July, 2006 archive
More Money Than Sense Dept. 4
How much is a good night’s sleep worth?
Hollandia International, an Israeli company, is betting that discerning Americans will pay $10,000 and up – way up – for a cushy mattress and a moveable frame.
My bed, including the frame, mattress, and box springs, cost about $700. Granted, that was a firesale price at a going out of business sale. But let’s do a little arithmetic.
I would be hard pressed to believe, skeptic that I am, that this Hollandia is almost 15 times better than my bed, which seems to work just fine, thank you.
That Looks like My Box (Well, Except for the Charcoal) 3
Another Dell laptop has undergone spontaneous combustion, prompting the evacuation of the office it was situated in and the urgent intervention of the local fire brigade. Pictures of the incident point to a battery meltdown as the cause of the conflagration.
All seriousness aside, I’m thinking it’s possible they disregarded or did not receive a warning from Dell. Early on after I purchased the box I’m using right now, I got an email from Dell stating that there were problems with certain batteries from a particular vendor. Being rather paranoid about computers blowing up, I checked my battery and found it did not bear the suspect model numbers.
Might still take it out when I’m on AC, though . . . .
Guarding Our Borders 4
Department of Homeland Security, La Migra Division, protecting us from the threat posed by 82-year-old Haitian preachers; it started on October 29, 2004 and ended four days later:
Excerpts of from the AP story follow. Click the link to read the whole thing.
When he stepped off the plane, he showed the immigration officer his tourist visa, which didn’t expire until 2008. He’d made plenty of trips to the United States without trouble, had his throat cancer surgery in New York years before. He often visited his brothers in that state, both American citizens now. His niece, Edwidge, was an accomplished author with a home right here in Miami.
But the customs officer had asked how long he planned to stay, and the reverend told him the God’s honest truth.
“A group that is causing trouble in Haiti wants to kill me,” he said.
“They burned down my church …
“I fear for my life … ”
He explained that he might need temporary asylum.
(and he was hustled off to detention; his medicine was confiscated and the prison doctor prescribed him something different.–ed.)
Rev. Dantica took a chair next to his lawyer inside Krome’s asylum unit. A hearing officer was readying to ask Pastor why he had fled Haiti and believed it too dangerous to return home.
From a speaker phone on the desk, a Creole interpreter asked Pastor to move closer so he could be heard more clearly. Rev. Dantica leaned in when suddenly …
“Oh my God,” John Pratt thought.
Pastor was vomiting uncontrollably. Bile covered the desk, his face, the front of his detention uniform. He’d dropped his voice box, which was rendered inoperable. Slumped in his chair and barely conscious, Pastor couldn’t communicate.
Medics arrived, and took Pastor away on a stretcher. Inside the urgent care unit, medical personnel started an intravenous line, ran three electrocardiograms to check Pastor’s heart and found a replacement voice box. His abdomen was swollen and tender to the touch. All signs seemed to point to a bowel obstruction, the staff physician concluded.
Rev. Dantica was put in leg restraints and placed in an ambulance.
He died alone — at 8:46 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2004, in the criminal ward of a strange hospital, a guard outside his door.
Related analysis here.
Bikini Irony 0
Republican Mudslinging in Tennessee . . . at Each Other 0
Grab some popcorn, sit back, and watch the show (courtesy factcheck.org):
Senate candidate Bob Corker accuses two rivals of voting to raise their own pay while in the House, but in fact Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant repeatedly voted against raises.
Bryant fires back with a charge that Corker failed to pay his taxes, when in fact businessman Corker paid millions, sometimes voluntarily giving the government more than he owed.
Horse. Barn Door. Not Open Yet. 0
What’s this say about the current Federal Administration?
An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.
Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.
In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such “protections,” according to someone who heard his remarks last week.
What have we done to have officials who fear prosecution for war crimes?
May God have mercy on our souls.
News Exhaustion 9
Phillybits said it so well:
There’s so much going on in the world right now and so much of it is wrong, it’s hard for me to even muster a coherent thought that remains within reason in terms of the dialogue I want to set forth here. Some of the news I’m reading right now has just got me so thoroughly angry that it’s probably best if I refrain for the time being.
Furthermore, you’re not missing any of it if you’re not reading it here. Your major bloggers are always on top of every thing going on the world and I guess with so many other people writing, it’s ok if I miss something and take a break.
So did Digby:
This is a very dangerous moment for the world. The US is showing over and over again that it is immmoral (sic) and incompetent. That is the kind of thing that leads ambitious, crazy or stupid people to miscalculate and set disasterous events in motion. The neocons have destroyed America’s carefully nurtured mystique by seeking to flex its muscles for the sake of flexing them. What a mistake. This country is much, much weaker today because of it and the world is paying the price. At some point I have to imagine that we are going to be paying it too. Big Time.
The incompetent bumbling evil of the current Federal Administration is stultifying. Yeah, they talk about family values.
Watch their actions. I don’t know about the values of their families, or of your families, but the values of my family do not include law-breaking, torture, lying, or concentration camps.
Even that bastion of far-left-leaning pinko commie thought, the American Bar Association, has had enough.
Happy Anniversary 0
This year is the 60th anniversary of the bikini swimsuit.
Let us all raise our glasses in a toast!
Update, 7/30/2006: The local rag’s Elizabeth Wellington reflects on the meaning of the bikini here.
Great Error Messages of Our Time 0
This is a hoot–especially the link to 404 page about half-way down.
Is Nothing Sacred Dept. 2
The Washington Post today featured a chat with Amal Saad-Ghorayeb,
Assistant Professor at the Lebanese American University and author of Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion. I found it very interesting.
This is not to say that I agree with any, some, most, or all of what she says (she is, after all, Lebanese and her viewpoint is that of a Lebanese), but that what she says contributes to an understanding of why the Middle East pot just keeps boiling:
Among other things–many other things–she says, in response to a question,
I think the US has played a very destructive role in this current conflict. It is the only Western nation to completely side with Israel and to refuse an immediate cease-fire. The Lebanese govt. which is closely allied to the US has beseeched the US to end Israel’s aggression but the administartion refuses to do so, thereby undermining and weakening that govt. In her visit to Lebanon today, Rice again refused to press Israel for a cease-fire. And then you have John Bolton’s famous line about there being “no moral equivalence between civilians killed by Israel and the victims of terrorism.” In other words, an israeli life is more valuable than a Lebanese life. How can the US be considered an honest peace-broker in this conflcit?
The chat and her article can help understanding of what’s happening over there.
Slanted News, Slanted Viewers 0
The tendency to see bias in the news — now the raison d’etre of much of the blogosphere — is such a reliable indicator of partisan thinking that researchers coined a term, “hostile media effect,” to describe the sincere belief among partisans that news reports are painting them in the worst possible light.
Ross thinks this is because partisans often feel the news lacks context. Instead of just showing a missile killing civilians, in other words, partisans on both sides want the news to explain the history of events that prompted — and could have justified — the missile. The more knowledgeable people are, the more context they find missing.
Even more curious, the hostile media effect seems to apply only to news sources that strive for balance (this lets Fox News off the hook–Ed). News reports from obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias. Partisans, it turns out, find it easier to countenance obvious propaganda than news accounts that explore both sides.
Update: 7/20/2006: On the Media interviewed the author of the story this week; here’s the blurb from their website. I’ll post a link to the transcript when it becomes available:
More Middle East coverage this weekâ€¦ more charges of bias. Over the years, most news organizations have become accustomed to complaints from all sides in the conflict. But as Shankar Vedantam wrote this week in the Washington Post, studies show that the partisans who lob most of the criticism are predisposed to see bias, for the simple reason that they care. Vedantam explains to Bob the psychology of the partisan prism.
Blogging Lebanon 0
On the Media, which aired today in the Greater Philadelphia Co-Prosperity Sphere, included an interview with .J. Goldberg, editor of the Jewish newspaper The Forward. He discussed U. S. media coverage of the Middle East. Here’s the website’s description of the show:
Whenever news media turn their attention to the Middle East, accusations of bias â€“ from all sides â€“ are sure to follow. This week was no exception. But the storyâ€™s a little different than itâ€™s been in the past, and bias aside, American media havenâ€™t quite adjusted to the new realities. Thatâ€™s the view of J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Jewish newspaper The Forward. He tells Brooke that journalistsâ€™ attempts at â€œscrupulous balanceâ€ come at the expense of accuracy.
In the midst of his comments, he stated that left-leaning blogs have been relatively silent regarding the Lebanon-Israel situation.
Not the blogs I’ve seen! I won’t even bother to post any links. Start on my sidebar with the Huffington Post and just go from there.
But I have been silent about it.
Now, I am not a political blogger; I’m a blogger who has politics. I do not do this for political ends; I do it because I like making computers work and I like shooting off my mouth. And I am not afraid to express my opinions.
Nevertheless, I have avoided discussing what’s going on in Lebanon. I am so distressed and appalled at the events there I just do not want to think about them, let alone form opinions. I go to Professor Cole’s site every other day or so, but can’t finish reading the reports of death, destruction, and mayhem.
I fear the opinions I would form, for none of them fill me with optimism.
But it is further evidence that the current Federal Administration’s vision of a Pax Americana enforced with U. S. arms is, at the most charitable interpretation, a fantasy and, at worst (and I happen to believe the worst here), a duplicitous hoax upon the American people and the world.
God help us all.
Update, 7/30/2006: A transcript of the interview is here.
Nothing Will Be Private Anymore 0
Does the federal government need to know whether you aced Aristotelian ethics but had to repeat introductory biology? Does it need to know your family’s financial profile, how much aid you received and whether you took off a semester to help out at home?
The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education thinks so. In its first draft report, released in late June, the commission called for creation of a tracking system to collect sensitive information about our nation’s college students. Its second draft, made public last week, softens the name of the plan, but the essence of the proposal remains unchanged.
What is with the current Federal Administration’s obsession with collecting personal data on Americans? It seems pathological. Indeed, it reminds me of The Butterfly Collector.
Membership Drive 0
One way to jack up the rolls:
In 2001, Jennifer B. Chace heard an insurance broker’s pitch for a new insurance company marketing tax-free medical savings accounts. She jumped at the offer, but first, the broker told her, she would have to sign an application — already filled out — that would entitle her to a low group rate.
With that signature, Chace, a Florida dentist in the market for health insurance, unwittingly joined one of Washington’s most prominent conservative organizations, Citizens for a Sound Economy, she would later testify.
“Before I showed you this form today, did you even realize that you signed a form that was an application for membership in Citizens for a Sound Economy?” her lawyer would ask during a 2004 deposition.
“I don’t know what Citizens for a Sound Economy is,” she replied.
And with that signature, claims the class action suit, she and many other insurance buyers unknowingly became regular dues-paying “members” of a right-wing political group without their knowledge.
Conservative values at work?
Foretelling the Future 0
I was going to write some clever post about how Tom Tomorrow foretold the future, but, instead, I’ll just point anyone who is interested to Phillybits’s post: here. Scroll down to the 2003 cartoon at the end of the post.
Oh, yeah, the stuff about Santorum is right on target.
Ruling in Cancer Treatment Case 0
I mentioned this earlier. Apparently the judge doesn’t think much more of Mexican cancer clinics than I do:
A judge ruled Friday that a 16-year-old boy fighting to use alternative treatment for his cancer must report to a hospital by Tuesday and accept treatment that doctors deem necessary, the family’s attorney said.
The judge also found Starchild Abraham Cherrix’s parents were neglectful for allowing him to pursue alternative treatment of a sugar-free, organic diet and herbal supplements supervised by a clinic in Mexico, lawyer John Stepanovich said.
Jay and Rose Cherrix of Chincoteague planned to appeal, the lawyer said.
After chemotherapy last year made him nauseated and weak, the teen rejected doctors’ recommendations to go through a second round when he learned his Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, had recurred.
One of my friends says that 16-year old should be able to make his own health care decisions.
I think that is a defensible position. That may be morally the case, though legally he is still a minor. The decision should, nevertheless, be an informed decision; anyone who chooses Mexican cancer clinics is not making an informed decision (follow the link in the initial post for more information about Mexican cancer clinics).
The judge’s decision may have been wrong; that what appeals are for. The teen’s choice is certainly wrong.
A judge ruled Tuesday that a 16-year-old cancer patient who has refused conventional medical treatment does not have to report to a hospital as previously ordered and scheduled a trial to settle the dispute.
This ruling is pending a new trial.
Recycle Delaware 0
I dropped off two weeks of the local rag at the recycle place this week and could not resist taking this picture:
A Moral Stand 0
Mr. Bush claims he has vetoed the stem cell legislation because he believes destroying embryos is murder.
Now, I am not going to take a position on the bill. I listened to the two commentaries on stem cell research on NPR the last two days: pro and con, and I have read much more. I’m not sure what my position is, and I am quite willing to admit my confusion.
What I do have with no confusion is contempt for hypocrites.
If Mr. Bush believes that destruction of embryos is murder, what steps is he taking to end the practice of in vitro fertilization, which produces thousands of embryos which will eventually be destroyed? Or, if not end that practice, demand that all these embryos be implanted in women so they have the opportunity to become fetuses, then babies, then persons?
And why aren’t his female supporters on this issue volunteering to carry these embryos to term?
To the extent that he vetoes this bill, with all his high-sounding statements, but does nothing to end the creation of all the embryos that will eventually be tossed out the back door as red bag waste, he is a hypocrite.
To make an analogy, to take a moral stand against murder with a knife, while taking no stand against murder with a garrotte (or a BFI truck), is to take no moral stand at all.
Mr. Bush’s moral stands are stands of political convenience, not stands of courage.
In other news, US Airways is going to sell advertising on airsick bags. I could use one now.
White House press secretary Tony Snow apologized on Monday for suggesting that President Bush believed stem-cell research amounted to “murder,” saying he was “overstating the president’s position.”
“He would not use that term,” Snow told reporters.
Cop out. Their reasons still strains the rules of logic. It’s still better, I guess, for the embryos to be thrown out than put to use? The only logical outcome of the Bushies’ position is to prevent the creation of the embryos in the first place.