March 31, 2005

Sex pills kill

Ok, that's a slight overstatement. But a new study shows that some men who take Viagra suffer permanent vision loss. This is not good.

All of the men who suffered this had other risk factors as well, including hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But still. Apparently Viagra works to constrict arteries, and not just where it's supposed to.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:15 PM | Comments (3)

Radio interruptus

News item:

Hawaii Public Radio began its twice-yearly pledge drive Wednesday with a goal of $517,000 and its usual promise to suspend fund raising as soon as the goal is reached.

"You could be a tremendous help by getting this great big ball rolling," General Manager Michael Titterton said during the first minutes of the campaign.

By 7 a.m. HST, pre-drive contributions and the first giving of the actual drive added up to $131,219, more than a quarter of the goal. The campaign is scheduled to run through the end of next week, but HPR has a policy of halting the effort as soon as it raises what it asks.

Titterton announced that HPR was working on upgrading its repeater station on Oahu's North Shore, with the intent of making it strong enough to put a fair signal over to Kauai. HPR recently powered up a station at Kamuela on the Big Island. HPR already had a station in Hilo, and one on Maui, which repeat the signal of KHPR Honolulu.

The fall campaign, which ended last Oct. 28, raised $503,540, $6,540 more than the intended goal, due to a rush of giving in the last few minutes of the campaign.

Listener contributions form the largest source of revenue to Hawaii Public Radio, comprising more than 60 percent of all its revenue from all sources.

Free subscription to Honolulu Magazine with your annual membership! Sign up now!


Posted by Linkmeister at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2005

On living wills...

Ok, this is over the topjust about right.

* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.

* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

There's lots more. Link lifted from Atrios.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:54 PM | Comments (3)

Ah, geology

When you look at polls, the greater the margin of error, the less reliable the poll, right? What if your margin of error is 10 million years?

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2005

In the midst of life...

Falwell hospitalized with respiratory ailment.

Pope may need feeding tube.

Ironies abound.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:32 PM | Comments (5)

How can this be believed?

Tonight, in a segment about the Creationism Wars on The News Hour, I heard some ID proponent say that radiodating was based on assumptions. Ah, here it is:

KEN HAM: You think about it. Who was there to see that happen? Who was there to see life arise from matter? No one. How did they know it happened? It's their belief. Who was there to see the big bang? No one. How did they know it happened? It's their belief.


KEN HAM: When you use dating methods, whether it's radiometric dating methods, whatever sorts of dating methods that you use, they're all based on assumptions concerning the past, assumptions concerning initial conditions.

No sir, your Bible is based on assumptions. Were you there? Are you a reincarnation of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John? Or one of the authors of Genesis?

Who is this man?

Over 20 years ago, Dr Carl Wieland, Ken Ham and others saw that the church in their own country, Australia, was struggling and often compromising its biblical integrity in the face of the ever-increasing attacks from those hostile to Christianity. They realized that most Christians were not equipped to provide answers to a ‘doubting’ world in a so-called age of science. In response to these observations, they began speaking on creation/evolution issues—equipping the church to answer the skeptics, and encouraging the body of Christ to trust in the authority of God's Word.

Can't Australia keep its fools to itself?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

March 28, 2005

National Poetry Month is upon us

Ok, I'm sort of over Arizona's collapse on Saturday, but not enough to do anything which requires thought. So here's a link to Knopf's Daily Poem project, timed to be out just in time for April, always designated National Poetry Month.

Link found over at Book of Joe.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2005


U of A VS. U of I

89 - 90 OT

How the hell do you blow a 15-point lead with 4:00 left in regulation?

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

Under attack?

The questions are nearly 2,000 years old, yet in this culturally divisive American moment, a time when believers feel besieged and skeptics think themselves surrounded, a reconstruction of Jesus' journey from Jewish prophet to Christian savior suggests that faith, like history, is nearly always more complicated than it seems. (My emphasis)

That's from the cover story of this week's edition of Newsweek. It's an interesting read. The questions it refers to are: how did Jesus come to be viewed by billions [of people] as the Son of God, and why did Christianity succeed where so many other small religious movements had failed before and since? I'm not prepared to answer either, but that italicized sentence above is intriguing. How is it that a country in which "78 percent of Americans believe Jesus rose from the dead; 75 percent say that he was sent to Earth to absolve mankind of its sins. Eighty-one percent say they are Christians..." all those people can possibly feel "besieged?" It's manifested in Tom Delay's comments to the Family Research Council:

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with liberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."

When the Congress and the Executive Branch seem to be wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Religious Right, how is it they manage to persuade people they're under attack from all sides? I don't believe that Christians are dumb or unable to recognize facts as presented, so how is it this kind of malarkey sells?

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:30 PM | Comments (4)

March 25, 2005

Tiptoe, through the...sea bottom?

Look! Walking Octopi!

This is one of the more bizarre things I've seen recently. There's a story about this in the current Science, but unless you're a subscriber you're outta luck. However, somebody apparently is a subscriber, and he/she has put the video up. (Note: you gotta click the play button on the left of the slider)

Link and further information from Pharyngula.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:05 AM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2005

Firefox fixes

Does Firefox's autofill feature annoy you? When you type in the first letter of a field in a form does it call up memories of past typos? Thanks to Kathy in Kevin Drum's comments, there's a solution: highlight the mistake and press Shift-Delete. It goes away!

Also, there's a new version of Firefox (1.02) which purports to fix some security issues with dot-gif files.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:05 PM | Comments (7)

Democratic values?

Hmm. Mom found this in a Sunday WaPo article. It's called The Principles Project, and here's its declaration of values.

We believe in America's historic promise of liberty, justice and the expansion of opportunity for all people. These commitments to fundamental human dignity and a better nation for all animate the American spirit and give us a sense of common purpose. We honor these commitments by recognizing that with the great freedoms afforded us comes an even greater responsibility to see that those freedoms are extended to all people in all places.

We believe that this sense of shared responsibility -- for our families, our communities, our nation and our world -- strengthens our country and secures our future.

  • We believe in defending dignity
  • We believe in strengthening democracy
  • We believe in promoting progress
  • We believe in embracing leadership
As progressives, these are our guiding principles -- to defend dignity, to strengthen democracy, to promote progress and to embrace leadership. We believe that our country must always be looking toward a better and brighter future for all people, and in this pursuit we pledge to come forward and work with whomever we can. We will fight for these principles in every community, every forum and every office of government, because the struggles of this new century will not only be about preserving the freedoms we already enjoy -- they will be about expanding those freedoms for all people.
Each one of those bulleted ideas has a paragraph attached: go read it all. Then look at the About page to see who they are. They've got a slew of partners, including Americans Coming Together, Americans for Democratic Action and 21st Century Democrats.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

The New England Journal weighs in

The New England Journal of Medicine today published two articles about the Schiavo case. Both are open-access. The first, called "Terri Schiavo -- A Tragedy Compounded" can be read via Acrobat here (3 pages). The second, entitled "Culture of Life" Politics at the Bedside -- The Case of Terri Schiavo can be read, also via Acrobat, here (6 pages). The first is written by a doctor, the second by a lawyer with a Masters in Public Health; both are in laymen's English.

The first lays out the historical facts and comes to the conclusion that courts are the last place that decisions of this nature should be made. Having said that, the author comes down on the side of Michael Schiavo. The second is a well-written blast at Congress (particularly the doctors who are members of that body) for interfering with the court system and ignoring the precedents set by the Karen Quinlan and Nancy Cruzon cases.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

March 22, 2005

When cash flow goes bad

So off I go to Kaiser this morning to pick up a month's worth of cholesterol and BP pills, and I hit the ATM to get the $30 I need to cover the co-pay amount for each drug. I get to the window, hand the lady my membership card, and she goes off to get the pills I'd previously phoned in for. She comes back with three-month supplies of each. Great, right? Well, except that suddenly it's $90 for the co-pay, not $30. Sigh.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

Heavenly thoughts

Oh, my. Pat Oliphant has a wonderful cartoon about the Schiavo bill.

From comments at Big Brass Blog.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

March 21, 2005


Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise has taken up the challenge initially set forth by the Democracy Cell Project and is publicizing a letter-writing campaign to the media to express disgust with its treatment of the Schiavo case. Here's mine:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am writing to tell you that there are many Americans (as the polls seem to indicate) who find the actions of Congress last evening reprehensible. I am one. The Constitutional ramifications of the vote yesterday are severe. Congress has essentially concluded that it can, on a whim, yank a court case from a state's jurisdiction when it doesn't like the outcome. This is wrong, and it sets a dangerous precedent for the separation of powers.

Moreover, it might behoove you in the media to temper your language when describing this situation. All day yesterday the television anchors were breathlessly announcing that Congress might step in "to save Terry Schiavo." Any reasonable reading of the medical documents would have shown that there is nothing to save; Mrs. Schiavo has no cognitive ability left, and without that, we are all just warm breathing pieces of meat.


If you want to join in, here are the addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Copy and paste into your e-mail program.

Update:, & came back undeliverable. There may be an updated list at Majikthise's place in the comments.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:30 PM | Comments (3)

Schiavo explicated

This is by far the best explanation of the Schiavo case I've seen so far. It's long, and it doesn't address the overnight activities of Congress; that's to be taken up later. It concludes:

...the takehome message is: first, it's about autonomy. Second, the result in this case follows from basic facts about the way we adjudicate these cases. There is nothing novel about the case itself. Third, if you think about what would be involved in changing these basic principles, it doesn't seem very attractive.

It goes into the history of the case very thoroughly, from the cause of Mrs. Schiavo's heart attack to the latest (third) removal of the feeding tube. If you want a solid overview, this one's it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)

March 20, 2005

Usurpation of power; your Congress at work

Atrios has dug up an interview with a legal expert from CBS News which discusses the implications of Congressional interference in the Schiavo case.

QUESTION: So the years of state-court litigation would be wiped off the map, as if it never took place?

ANSWER: If Congress gets its way, yes. That's why the legislators in Washington put the words "de novo" into the legislation, so that the federal courts would not be bound by anything the state courts in Florida had done. Terri Schiavo's parents still would have to convince the federal judge that her rights are being violated, and they would have to have the medical evidence to back that up (which they did not have in the state case), but the state case would not act as a mandated precedent in federal court. (My emphasis)

QUESTION: What does that concept do the regular give and take between the court systems, the idea of comity and cooperation between judges?

ANSWER: It destroys it. But that's the whole point of this Congressional action. Not liking a particular result in a case that has been litigated fully and completely by a court with competent jurisdiction, Congress now has said that the game must be re-done with new rules that heavily favor one side over the other. The implications of this move are astonishing. Just think about it. Anytime Congress doesn't like the result in a particular case, it could swoop in and call a "do-over," which is essentially what this legislation represents.

Read the entire interview. It's chilling. What's really cynical is that it comes from the party which has always had states' rights as one of its core "beliefs." Apparently beliefs are things that can be put aside like overcoats when convenient.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:06 AM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2005

Women of the blogosphere, unite!

In case you haven't noticed, there's recently been a concerted effort to get the politically-oriented women bloggers more notice, brought on by yet another round of the "where are they all?" questions by well-meaning but slightly myopic men. I've stayed out of it, because I don't link to anyone very much. However, I'll happily contribute a pointer to Elayne's ongoing efforts to call attention to them. She started a project she's calling "Estrogen Month," and the info about it can be found here. I've found several new voices and added them to the blogroll on the right. I'm not gonna itemize, because I'd offend somebody, but there are plenty more out there. Go read Elayne and follow her links.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:44 PM | Comments (3)

Gotta love these guys

ABC News obtained talking points circulated among Senate Republicans explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them, that it is an important moral issue and the "pro-life base will be excited," and that it is a "great political issue -- this is a tough issue for Democrats."

Ah, yes. Once again the Republicans show great human concern for Terry Schiavo, her parents, and her husband. Charming.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:06 AM | Comments (3)

March 18, 2005

Yesterday steroids, today...

Every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.

Yet one woman in a "persistent vegetative state" is accorded the attention of the US Congress. Where are their priorities?

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

Rudimentary genealogy

Now this is fascinating. Go here, type in your last name, select the census year you're looking for, and you'll get a map of the geographic distribution of your last name for that period. It looks to be relatively accurate; I know our family name first appeared in Virginia, and when I check for 1850 the only state which has my name is that one.

From the website: "The sources of the surname data are the 1850 Census, 1880 Census, 1920 Census, and 1990's phone books. Note that the Census data is a sampling of 1 in 100 names, so the 1990 data is the most accurate."

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

March 17, 2005

Musician joke

Q. "What's an oboe?"

A. "An ill woodwind that nobody blows good."

Your turn.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:19 PM | Comments (4)

Tropic of Cancer it ain't, but...

You might have been a little surprised to hear that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has said Catholics shouldn't read The DaVinci Code. The Church has a long history of banning books, which didn't officially end until 1966. Authors on the prohibited list included: Descartes, Bacon, Spinoza, Locke, Kant, Zola and Milton.

I suspect that this ban will be as fruitless as most. In fact, I've had little interest in reading it, but now...

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)

March 16, 2005

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank? The same guy who said this?

"The oil revenues of Iraq could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." – Paul Wolfowitz, [Congressional Testimony, 3/27/03]

With that sort of forecasting skill, he should be an outstanding loan officer.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

Price versus wage indexing

In the great Social Security debate there's been some discussion of converting from wage-indexing to price-indexing. This is the best explanation I've seen so far:

Using the term "indexing" to describe what is being proposed creates confusion and makes a simple proposal seem complex, so let me try to clarify it.

Right now, Social Security benefits are based on an average of wages earned over a 35-year period. Over time, labor productivity has gone up. With more education and more or better machines, what each worker can produce in an hour's time increases. Thus, each worker produces more real output and our standard of living rises, assuming that our wages rise with productivity. If you contribute more to society’s output, you deserve more in return. This is how market economies are supposed to work, and did for most of the 20th century.

If productivity is rising by 3 percent a year, our standard of living should go up by 3 percent a year. But what if inflation was also 3 percent? If our wages rose by just 3 percent, we would not be able to purchase any more real output than the year before. So to correct for this, wages need to rise by 6 percent (3 percent for productivity and 3 percent for inflation). This is also what happened for most of the 20th century, except for a couple of periods in which wages did not keep up with inflation.

When the Bush administration proposes indexing benefits to price increases, what they are suggesting is stripping out the part of wage increases that result from productivity increases and only allowing for the increased caused by inflation. It is the equivalent of linking your retirement benefits to the very first job you take, rather the job you hold at retirement. It freezes your retirement standard of living at whatever the standard of living was when you entered the workforce.

According to the commission appointed by President Bush, if this "price indexing" approach is implemented, someone retiring 40 years from now would see their retirement income cut by half. They would receive only half of what they would receive if we left the system alone.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

Beware the Ides of April

I bought a copy of Turbo Tax and I've been playing around with it today. Seemed to me rather than paying a tax guy $150 to plug my numbers into some software I could plug them in myself. When I compare it to last year's form prepared by a professional, I have no obvious holes or things grossly out of line.

I sure don't like the results, though.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

March 14, 2005

HD ready or not

Our four or five-year-old analog 27"-screen Toshiba television is dying, so we're thinking of buying a new HD-ready tv. One of the ones we're looking hard at is this one. The dimensions are about right (it sits in a corner with a hanging fish tank above it, so height as well as depth and width are issues), and it seems to have all the features we want. Apparently the set-top box required for HD reception comes from the cable company (for another $7/month). Has anyone bought an HD set, and if so, what was the search like? Is paying for installation worth the cost? Circuit City wants an extra $20 to do it, which seems reasonable, especially since they'll take the old machine away. I'm just wondering how difficult it is. After you unplug the old machine, plug in the new one and recable the other stuff to the A/V plugs, what else is there?

Side note: we bought an Olympic television similar to this in the mid-1950s and kept it until 1968 when we moved to Guam, where there was no tv station. Why do the things break so fast now?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)

March 13, 2005


Alright. It's a weekend, fit for laundry-doing and non-angrifying news reading, so here's some musical info. Last week Mark Morford went off on a rant about -- well, let him tell you:

This is the problem with rock radio. It has become the last option, the thing you listen to only when all other options fail, when you're too tired to pop in a CD or too lazy to reach for the iPod or just a little too buzzed on premium tequila and postcoital nirvana to care about searching your glove box for that old AC/DC tape. In short, rock radio is for people who buy their Matchbox 20 CDs from Target.

It has become background noise, something you leave on just to keep you from falling asleep as you drive to Sacramento, more ads than music and more generic than electrifying, a nearly dead form that lost its spark about 15 years ago and that is quickly giving way to Sirius and XM and your ability to burn your own custom-mix CDs for pennies apiece and listen to them for three days and throw them away and burn a new one.

So many of his readers said, "Dude! You don't know about this and this and this and this?" So he wrote a new column including all those suggestions. Have fun.

(Via Seeing the Forest).

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2005

Good thing it's been raining

"The automated sprinkler system isn't working."

"Why do you say that?"

"The water bill this month was $5.77."

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

Next stop?

News item: By a vote of 74-25, Senate passes bankruptcy bill.

806. Debtor's Prison "Since poverty is punished among us as a crime, it ought at least to be treated with the same lenity as other crimes: the offender ought not to languish at the will of him whom he has offended, but to be allowed some appeal to the justice of his country. There can be no reason why any debtor should be imprisoned, but that he may be compelled to payment; and a term should therefore be fixed, in which the creditor should exhibit his accusation of concealed property. If such property can be discovered, let it be given to the creditor; if the charge is not offered, or cannot be proved, let the prisoner be dismissed." Johnson: Idler #22 (September 16, 1758)

Newgate Prison.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:45 PM | Comments (4)

March 10, 2005

"No Man is an Island"

Jonathan Chait has an excellent explanation of the reasons why Bush's SocSec plan needs to be defeated.

Privatizers portray Social Security as a kind of low-performing 401(k) plan. But the program was never intended as a personal retirement plan. It's a form of social insurance, designed to spread risks throughout the population. One such risk is that you get sick or hurt and can't work anymore; 11.5 percent of Social Security benefits go to disabled workers (which is another reason why retirees get a lower rate of return). (Emphasis mine)

Another risk is that your income will decline, perhaps because economic changes make your skills less valuable. (Today, for example, steelworkers could be made redundant by productivity increases. Perhaps in 30 years it will be accountants or software engineers whose work was outsourced overseas.) That's why Social Security gives low-earning retirees a greater return on their taxes than high-income retirees. Still another risk is that you'll live a very long time and exhaust your savings, which is why old-age benefits are indexed to inflation and last for a lifetime.

He's exactly right. The program isn't an IRA, a 401(k), or a private pension plan. It's a safety net, and one the Republicans, reciting their "personal responsibility" mantra, want to take away. If you want to play reductio ad absurdum, you could say that each of us is personally responsible for the road in front of our home or business; that gravel stretch in between? Well, get your shocks fixed. It doesn't work. Franklin is credited with the phrase "let us all hang together, for if we don’t, we most assuredly will hang separately," and he was right. There are aspects of being citizens that require us all to work toward a common goal, and what could be a more common goal than to care for those who are the poorest and weakest?

The next time you hear one of the privatization crowd blather, quote this:

...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee...

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:04 PM | Comments (2)

Um, why is this important?

News item: Congress subpoenas baseball players to testify about steroid use.

A lawyer for baseball and the players union said they would challenge the subpoenas through Congress and into the federal courts, if necessary. An individual who fails to show up to a hearing can be found in contempt of Congress and can appeal that ruling to the House and the courts.

Go for it. I feel contempt for Congress nearly every day.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2005

I've got this bridge, see...

The sponsors of the legislation say that it will have the effect of lowering the costs of goods and services for all consumers by making it easier for companies and issuers of credit to collect unpaid debts rather than passing those costs on to everyone else. In the last 30 years, bankruptcy filings have steadily increased, rising eightfold since Congress last rewrote the bankruptcy laws.

Yeah, right. Have you ever, ever seen your APR drop?

Here's another thing that puzzles me: according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, Utah ranks number one in household bankruptcy filings. So why has Orrin Hatch been such an avid proponent of this bill? Do his constituents know he thinks many of them are deadbeats?

(ABI link via Atrios).

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:32 AM | Comments (1)

March 08, 2005

Business uber alles!

Too many Democrats (you listening, Lieberman? You listening, Biden?) like their business constituents more than their consumer constituents. The vote for cloture on the bankruptcy bill passed 69-31; what that means is no more amendments may be offered. There will be more debate, but unless some of these people:

Democrats Yes

Biden, Del.; Byrd, W.Va.; Carper, Del.; Conrad, N.D.; Johnson, S.D.; Kohl, Wis.; Landrieu, La.; Lieberman, Conn.; Lincoln, Ark.; Nelson, Fla.; Nelson, Neb.; Pryor, Ark.; Salazar, Colo.; Stabenow, Mich.

recognize how badly many people will be hurt by this and switch, it's headed for passage. First tort "reform," now this. Third party, anyone?

Josh Marshall has more.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

It's the fee, stupid

Speaking of banks, I just received my latest bill for my AMEX credit card (my bank sold its VISA portfolio to AMEX a couple of years ago), and I've been assessed a $29 late fee on the 22nd of the month. I paid it in full (and have the receipt) on the 18th. Is it any wonder I don't think much of credit card companies?

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:37 PM | Comments (3)

Bankruptcy bill resources

If you're as appalled by the bankruptcy bill moving through Congress as others are, Josh Marshall has set up an auxiliary blog where details of the thing will be laid out in all their horror/glory. It's written by an expert in bankruptcy law and three of her law students.

Essentially, it's a giveaway to credit card companies; it makes it harder for people to declare bankruptcy, no matter how desperate their circumstances. Since the credit industry has begun extending credit (with expanding limits -- every time I get a solicitation these days the available credit line offered seems to be above $20K) to people who perhaps aren't the best risk, you could argue, and I do, that if they're having trouble getting paid, it's their own fault. Moreover, they're still making bucketsful of money.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

March 06, 2005

I like overtime, but Senator Santorum doesn't

Raising the minimum wage sounds good, but be careful what you wish for: Senator Santorum's amendment has some nasty stuff buried inside.

Licensing Sweatshops: While a $1.10 per hour minimum wage increase by itself would help 1.8 million workers, Santorum includes a poison bill exempting any business with revenues of $1 million or less from regulation -- raising the exemption from the current $500,000 level.

The upshot: while 1.2 million workers could qualify for a minimum wage increase, another 6.8 million workers, who work in companies with revenues between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per year, would lose their current minimum wage protection.

And an even larger number of businesses, those with revenues under $7 million, would be exempt from fines under a range of other safety, health, pension and other labor laws. Essentially, the realm of unregulated sweatshops would be expanded and legalized under Santorum's bill.

Killing Overtime: It gets worse-- the 40-hour work week would be abolished and companies would not have to pay overtime if they cut hours the next week. The proposal is called "flex time", but workers would have no say in the matter. Their hours could be rearranged, upsetting child care and other weekly routines, and companies would no longer have the deterrent of having to pay overtime as a way to encourage giving workers a regular weekly schedule.

There's more. If you like working for companies that have to conform to OSHA and Fair Labor regulations, among other things, read it all, then get on the horn to Congress.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

Vinyl excursions

AllMusic calls Loggins and Messina's mood "amiable, laid-back, and good-natured," among other things. Well, yeah, there's not much anger in songs like "Your Mama Don't Dance" or "Thinking of You," found on Loggins and Messina. For sheer enjoyment, though, I'll take "Holiday Hotel" off this album. It's a light-hearted admonishment from a wife to a travelling musician telling him not to stray while he's off playing a gig in Modesto. I wouldn't have thought it possible to get up to no good in Modesto, or anywhere else in the Central Valley, but never mind.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

March 05, 2005

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis

March Madness: when ESPN and its announcers easily persuade you that the basketball game between two schools you've never heard of is the most crucial game of the season, and going to the Final Four is of the same import as SALT II.

Speaking of St. Louis, you'll should read this wonderful essay about the place. It celebrates, despairs and appreciates the history of the city all in a few paragraphs.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2005

Whack Greenspan again, please

Back here I suggested that Alan Greenspan was perhaps unworthy of all the praise heaped upon him. Via James Wolcott (please read) I find that Dave Lindorff, writing in Counterpunch, agrees with me.

His pronouncements on the financial stability of the Social Security system are no more prescient or sound than his economic forecasting skills, which have been repeatedly found wanting.

It is probably worth remembering that when Greenspan left his private career as owner of a pension management firm, Townsend Greenspan, and went into government service, he left a company run into the ground because of his poor investment advice and market forecasting abilities. By the time he left, Townsend Greenspan had lost all its clients, who had all sought more capable advisers with better records.

American workers should remember all this when they read news reports quoting Greenspan as saying that the Social Security system cannot be expected to pay promised benefits to future retirees.

Glad to have you and James along, Dave.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:33 PM | Comments (1)

Science fiction blogs

If you're a sci-fi fan, here's a somewhat old (October 2004) but presumably still useful list of blogs which relate to the subject, either written by authors or discussing it. I'll point out that two of them are on my blogroll already, and if this post is normal output, John Scalzi will shortly be there. Noting an old Radio Shack print ad for a TRS-80 with Isaac Asimov featured in the photo, he says:

Asking that scientists and science fiction writers occupy a central role in American cultural life might be a little much to ask for, but I don't think it would be bad for at least one or two of them to be recognized on sight by the average Joe. It may require lambchop sideburns, but one of us should be willing to make the sacrifice. I suggest we draw straws.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005

What are they and how'd they get there?

You may recall that discovery of a small hominid in Indonesia a few months back. Carl Zimmer has a fascinating discussion of its brain, based on analysis done at Washington University. (I originally went to the University of Arizona thinking I'd major in anthropology, if you're wondering why this interests me.)

So here is a fascinating scenario to consider: a small-brained African hominid species expands out of Africa by 2 million years ago, bringing with it stone tools. It spreads thousands of miles across Asia, reaching Indonesia and then getting swept to Flores. It may not have undergone any significant dwarfing, since they were already small. This would change the way we think about all hominids. Being big-brained and big-bodied could no longer be considered essential requirements for spreading out of Africa. And one would have to wonder why early lineages of hominids became extinct in Africa when one branch managed to get to Flores.

Yes indeed. One does wonder. Was there a Kon-Tiki-like raft which transported those hominids across the Indian Ocean from East Africa to Indonesia, for example?

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:00 AM | Comments (2)

March 02, 2005

That drug does what?

Consumers Union has a hilarious video take on Direct-to-Consumer marketing from Big Pharma. It's a little less than three minutes, and well worth the time. (Best on a high-speed connection.)

Thanks to the Bioethics Blog.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:23 PM | Comments (3)

March 01, 2005

Western necrophilia

If you've ever been to Tombstone, Dodge City, or any of a dozen other storied western towns, you may have wandered through Boot Hills there. If you've wondered just where Wyatt Earp was buried, this site's for you. You may have known that Bat Masterson left the West to become a newspaper publisher, but did you know that he's buried in New York? So is George Armstrong Custer, by the way; his body was recovered from the Little Bighorn and buried at the cemetery at West Point.

Ain't the Internet fun?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:26 PM | Comments (1)