also thinks the Department of Education should be abolished, so who exactly will be insisting on phonics at the Federal level? She also ran for the nomination on saying global climate change is a hoax (tell it to a Las Vegan this week, honey), “free market” retirement alternatives should replace Social Security (maybe some sort of defined benefit pension plan?), we should drill everywhere, to hell with regulation, and she’s eligible to have a concealed carry permit. How impressive.

So, did the GOP discuss these minor changes to her site for greater electability, or did a brain cell go off in her campaign headquarters?

Meanwhile, voters in the Northwest side of Las Vegas have the opportunity to vote for incumbent Dina Titus, or challenger Joe Heck. Dr. Heck is an ER Doc who did a tour in Iraq and therefore thinks he has all the answers to our healthcare, economic, and security problems. As I’ve mentioned before, Vegas is a mighty small place when it comes to our medical community but I don’t know the man. Even though we have a Republican Governor, Dr. Heck brags about having the endorsement of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, the Governors of 2 states that are not Nevada. Heck had originally planed to run for Governor himself, so it’s quite understandable that he doesn’t exactly have Jim Gibbon’s backing. His platform seems to be classic Reaganomics: “a fair and predictable tax system and the elimination or reduction in some taxes, including estate taxes and long-term capital gains taxes, to encourage business growth. He argues for bringing back manufacturing jobs to bolster the economy, too.” No word on how to bring back those jobs. A really big lasso, perhaps? You can read a lot more about his views in this interview, which shows that he has a remarkable amount in common with Ms. Angle.

The more radical elements of the Republican party might have started as a made up movement, but it’s gotten momentum of it’s own. In the words of Pearl Jam, “Oh, but we unleashed a lion.”

In Closing: It is surely a sign of the apocalypse that I mostly agree with Glenn Reynolds, but he’s not the only one who wonders if “everybody ought to go to college” is what we really ought to be telling high school students; Massachusetts health insurance reform win and fail; bankruptcy filings back up to pre-“reform” levels; why the economy isn’t getting better; do negative calorie foods exist?; Afghanistan is now officially the longest war in American history; on teaching and poverty among children (who, you may recall, don’t have jobs and aren’t really responsible for their own poverty, conservative think tanks notwithstanding); the good news is there will be 400,000 new jobs driving trucks in the next 18 months, but the bad news is those jobs will be as long haul truck drivers; terrorists don’t even need real bombs anymore; don’t buy something just because the lady in the vitamin store says it’s good for you (pro-tip, do research at home, heavy on scientific papers as references, and take a written list of what you want!); economic opposite day; good advice; Congress can’t be bothered to make sure your Doctor gets paid properly; as if you didn’t know that retirement savings were endangered; on metabolic syndrome; on solar power; and it turns out that GTA doesn’t corrupt every soul that plays it.

Shorties of Riddick

Let’s start off with the Health Insurance Reform bits: Many thanks to Florinda for noticing this item, the story of the mom who was the only person in the whole Emergency Department with health insurance. However, don’t think that mandatory health insurance would have changed that. And here’s a moving piece on health care — particularly mental health care, as it fits into our nation’s Christian traditions.

Continuing the Bush Economic Tradition: Huzzah, they are now proudly telling us that GDP went up 5.9% in Q4 of 2009. Isn’t that great? The Great Recession is officially over! Of course, that’s only if you ignore the reality of fewer jobs, higher unemployment particularly among people under 25 (many of whom don’t show up in the official statistics), collapsing consumer confidence, and stuff like that. In fact, the Christian Science Monitor has gone as far as to say that the recovery is a scam. Oh well, some jobs cost more to create than others. Real worry that the Senate decided it was more important to go home than to make sure that people on unemployment would be able to pay the rent next month.

Going to the Vitamin Store?: Not sure what to make of this chart of what science really knows about the various supplements you could buy there.

Huh, Maybe Blackwater is Out Of Control: Duh, Senate.

From the Department of WTF: The military thought it important to take time away from 2 overseas wars to spy on… Planned Parenthood? And white supremacists? Why, recruiting?

New USDA Rules on Organic Food: summary here.

“You never know who it used to be”: A local Buddhist temple is in trouble with the city. Why? Too many cats hang out there and the temple is kind enough to see to it they have food and clean water.

Sad but true: The bullet is still mightier than the restraining order. My heart goes out to everybody involved, including the students of the slain teacher. There is still a lot we don’t know about this situation yet. But ladies, one thing I do know is that you don’t owe anybody a “mercy date” or an explanation about why you want nothing to do with them. Stay away from guys that scare you! Stop answering the phone, stop talking to them, stop seeing them, cut them off cold turkey! Telling them more than once that you don’t want to talk to them is still talking to them!

The Water Bottle Saga

Last summer, we made some changes in our exercise routine, such that for the first time it made sense to actually consume some sort of “recovery drink.” A simple glass of water — or refilling one of those water bottles you get at the convenience store — was no longer going to cut it. My requirements for such a bottle included the following:

  • BPA free.
  • Dishwasher safe!
  • No stupid gasket that really should be removed for cleaning or it will get gross, but won’t really fit back in correctly should you manage to pry it out of there.
  • Mouth of bottle must be big enough to fit ice cubes, preferably from the door dispenser on the freezer rather than having to shove them through individually.
  • Must be easy to drink from quickly.
  • Must hold roughly a quart or liter of fluid (I won’t quibble over the small difference between the two sizes)
  • Must not be prone to leaking.
  • Must be translucent.

Why translucent, you may ask? We mix our own recovery formula so we can not only control the number of calories involved (here’s the nutrition panel for Gatorade dust; I can choose to make a “weaker” version). We can add a small quantity of glutamine to the mix, something even Gatorade’s scientists admit may be helpful [Update: here’s what we do and why]. If you can’t see through the bottle, you can’t know if it’s shaken enough. For that matter if you can’t see the insides, how the heck do you know it’s really clean?

So this seems to me like a reasonable enough list. I think most people would agree that these are good things to have out of a water bottle for sport/exercise use. Things like “using recycled materials” and other buzzwords are nice, but not if the product can’t do the basic job.

So then consider this list of “best” reusable bottles from HuffPo. What I see here are a lot of bottles you can’t see through, many of which have teeny necks that you have to manually force an ice cube through, and a lot of bottles that you have to completely remove the lid to have a drink. When you only have a 30 second break for hydration, that just won’t cut it. I actually went to REI (why do I bother, they never have what I need) to look at their selection. It was almost exclusively Nalgene and Camelbak products, and not a darn thing that met all my criteria. For what those products cost, I will not settle for “almost.”

As a stopgap — the bottle I had been using had developed a leak around the base of the drinking spout — I found a Rubbermaid bottle that was clear, dishwasher safe, and best of all cheap. However, it was prone to tipping and did have a gasket in the lid. Moreover, that opening looks pretty wide, but it’s a couple millimeters too narrow to avoid spraying ice cubes all over the kitchen. That’s just something you can’t tell in the store.

Yesterday I happened to be in a supplement store when I stumbled across something called the Blender Bottle. While this thing was really designed for some of the heavier protein mixers and such, it fit what I needed perfectly. The little spring thingy is really kind of optional when we’re talking about something as light as Gatorade. The mouth is wide, the spout generous and easily operated, no gaskets, dishwasher safe, even heat safe. So far so good on this thing.

In closing: on the national debt; here‘s obligatory health insurance reform links; the next incarnation of the iconic 747 flies; more reason to like Alan Grayson; the real filibuster-proof majority; the Social Security “reform” idea that just wouldn’t die; and two items on the changing face of employment. What a shame that someone doesn’t get that women are holding their jobs specifically because they often get paid less for the same work!