Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flu Pandemic Preparedness Part of Budgeting Cuts

Stimulus, Flu, RepublicansPreparing for a flu pandemic was part of the original stimulus plan but was deemed "extravagant" spending by Republicans and was dropped during the efforts to gain votes. That sure could have come in handy, couldn't it have? (Image: CNN) So, clearly it's not as simple as the article featured on The Huffington Post makes it sound. Surely no one could have saw this outbreak coming. Why should it have been stimulus?

It's actually pretty simple, but for different reasons that the mindless right-bashing efforts of the article on The Huffington Post. The flu money shouldn't have been in the stimulus because it was the right thing to do, but because it actually was important stimulus.

How was this stimulus? It would have maintained demand for flu vaccines and in effect prevent a shortage in supply as well as a drop in production. Because there was no stimulus, production levels of the vaccines are low because of the lack of demand during the recession. If the department that handles this was adequately funded, through funding such as the stimulus, there would be both a stockpile to start the pandemic control efforts and the vaccine manufacturers could have ramped up production sooner.

I'll leave you with an amusing video included in the article on The Huffington Post:


Monday, April 27, 2009

Public Health Emergency, No Health and Human Services Secretary

HHS, Flu, AbortionWhy is it that President Obama hasn't filled the top spot of the government agency responsible for handling an outbreak such as the recent threat posed by swine flu? Well, it isn't because Obama hasn't nominated someone. (Image: The Huffington Post) The nomination of Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services Secretary -- following the failed nomination of Tom Daschle -- has been on hold. The Republicans in the Senate have been filibustering the nomination, refusing to allow the nomination to go to vote. Why?

Well, if you were expecting a fresh new reason, you'll be disappointed. The reason there is no Health and Human Services Secretary during the middle of a public health emergency is because she supports abortion. To be more specific, the Republicans believe she supports "late-term" abortion and takes money from abortion doctors.

Now, neither of these claims is more than a matter of talking points. Sebelius received donations to her campaigns totaling about $12,000 over 7 years and about double that to her political action committee later from said abortion doctors. This is not a very big number for a politician in America, especially over such a span of time. The late-term abortion claims enter muddy water over certain comments and different interpretations, but she is certainly a pro-choice politician.

Fortunately, several moderate GOP members are likely to vote to move forward with a vote on Tuesday in spite of hard-liners like Mitch McConnell who doesn't see how the flu outbreak factors in to the need for an HHS Secretary. Many expect Sebelius to be confirmed in spite of the "same old issues" causing partisan bickering and stone-walling by the GOP.

Assuming that this goes through, the HHS department has 14 other top spots vacant. Hopefully the same shenanigans don't continue to disrupt a time of genuine need.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fox "Investigations" Strike Again

O'Reilly, GE, DarknessThe last investigation by Fox News that I covered was the stalking of Think Progress reporter Amanda Terkel. O'Reilly summed up that stunt by placing the blame of MSNBC as the heart of evil -- naturally, this investigation went right into the heart of darkness. (Image: YouTube) The network O'Reilly hates with such a passion is a division of NBC, which is owned by General Electric (GE). At the recent GE shareholders' meeting was our good friend and stalker from the last investigation, Jesse Watters.

Here's a video from The O'Reilly Factor in which Bill introduced the work of Watters:

I want to just highlight one part of this clip (at the end):

"This is obviously a major story, when a powerful corporation, which controls a major part of the American media, may be using its power and the airwaves to influence politics in order to make money from government contracts. That kind of corruption would make Watergate look small."

While I disagree with everything said in this segment, I want to highlight those two points to address the larger issue. The first bolded segment speaks to the general hypocrisy of Fox News in this situation. Fox uses its power to influence politics in order to make money from a variety of sources. They draw a huge audience to sell to advertisers, and, of course, they all have a bit fatter of wallets when their guy wins and lowers taxes.

The second point I find more funny than anything else. I think true party-line conservatives associated with the Republican Party are still hung up on Nixon. Why? Because of this:

Nixon, 1972, win
This graphic comes by way of RealClearPolitics. The die-hard Republicans can't accept that their golden boy was caught in his web of lies. Discussing this "evil" at MSNBC is ridiculous -- especially to compare it to the term synonymous with political corruption. What's this all about? Was it supposed to link Obama to the heart of evil? Is Fox the only news organization allowed to have an open bias? Are the rich shareholders of GE that afraid of a left slant? Do they want another Fox News? Madness.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Texas Talking About Succession

Texas, Succession, TeaSince the extreme side of the Republican Party showed its face in the not-so-grassroots Tea Parties, Texas has been in the News. It started last weekend with the sirens on Drudge, and moved into the mainstream media during the week. (Image: Flickr) I honestly can't quite understand what's going on here. It seems to me that this tea party movement is causing some serious hysteria; but are the same forces behind succession talk?

Personally, I don't think corporate lobbyists that are funding the Tea Parties want Texas to leave the United States. There's no money to be had from that. Running these "grassroot protests" could potentially lower their taxes though. Then again, maybe working up a bunch of people into hysteria over tax in general after it was just cut isn't working out so well. Not the most friendly audience are forming.

The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, made these comments at one of the tax day Tea Parties:

That's quite interesting. Texas is managing its budget great. Oil demand will never fall. Despite these comments by Perry, Ron Paul insists that no one is talking about leaving the union seriously (he must have skipped that clip). He argues that succession is allowable and something we should support:

This type of insanity needs to stop. Or maybe not. Maybe a split of America would be better for everyone. The Bush family could continue to run Texas and any state that joins it and every voted to the north could continue to elect leaders like Obama. We'll see where this one goes...


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Bit Of Background On The Handshake Controversy

Obama, Chavez, CNBCToday I was desperately avoiding studying, so I stumbled around the internet until I ended up on the Huffington Post. Huffington has a headline article discussing how a CNBC anchor viewed the situation. (Image: Media Matters) I should give some background on CNBC. Besides being destroyed by the comedy-news-media as of late, CNBC has a rich history of slant and bias that is a distant second to Fox News.

Being a financial news channel, CNBC would naturally have a slant to the Right because of fiscal policy. However, more and more often, CNBC hosts are becoming social commentators aligned with the Neo-Conservatve movement -- replacing traditional conservative fiscal ideals with domestic and international fear mongering.

I want to share with you two clips that will provide the media context to which I was replying in my last post. The first clip is from Fox News; it covers the original argument that shaking hands with seemingly-faux-democratically-elected "dictators" is blasphemous.

Did anyone else notice his complete incompetence in explaining the difference between shaking hands and discussing? Does he think Obama would have provoked better conversation if he refused to shake hands and be polite? Moving along to the CNBC clip that shows an equally conflicted point-of-view:

So, Obama shakes hands like a Boyz N the Hood gangster? Also, it's more effective foreign policy to talk to friends and ignore anyone who isn't a friend? I thought we just tried that. This is exactly what I was talking about last post, the controversy makes no sense at all.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama Too Nice To Chavez? Nope.

Obama, ChavezThe President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is infamous in American politics for referring to former President Bush as the devil during a speech to the United Nations. Earlier this week at the Summit of the Americas, Chavez shook President Obama's hand and gave him a book. (Image: The Huffington Post) Apparently, Obama's acceptance of the gift and willingness to shake Chavez's hand has caused a controversy. According to right-wing pundits, it is an endorsement of Chavez by Obama.

However, today a new video, discovered today by the LA Times originating from a Venezuelan news agency, depicts a different story. As described by the Times, Obama first moves to walk away from Chavez, but Chavez insists on talking. Obama proceeds to talk over Chavez and "point his finger several times at Chavez's chest."

Here's the video, by way of the LA Times:

So, is Obama still soft on Chavez? Looks to me like he was pretty direct and authoritative. But, being a liberal-minded blogger, I can't judge the quality of foreign relations efforts. I mean, it is after all the Democrats' fault that the world hates the U.S. ...


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Future of Thinking:Revised

Revised, ThemeWell, now that the school term is over, I have a few decisions to make and a few less restrictions. Thinking:Revised will continue, but I'm still not sure about the details of what it look like. Well, there was a code of conduct I was mandated to follow when I started this blog for a course. While I will continue to follow the vast majority of it in order to build the integrity of this blog, there will be a few exceptions...

The two points I won't follow so closely are:
  • Keeping the language sparkle clean
  • Being nice to everyone
I need to convey how hard it was to talk about the antics of certain Fox News anchors or politicians without using any foul language. No, this won't become a blog comparable to Jerry Springer: Uncensored, but I don't see what's wrong with calling Rush Limbaugh an asshole. I'm sure Rush would admit that he's an asshole. Jerk, bigot and half-wit doesn't describe Rush as well.

Like-wise, it never hurts to be clear when you disagree with something. Being nice only takes you so far. Actually, there's nothing wrong with being nice, but there's no reason to be nice if you're dealing with someone who has no intention of returning the favour.

This blog will indeed continue. When I get some free-time, I'll start with some improvements. Maybe it's time to move away from Blogger and to WordPress. We'll see what happens.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Limbaugh Beat By Caller On Own Show

Rush, Cigar, MockedDuring a recent radio show, Rush Limbaugh accepted a call from a disgruntled right-of-centre voter. Much to Limbaugh's surprise, however, the caller turned on Limbaugh, blaming him for the Republican Party's woes. (Image: The Raw Feed) The caller makes a strong argument against Limbaugh's antics, calling him a "brainwashed Nazi" for his pro-torture position. Though this quote may seem extreme, the caller justifies his opinion to Rush.

Here's an audio clip of the entire conversation between Rush and the caller who identifies himself as Charles provided by MediaMatters:

You can read a transcript at The Huffington Post.

I think this is a great example of how flat the arguments of Republicans like Rush are in a factual sense. A key moment at the end of the clip, when Limbaugh must have muted the call, was when Rush accused Charles of not being a real Republican. But who is the real Republican?

I would argue that while Rush Limbaugh represents the current state of the Republican party, he doesn't represent the original values of the party. Rush Limbaugh is part of the neo-Conservative movement -- which is responsible for turning the empowering principles of true conservatism into the twisted power-grabbing desire that defines conservatives today.

I think the caller, Charles, really handled himself well and proved his point to any receptive audience. Limbaugh could not argue substantively, so Rush attacked the caller in order to hurt his credibility. Maybe Limbaugh should read the constitution again as well as the founding platform of the Republican party. Those two things he claims to represent are far removed from his antics.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poll Results: Why We Care (And Don't Care)

Poll, Results, PoliticsI was interested to find out what exactly made you guys care about politics, and I was slightly surprised with the answers. They made sense, but I was expecting some slightly different trends. (Image: Laila Lalami) Relatively unanimously, participants were interested in politics because of their principles and to ensure they had a word in what affected them. Beyond those two points, the analysis becomes more complicated.

Here is the raw data on the poll:

Political, Poll, Results

To me, the most interesting number is the stated lack of interest in political leaders, when that often ends up being all campaign are about. People care about the scandal, promises, and attitude of potential leaders -- sometimes even more than they care about the policies they represent. Ideally a leader represents both themselves and their platform; however, it seems to me that if either aspect shows too many cracks, both problems with platforms or charisma can be equally damaging.

It doesn't surprise me that nearly a majority of respondents considered "Helping Everyone" to be a priority given that this is a progressive blog. The concept of fighting corruption doesn't always come up in the rhetoric of the left, but I noticed that some of my most popular posts deal with the issue of corruption. Thus, I found the low number of people concerned with corruption to be a bit surprising.

I can relate to all of these pre-mentioned options in the poll, but obviously I don't have any trouble caring about politics so I urge anyone who reads the blog regularly and voted for "It's hard to care" to let me know why. Obviously a much larger percent of the population feels this way given the exceptionally low turn-out in the last Canadian election. Even though there was a huge election in the U.S., I think it would have been bigger with a similar level of excitement a few decades ago.

Thankfully no one voted I don't know. I think this was a pretty interesting poll and to those who voted, and those who didn't, write a comment and let me know why you care about the things you do. I'm interested to hear it.


Monday, April 6, 2009

What Does Digg Like? A Cultural Study

Digg, Culture, Insanity
Digg is a huge social networking site that some claim has created a subcultural of its own. Following the model of participant observation inspired by the venture of a well-known social anthropologist, I decided to read digg and write this post. Digg's culture is certainly not without it quirks. Some would argue that Digg is nothing more than a collection of quirks. What is clear from my research is what Digg likes...

From watching the front-page for the past few days, I can tell that Digg likes:
  1. Ending monarchies that are complacent in the rise of residential coyote attacks related to cooking with bacon.
  2. Doing wheelies near dubai while obsessively staring into the eyes of the tumbling economy
  3. Making netbooks based on Disney-cloned vampires that enjoy fast and furious web development tutorials
  4. Quantum mathematics related to marijuana users on Wordpress that talk at TED in search of lithium at Microsoft
  5. Switching Babies with manatees in 1957 during car crashes in Russia covered by Bush-era torture memos
I wasn't totally satisfied with this conclusion, so I decided to create a plot out of this following the model of the Tom Clancy Plot Generator using frequently appearing terms and ideas:

Under the staring eyes of baby manatees, Monarchs devise a scheme to increase coyotee attacks for ransom. The plot twists when the Monarchs threaten to blow up the Disney-cloned vampire netbooks even after their demands are met. Millions of lives are at stake unless a turncoat quantum pot-head blogging mathematician can gain the courage to do the right thing and stop the Monarchs once and for all. The movie ends with a mildly comical and ironic scene in which the Monarchs blow up or go to Dubai. Another satisfying tale of political intrigue and personal redemption closes, and we all walk away from this movie a little poorer as the market plummets.


Google Getting More Evil; Bad Indexing

Google, Evil, MonopolyDespite the iconic slogan -- "Don't be Evil" -- it seems to me that Google is becoming more and more evil. All the while, I think its search result quality is becoming worse and worse. (Image: Google) How is Google becoming evil? Simply speaking, I believe that Google has decided to buy everything and anything in order to create a monopolized web experience.

A monopolized internet? Impossible. In the truest sense it is impossible, but often we find ourselves resorting to a Google search to start our browsing. Google also controls YouTube; the site that draws in millions daily from the U.S. alone. Google is also involved in many other markets: AdSense and AdWords for advertising, Blogger for citizen publishing, Gmail for email, the Android operating system for cellphones, Google Earth, Checkout for online transactions, Analytics for web traffic monitoring, and those are just a few highlights.

Google has bought up many technologies; they were even in the running for FaceBook and Twitter, though neither appears to be for sale yet. Google has also been complacent in the efforts of China to lockdown it's Internet users from outside content. The list goes on. Google is a business. It is an extremely effective business. As such, it seems to be that they are seeking a monopoly, and getting it in the quickest way possible.

While they do all of this, I've noticed that their search quality is dropping. Maybe I'm going crazy, but I think Google has more spam beating its filter than ever before. Maybe it was bound to happen, like some would argue Windows was bound to get viruses due to its hold on 80% of the market.

In typical fashion, I decided to Goolge "is google getting worse." The results were a bit surprising -- they actually confirmed what I thought. Webmasters were angry over the amount of spam and lacking indexing efforts.

To me it seems that Google has lost focus on its core business (though advertising is likely its true core business). Even YouTube is getting worse: embedded advertisements over the video, automatic content removal, automatic soundtrack removal, and content region restrictions have all invaded YouTube. A company like Google could do good, but now the just seem to be doing evil.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Media Ban on Return of Fallen Soldiers: Insult or Respect?

Returning, troop, mediaIn many countries involved in recent wars, some have questioned whether or not the media should have access to the return of fallen soldiers to the mainland. In the United States a media ban was in effect for 18 years until the ban was lifted early this year. (Image: NY TImes blogs) In Canada, there was a short-lived ban imposed by the Conservative government in mid 2006. An outcry by the public and military along with the families of the soldiers forced the government to end the ban a month later.

As a compromise in Canada, the family must agree to allow media coverage. All next-of-kin members must make this decision unanimously. This condition also appears in the Obama decision. Before the ban in the United States was lifted, the media could not record:
  • The return of the coffin
  • Any ceremonies at the airbase
  • And, the transportation of the coffin from the base
I personally agree with the decision to allow consensual coverage of the return. While the notion of media coverage may seem to trivialize the importance of the life of a human who went to war with the best intentions in mind, no one will view these reports as entertainment or any other type of disrespect. People want to respect and honour what the soldiers gave to their countries. They did not die because the wanted to be viewed as heroes, but, if the coverage is done right, they deserve the moment of recognition this will give them.

The first returning soldier to receive media coverage in the United States will be Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers of Hopewell, Viriginia, who died in Afghanistan on April 4th.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Palin Bid Ending Before It Starts?

Palin, Levi, ControversyOver the past few weeks Sarah Palin has had her share of controversies, from earmarks to bailout money to getting shunned by her own party. Recently, yet another story has been sent into the mainstream news to the chagrin of Palin. (Image: Huffington Post) As many of you may recall, Governor Palin's 18 year-old daughter, Bristol, was infamously revealed as pregnant soon after Palin was selected by McCain as his running mate. This news renewed the debate of education against teaching abstinence, but now the story is back in the news.

Mere weeks after Bristol stated that abstinence was "not realistic" during an interview with Fox News, her former fiancée appeared in an interview of his own. Levi Johnston, who called off the wedding, will be appearing on The Tyra Banks Show. A preview of the show released on Friday featured several controversial claims by Johnston.

For the sake of keeping this short, I will focus on only one of his statements that has drawn the most attention. Levi implied the Governor Palin knew of his sexual activity with Bristol because she was aware that he and Bristol shared a bedroom. This comment raised a lot of questions about how actively Palin enforced her policies in her own household.

These questions provoked a representative of the Palin family (no, Palin never talks for herself anymore) to release a statement. The statement says nothing about the claims made by Levi, but instead attacks him for taking an interview to seek "fame, attention, and fortune." Besides the fact that Bristol was just interviewed, recently, the Palin representative offers no response except to attack Levi.

I'll leave you with the whole clip released from The Tyra Banks Show by MSNBC:


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Can't We All Just Get Along? Yes... Sort of.

G-20, Meeting, RegulationThis week United States President Barack Obama is in Europe for the G-20 Conference and meetings with world leaders. The G-20 Conference is a meeting of the 20 wealthiest nations to discuss global economic policy. (Image: Huffington Post) The weeks started out with a stark division between rough alliances headed by the United States with the U.K. and France with Germany. The French President was skeptical that Obama would be open to regulations and had pre-emptively threatened to leave the meetings because of this suspicion.

However, this is where it differs from the petty politics of the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament -- they ended up getting along. In fact, Obama readily admitted that America was a major factor in the downturn. Four major decisions came out of this meeting:
  • A $1 Trillion global investment in the World Bank
  • New crackdowns on Tax Haven areas
  • Hedge fund regulations
  • And, a global economic oversight body to spot problems
These decisions tackle the financial situation on almost all fronts. The partisan politician of the federal U.S. Congress and similar bodies around the world could learn a lot from the G-20 meeting. If the political parties were as open to diplomacy as the leaders at this global summit, there would be a lot more being done that helps everyone.

It's time to kick those hard-line political ideologies aside. In a recession such as this, or any other time of crisis, the government needs to work. Party-politics is simply not an option.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Incase You Forgot What TV News Was About....

Letterman, News, RecapOn a recent episode of the The Late Show with David Letterman, Letterman provided a recap of what was in the news. The video (below) should serve as a reminder about the quality of cable news. (Image: Huffington Post) I think the video speaks for itself, but this is especially amusing given the week of news we've had. As I said in a recent post, we're all a bit tired of it too...

Video at the Huffington Post:

Letterman, News, Recap

Doesn't that just capture television news perfectly? I think so.


Palin Losing Internal GOP Battle? (Lies about it)

GOP, Palin, BattleYesterday evening, the Huffington Post reported that Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska had lost an important role at a major fundraising event. The event Palin will no longer attend is the joint dinner of Senate and House members, a critical source of fundraising for many campaigns. (Image: CNN) Palin was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, but has been replaced by Newt Gingrich. While a representative for the event claimed Palin had responsibilities in Alaska preventing her from attending, Palin's group denies these claims.

A representative for Palin claimed that she was never on board for the event. This denial is in spite of a previous press release confirming her involvement. According to a report by Fox News -- they tend to get Republican party stories right -- Palin decided not to attend the event after the decision was made to replace her with Newt Gingrich.

One source confirmed to Fox News that Palin was initially confirmed, but "she was a disaster" and not a leader. A Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson told Fox News that Gingrich "is a leader" and would be welcomed. Further, Fox revealed that this is the second time such an event had occurred. Palin was originally to speak at the eventful Conservative Political Action Conference, but cancelled that as well.

Both Fox News and the Huffington Post believe that Palin was unwillingly removed from this latest event, so I think It's safe to assume that is the fact in this case. Why would Palin lie about accepting the original invitation when the organizers of the event gave her an easy out by claiming she was busy in Alaska? Who knows. This is Sarah Palin after all.