seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

2011 Family Photos

From the never too late department, I am once again plowing into the family photo backlog. Photos from visits with Michelle's parents and family throughout 2011 are now live in the gallery as are some Banjo photos.





Struggle for Freedom

If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.

Frederick Douglas

Soccer Photos

I'm going to try to do more posting this year of my photo highlights. The gopher soccer home opener had a number of great opportunities for photos - see the full gallery here.


Do you Know What Drowning Looks Like?

I didn't. And since I like getting crazy in the water, people around me should know.

Drowning doesn't look like drowning. Key take away: ask the person if they are okay. If they respond, they probably aren't drowning.

Flying Across the St Croix

Last night, John launched me off a beauty of a wake from a passing boat. This is what I love about tubing - flight!


Thanks to Michelle for pulling off a tough photo!

Call Me Maybe Mashup Heaven

This has been a great morning. I was listening to the Slate Cultural Gabfest podcast when they played the possible "hit of the summer" song, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen.

I was hooked. The video is even better and has an amazing twist at the end.

Apparently, fellow Canadian Bieber (Carly comes from the great northern maple leaf nation as well) was inspired to do a lipsync to it, which is maybe this one? I gotta actually do some work soon and can't spend any more time watching these videos just now.

But Slate also mentioned that NPR personalities did a dramatic reading of the song and I had to listen. Well worth it - after listening you should make a contribution to your local station because these people are hilarious.

Finding that led me to an NPR video of Lady Gaga's Telephone song.

Seriously, support public radio.

And go buy Carly Rae Jepsen's song - it is a great song for any day with blue skies.

Update - Jimmy Fallon is awesome.

Then came "Call me Gaybe" - watching these videos popping up makes me so excited for how the Internet allows this creativity and that we are moving toward a society where we aren't wasting time on hating on gays, blacks, etc.

Then the dogs got into it...

The Complicated Challenge

In reading an article about International Relations in The Atlantic, I came across this quote that struck me (as someone who often answers questions by saying, "Well... it's complicated...")

As Huntington once told his protégé Fareed Zakaria: “If you tell people the world is complicated, you’re not doing your job as a social scientist. They already know it’s complicated. Your job is to distill it, simplify it, and give them a sense of what is the single [cause], or what are the couple of powerful causes that explain this powerful phenomenon.”

And though I think Huntington was wrong about just about everything he said, I think this insight will stick with me. Things are complicated but eventually we do have to act.

Stealing Elections

We have seen many Republican-dominated state legislatures passing laws to make it harder to vote -- justified by the claim from Republicans that there is a real threat to the legitimacy of elections by sinister people who may vote multiple times under false identities.

The claim is ludicrous and backed by no real evidence. Given that the punishment for illegally voting is significant and the gain from casting a few extra ballots is minimal, only profoundly stupid people would try to tilt an election by having people vote multiple times.

The real threat to elections comes not from people lacking ID, but rather people that make big donations. Even though we have a system of what amounts to legalized bribery in the form of campaign contributions, some find that those lax rules are still too restricting for their tastes.

Consider a profile of one of the biggest Republican donors, Harold Simmons. What is his punishment for willfully breaking law after law to gain legislative favors? The occasional slap on the wrist.

The saga also unexpectedly brought to light the full scope of Simmons’s political activities. His personal contributions were well-known: Several years earlier, the FEC had fined him for donating more than twice the legal limit in the 1988 election cycle to the campaigns of George H.W. Bush and congressional candidates in positions to influence looming legislation concerning the business tactics favored by corporate raiders. In court filings, however, Patigian alleged that Simmons had contributed far more, “[giving] away millions of dollars of trust assets to right-wing political causes, politicians, and criminal defense funds, some of which contributions were illegal and many of which were designed to avoid federal election laws.” (The FEC did not take action on these allegations.)

The trust controlled three political action committees (PACs) and supplied most of the funding for a fourth. Though corporations were barred from donating to political candidates, Simmons had transferred money regularly between his companies and the trust, while also drawing money out of the trust for contributions to individual politicians. When he had hit his own legal limits, Simmons had donated money in his daughters’ names; in court, he admitted to forging their signatures to authorize some of the contributions.

The next time you hear someone claiming that our elections are threatened by allowing people to vote without specific forms of ID, remember the true threat to our democracy -- the rich people and corporations who buy politicians. Buying votes is so 20th century.

From Those Who Take Much, Little Will Be Returned

After reading Richard White's Railroaded history of the railroad barons in the late 1800's, I realized that if one had left Earth in 1900 and returned in 2000, they would be quite at home.

The rise of regulations that limited the destruction wrought by supposedly smart financiers and established a middle class following the excesses of the Gilded Age had largely been gutted by 2000 and the middle class was once again in danger of being listed on the Endangered Species list.

After smart regulations prevented any major financial crises for decades, elected officials began dismantling them. After each financial crisis (e.g., Savings & Loan), we deregulated further.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the agencies responsible for the 30 year fixed rate mortgage that allows millions of us to afford homes, had been largely privatized but still retained a public guarantee, the worst of both worlds but all part of the Republican big-business strategy of privatizing gains and socializing loss.

And the response of tens of millions of Americans? More deregulation! Let's run back into the age where we cannot breathe the air, swim in our waterways, or trust that the food we buy is not going to poison us.

There are those who say the government cannot grow forever and cannot forever raise taxes. Those people are EVERYBODY. No one is proposing such a ludicrous approach. What many have proposed instead is returning to the tax rates of 15 years ago... because the government cannot lower taxes forever.

There are good reasons to have government programs. Roads are one. Keeping illiterate orphans from overrunning the streets are another. A military designed only to provide jobs to well-connected firms with massive lobbying budgets is not one.

But back to the middle class - I recommend "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?" from The Atlantic.

For those who have forgotten that taxes are in fact at historic lows, this passage toward the end of the article is an accurate reminder:

Over time, the United States has expected less and less of its elite, even as society has oriented itself in a way that is most likely to maximize their income. The top income-tax rate was 91 percent in 1960, 70 percent in 1980, 50 percent in 1986, and 39.6 percent in 2000, and is now 35 percent. Income from investments is taxed at a rate of 15 percent. The estate tax has been gutted.

Government policies are overwhelmingly designed by interest groups with powerful lobbyists... and those lobbyists promote the interests of the powerful. Duh - who else can hire them??

What’s more, some of the policies that have most benefited the rich have little to do with greater competition or economic efficiency. Fortunes on Wall Street have grown so large in part because of implicit government protection against catastrophic losses, combined with the steady elimination of government measures to limit excessive risk-taking, from the 1980s right on through the crash of 2008.

Our failure is not a general failure of government, it is a specific failure of a government that governs in the interest of a few. It should be no surprise that those few are doing very well.

Future of Health Care ... Maybe

As long as we have gutless elected officials and a general population that doesn't mind having the worst health care system in the developed world (unless you happen to have an income greater than $1 million/year), we probably should not expect a rational solution that will ensure we all have access to at least the basic care available to anyone in Cuba.

I have finally paid off the medical debt I incurred despite what is supposed a "pretty good" insurance plan, showing what that is worth in the U.S.

But there is some hope from a private provider in the southwest, as detailed in this article from the Atlantic:

CareMore, through its unique approach to caring for the elderly, is routinely achieving patient outcomes that other providers can only dream about: a hospitalization rate 24 percent below average; hospital stays 38 percent shorter; an amputation rate among diabetics 60 percent lower than average. Perhaps most remarkable of all, these improved outcomes have come without increased total cost. Though they may seem expensive, CareMore’s “upstream” interventions—the wireless scales, the free rides to medical appointments, etc.—save money in the long run by preventing vastly more costly “downstream” outcomes such as hospitalizations and surgeries. As a result, CareMore’s overall member costs are actually 18 percent below the industry average.

Good stuff, and a pretty short article for this mag - give it a go.

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