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Incoherent Ramblings
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Date:2008-12-04 10:36

 Prop 8 Musical.

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Date:2008-12-02 12:03
Subject:On Governmental Competence

When I look over change.gov I'm surprised at how generally competent Obama and his soon to be administration is.  Its made up of experts and heavy hitters accross the board and seems to be designed with an emphasis on getting hard work done.  There mere presence of the website and its content marks a dramatic uptick in interactivity and openness that goes beyond what I'd imagine an executive administrator of government would put in place.  I'm very enthusiastic about this upcoming administration for the simple reason that I'm confident in the competence of the team Obama is assembling.  That many qualified people in one spot lead by an accomplishment oriented leader done in an open and transparent manner promises an inprovement in every aspect of the way government operates and forces it to operate in a manner that's beneficial to the people.

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Date:2008-10-29 15:49
Subject:Constitutional Protections

NPR says Obama's candidacy both Angers and Excites hate groups. That's somewhat unsurprising and surprising at the same time.  The article itself is interesting but the one thing I wanted to comment on was this:

...John Karl, the officer in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department's criminal conspiracy unit. "Obviously, law enforcement needs to be prepared, and how do you prepare? You need to become as resourceful and comprehensively understand the groups and individuals involved."
Karl says the First Amendment ties law enforcement's hands. Officers cannot move in until and unless these groups actually commit a crime.

"If no crime has been committed, no activity has come up on the radar screen, we can't arbitrarily start rounding people up," he said. "There is a little problem with the Constitution and things like that."

Resourcefulness and understanding of the groups in question seems to be a good way to go about combating them and constitutional rights need to be upheld while balancing the very severe issue of Obama's safety, especially if he becomes President.  However that kind of logic and restraint is rarely used when tacking left leaning anti-war groups.  The police in the past have enthusiastically violated constitutional protections in the pursuit (or sometimes the manufacturing) of convictions in those cases. Peaceful groups are treated as national security threats and preemptively struck, yet right wing hate groups somehow manage to stay under the radar of Anti-terrorism task forces unless a clear and present danger presents itself like it is now.  

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Date:2008-10-29 14:53
Subject:Legal policy based "No on 8" argument.

I saw a bunch of Yes on 8 signs on the side of the road on the way in to work this morning and got annoyed. Then I decided to try and focus on calmness and rationality in the face of what I perceive to be poor logic (I really need to work on that).  So I calmed down by focusing on developing a generic policy based argument against Prop 8 that may be more convincing to the undecided:

  1. Constitutions are, in principle, designed to grant powers to government (which without that grant has no power) and enumerate specific rights and freedoms the people have (though by assumption the people have total freedom unless limited by government via one of the powers specifically granted to it by the constitution).
  2. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (10th Amendment).
  3. The State Constitution of California doesn't restrict which adult citizens may marry, according to the California Supreme Court.
  4. Constitutions  ideally are designed to limit the power of government to restrict freedom, they are not meant to restrict the rights of the people.
  5. Therefore, amending the state constitution to limit personal freedoms is counter to the concept of constitutional rights

Regardless of how you feel about same sex marriage, amending a state or federal constitution to restrict rights runs counter to the general purpose of constitutionally limited government.

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Date:2008-08-19 23:18
Subject:Rachel Maddow gets her own show on MSNBC

Seems she'll be on after countdown.
That's a good thing, though I wish she'd have taken Chris Matthew's Job.

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Date:2008-08-13 10:48
Subject:Organic, Free Range, Animation

A friend of mine,Ruben DeLuna, works at Free Range Studios and has worked on a few new interesting projects:

An animation about there being a concrete number to shoot for in terms of getting atmospheric CO2 down to safe levels.

A website that's a more socially conscious version of Amazon, selling books, then donating money to literacy programs and donating books to needy countries. Bottom right hand corner of the page is "Animation Corner" with a link to the piece Free Range did for them.

Parable to help introduce the concepts of an author's book about finding balance in life between work and family.

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Date:2008-08-08 12:19

This is old news but relevant now when discussing gasoline prices:
Wyden Oil Report

I went to FactCheck.org to verify some info and it had a nice writeup on it already which also happen to site Senator Wyden's Oil report:

Does the U.S. lack sufficient oil refining capabilities?

Long story short is that gasoline prices are related to oil prices (obviously) but since large oil companies are vertically integrated, meaning they find, drill, ship, refine and distribute all themselves then they don't pay market prices for this oil. In that case refineries and gasoline supply play a much larger role in the price of gas. In the 90s there was an "oversupply" of gas leading to cheap prices. As such the major companies began to systematically reduce finery capacity to restrict the supply of gasoline and increase their refinery margin (profits).

There is nothing necessarily unimaginable about this, from a pure business standpoint it makes sense. Its certainly unethical and probably violates anti-trust law but most industries will behave anti-competitively if they can get away with it. Its just business, as they say.  The goal is profit and any and all efforts not specifically barred by law (and some that are) will be pursued. 
The average consumer isn't going to be happy paying higher gas prices and will demand an explanation, however. It would be foolish to suggest the industry will be straightforward with what they are doing.

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Date:2008-08-08 11:22
Subject:Oil, speculation and legislation

Senate Republicans Block Oil Speculation Bill Action

The specific issue here is a Senate bill trying to re-introduce regulations on the commodities market (of which oil is one) that had been removed just prior to large institutional investment into the oil market. To quote:

"The Senate proposal would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, to impose limits on speculative trading in oil and natural gas futures markets. It also demands more reporting in energy markets, including over-the-counter markets, to prevent manipulation."

 Long story short, these big funds couldn't invest in commodities because the huge volume of their investments would artificially drive up the price.  Mind you, political issues also played a part (Iran) and legitimate supply blips also affect the price. These however are at genuine issue to people who actually need to take delivery of oil (refineries).

A vote to end debate and vote on the bill was blocked by senate Republicans because they want to add provisions to open up currently restricted land to off shore drilling.

Its interesting to note how many investors are completely at a loss to understand that commodities, unlike stocks and bonds, reflect real world items with real world impact on people, especially the world's poor, and ups and downs in these markets consequences beyond their portfolio.  Not everything should be the plaything of the investor class.

Here is a direct link to the legislation in question

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Date:2008-07-24 14:24

There is a lot of talk about authorizing drilling on new fields from congressional Republicans.  However the Department of Energy data suggests that there would be no actual impact on oil prices until 2030 and even then the impact would be insignificant.

There is some logic to assuming that opening these fields would have an impact on oil futures contracts which would then lower the spot price of oil on the commodities exchange, which is what McCain is suggesting as the source of the recent drop in oil price to about $126.  I thought that this contradicts his campaign's earlier statements that the futures market doesn't have any real impact on the cash price but I couldn't find any reference to that affect.  Maybe it was something Phil Gram said. Not sure. The Economist certainly tried to suggest futures contracts don't impact the spot price.

The point is that there is a suggestion that lifting the executive order prohibiting drilling in certain areas caused a drop in the oil price even though nothing actually happened...especially considering that it doesn't do anything until congress acts as well.  I don't think that link is necessarily causal considering the investors are well aware of the true impact any new drilling would have (minimal).

In any case the oil market is very complex and responds to many different forces at once.  Its not a single entity; rather an emergent pattern based in the inputs of many different actors who each act according to their best interest.  There are many acts that can affect the market, each with varying degrees of intensity.  It annoys me that politicians continue to trumpet simple solutions as the fix to complex problems.

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Date:2008-07-11 04:12
Subject:Obama and FISA

The FISA bill that just passed the Senate was an example of further Democratic capitulation to the overreaching Bush Administration.  So focused on the upcoming election it seems the Senate leadership has lost sight of the present.  The rundown:

  • FISA (Foreign Intelligent Surveillance Act) is being updated. The bill passed by the Senate had a particularly nasty amendment that immunized Telecom companies for their illegal spying on US Citizens because it was "authorized" by the White House.
  • The White House could not legally authorize the surveillance, the FISA law required a warrant for each tap and the White House asserted it needed no such warrant and stated it intended to ignore the FISA law.
  • The Senate recently passed a bill immunizing this past illegal behavior at the behest of the Bush Administration.
  • The Senate leadership did not properly oppose this immunization because the White House stated their removal would result in a Veto.
  • The Senate leadership feels a Veto of this bill and a failure to authorize new FISA regulations (though the old regulations were just fine) would endanger their seats in more conservative states. 
  • Without this bill, the old regulations would be in place. Those regulations are just fine but the Bush Administration has chosen to ignore them.
As such it is analogous to driving 75 in a 65 mph zone, being caught, then insisting that all 65mph zones be retroactively defined as 75mph zones and having your case dismissed.  How does Obama play into this?  He, in spite of previous promises, will not oppose this bill.  He did vote in favor of an amendment to remove the retroactive immunity but ultimately voted in favor of the bill.
I understand his perspective and I think its more about DNC strategy and the fear of losing Democratic seats in the more conservative districts, but its still wrong.  Politics is a constant example of idealism vs pragmatism in conflict and I can't accurately predict the best possible decision for him to make. Glenn Greenwald of Salon gives a more in depth analysis than I am willing to do so at this point.  I humbly point in his direction for all of the details.

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Date:2008-07-11 02:42
Subject:So I saw Hancock...
Mood: pensive

Its a flawed movie both in concept and execution but is much more complex than the marketing material would suggest.  It seems to have been misunderstood by main stream reviewers mostly because I don't think they  are set up to deal with anything that gets too far outside the box. Its not helped that the movie was sort of hacked up to make it a PG-13 when it really needed to be an R. Some movie exec made this choice purely on the numbers with little regard to how it would impact the movie itself.

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Date:2008-04-15 15:41
Subject:An Engineer's Guide to Cats

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Date:2008-04-09 15:49

FAA inspectors have been fairly lax up until recently and letting violations slide. This whistle-blower was under pressure from the top. I'm sure that was the case with many. Some probably just didn't care or somehow found a way to profit from it. Now that this is out in the open various airlines are having to pay the piper

This reflects a larger problem within government over the past 8 years. I place the blame mostly on the Bush administration and the general philosophy of unresponsive government. The general idea of government promoted by this administration (and the Reagan Administration) is that government doesn't have a purpose to actually serve the people.

Instead its used as a vehicle to foster the growth of industry and corporate profits. The thing we as Americans can't seem to get a handle on is that every action has consequences. While we are more than happy to moralize incessantly about enforcing consequences on social transgressions (whatever they may be) that are so abhorrent to the more conservative elements of society, the one thing that we as a nation have failed to do is apply that to the higher end of society. The multinational corporations and ultra rich, in spite of their already vast resources, seek to improve their profit margins by continually externalize as many costs as possible onto the people.

Regulations and inspections cost money and reduce profits. Its a fact of life. But regulations and inspections also ensure that things (like planes, bridges, roads) continue to function properly. By taking the short term gain of forgoing inspections and maintenance of our infrastructure we "save" money upfront and spend an order of magnitude more when it all comes crashing down.

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Date:2008-04-08 13:51

I came across an interesting comic by Barry Deutsch. On a (somewhat) timely subject given the discussions of ethnicity and gender of recent in the American press. Thanks to unusualmusic for digging that up.

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Date:2008-01-18 10:23
Subject:Obama on Reagan

Much has been made on Obama's reference to Ronald Reagan in an interview recently though I have not seen any media people do any in depth reporting on this issue with any sort of context.  As a disclaimer, I do favor Obama in the current primary race so I have to be sure I stay objective in my analysis of him to make sure I'm not missing something.  I was concerned about those comments, seeing as I'm not a very big fan of Reagan as a man or as a president.  With some digging I was able to find the entire interview in question.  I think this interview shows how well he grasps the issues related to government, government service and working with government. The long story short is that his praise of Reagan is more so on questions of leadership styles and moments of change.

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Date:2008-01-15 16:44
Subject:Dominionist in Chief

It seems Huckabee has made clear his opinion on the place of the church in politics. 

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And thats what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

This should also end Chis Matthews assertions that no Republican has clearly stated that the United States should be a Christian nation.

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Date:2008-01-14 10:04

Chris Matthews of MSNBC is somewhat of a stain on that organization.  He's generally way off base on his analysis and his sexist treatment of women in politics and punditry is shameful. Media Matters has him front and center this week and he's pretty much been a source of major comment on the net since his Clinton obsession has raised its head again surrounding the NH primaries. 

Rachel Maddow, the media juggernaut she is, even called him on it to his face.

I, for one, would like to see "Hardball with Rachel Maddow" sometime in the future MSNBC lineup.

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Date:2008-01-14 09:22
Subject:Story of Stuff

Ruben DeLuna, A friend of mine did the animation on The Story of Stuff:
"From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

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Date:2008-01-14 09:16
Subject:Its been a while.

Yeah, its been a while.  I have a bunch of stuff to lay out so I'll get started:

This clip by Democrovision on Youtube gets to the point very quickly on my problems with both CNN and the Clinton campaign:

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Date:2007-04-12 09:11
Subject:Kurt Vonnegut

So Kurt Vonnegut finally decided enough was enough and cashed in his chips today after playing for 84 years. I'd say he ended the game up quite a bit. I've always been impressed by his ability in interviews to just get right to the point of whatever it is he was talking about, though I guess once one reaches his age they have the luxury of dispensing with any pretense. Some interesting comments of his I've read:
Based on what you’ve read and seen in the media, what is not being said in the mainstream press about President Bush’s policies and the impending war in Iraq?

That they are nonsense. 

...He also states...

"I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or “PPs.”

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