A Dangerous Definition

Watch this video.

This could potentially cause a good deal of trouble. Health insurance companies may consider dropping coverage for birth control, as well as Planned Parenthood may be forced to no longer provide such things as plan b, aside from the well disputed abortions. It seems to me that this is the religious right’s attempt to control even more people’s lives. The best way to prevent something as dangerous as this piece of potential legislation is to head it off at the pass. Spread the word and write your congress representatives.

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Advertising on the Local Front

The local senate race is getting heated in Minnesota. Democratic candidate Al Franken faces off against incumbent Norm Coleman, and the ads are hitting the air. Amongst the barrage of television attacks includes this one from Coleman:

Pretty standard ad, attempting to talk up Norm Coleman’s accomplishments while in office. The only problem is there’s so little there that the repeating background mantra of “He brought hockey back” seems to be the only redeeming factor of the man’s term in office. Then again, did he bring hockey back? He may have helped facilitate the process, but the truth is there was just as much done by the democratic state congress as with Coleman.

Then the response, Al Franken’s spoof of the Coleman ad:

Now this seems to say something. It actually makes mention of the things that Coleman did while in office. So odd that he didn’t want to mention those in his own ad. Then comes the response in a form of an attack ad:

And this doesn’t even make any comment on Franken’s policies. It simply makes personal attacks. The socalled “tasteless, sexist jokes” and “juicy porn” was from articles Franken had written which were satire. For those unaware of the definition of satire, its a literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. Hence commenting on something through sarcasm, and not actually doing what was said in the article. And the whole tax issue was a mistake in which Franken thought he had paid his taxes, but they also needed to be paid for each state in which he had made money from speeches and appearances while traveling.

It strikes me that Norm Coleman truly has not a leg to stand on. He’s floundering to grasp hold of a constituency in a state that is becomming fed up with the man’s lack of action. Its time for Coleman to leave office, and we have the chance to do it.

I’ve got I am a super geinus!!

I’ve got it, I am a SUUUPPPPPPER genius.  I have the solution to nearly every problem faced by our society, the only thing I can’t tie in to it is education but I am sure my idea will help that too I just don’t know how.  Everyone should sit down now before I go any further because if you fall over and crack your head you will have a hard time reading the rest of this post.  OK everyone sitting? Here is the most brilliant idea ever……. everyone, women and men, young and old, faithful and not deluded, everyone should buy a bike and use it.  Thank you, thank you I will follow this thread for my nomination for a Nobel Prize.  Thank you, if you are not as enlightened as the Nobel foundation let me explain it to you.  Right now in the United States we have, as far as I can figure, five major crises that are coming over the horizon.  First is health care we as a society are spending more and more on our health care getting less and less for it, also we are becoming less healthy as a society.  Second is energy, we are nearly out of the oil that is easy to get at in the world and we are messing up our environment and our climate by pouring all of that carbon that was locked up in the earth back in to the atmosphere.  Third and related to energy is religious extremism most of the oil left and is easy to get at is in the middle east and by mining it we piss off some very crazy very religious guys.  Now riding a bike will not protect you from Christian extremists but one step at a time.  Fourth is the obesity crisis, yes it is attached to health care and solution to one helps the other but I see it as a separate problem because mostly obesity is a human behavior problem and health care is an economic problem.  The last as I see it is education but like I said this is not about that but with all of the money we would save with solving most of health care we will have lots more money to spend on teaching kids how to invent things as cool as bikes.

So I will regroup them and explain in that way, just to make sure you are still awake.  Health Care and Obesity, riding a bike is a clear solution for obesity, you get out and bike to work everyday you will be shocked how fast the pounds melt off.  Health Care’s connection to obesity is also clear, if you are overweight you have more health problems end of discussion.  But being physically active has more to do with being healthy then being thin.  It helps your cholesterol more then just losing weight, your bones get harder so you have a much lower chance of osteoporosis, it keeps your mind sharp much later in life, the list goes on and on and on and on….. face it humans are meant to do things every day.  We evolved to walk essentially all of the time.  The other two are energy and religious extremism if every American rides a bike to work rather than drives the United States would literally save boat loads of energy, boat loads that would not have to come from nations that spawn terrorists, like I said this would not help with the Christian extremists we have here in this country but it would at least be a start for rational thought and it would take away one of the main things that the Christian Right loves to hyperventilate about mainly those evil dark skinned Muslims.

So there it is the best idea in the history of the history the ultimate achievement of our societey is an invention that is nearing 200 years old.  The details has changed the materials have gotten better but the bicycle is still the most efficient form of human powered overland travel.  So buy a bike, and use it.

America and Islam: The Uncomfortable Silences

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve been hearing a number of interesting things from various sources relating to presidential hopeful Barack Obama since he made the required number of delegates to take the Democratic nomination. Most of these (one of which was posted as a comment on an article I put up a couple of weeks ago), mention simple semantics. Barack Hussein Obama.

Yes, that’s his middle name. Sure it is the same last name as the target of hostilities in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and yes, it is a Muslim name. In fact, its a relatively common one. Obama’s father (whom Barack was named after) was muslim, but he was not involved with the senator’s life. Nor was he a radical. Barack Obama is a Christian. As much as I can tell, the mentioning of Obama’s middle name is intended to scare voters away from the man. As if that’s going to work. At least, hopefully it won’t.

Where do we stand now in America? As a society still recovering from slavery, racism has not left us. The question is will it ever? Its a hard thing to answer.

As far as I am concerned, racism and hatred (or any general dislike based upon something as silly as skin color, gender, sexual preference, etc.) is a wholly learned atribute. It cannot be said that a person can be born as a racist. This is taught, whether voluntarily or not. One thing I do believe, and it may be due to the idealism I have within me, the number of racist people is decreasing. A part of this is potentially due to a number of caucasian men and women raised by the baby boomer population choosing to not pass on these sentiments that they were told when they were young. But that’s not to say it’s going away.

It strikes me that the racism in the United States has branched out. Now it’s encompassing even more groups. Like the Japanese were persecuted during World War II and placed into concentration camps in the US, Muslims are taking the brunt of the attack now that America finds itself in conflict with groups in the Middle East. And it seems as if people feel that this is the patriotic thing to do. As if hating some group could be needed by a country.

Some people think that every Muslim is bad, and that’s the reason for the hatred. Others are bothered by the darker skin or the accent. Some feel that all Musims hate America. But the truth is that there are many Muslims in this country who are more than happy with America. Not every one with a middle eastern background is a terrorist. Fear is the driving factor in this brand of racism, and it can be traced all the way back to George W. Bush and his regime. In fact, there is a good population of many eastern religions living in the United States. To top that off, there is a large group of people who have converted to Islam. I know someone personally who converted from Catholicism to Islam a few years ago and is as happy as he can be.

Religious Affiliation, General Population Surveys
ARISa GSSa PRCc Baylord
Christian 76.7% 81.3 81.9
Protestant 49.8% 50.4 53.9 60.7
Catholic 24.5% 25.1 25.2 21.2
Other Christian 2.4% 2.2
Jewish 1.4% 2.2 1.9 2.5
Muslim 0.5% 0.7 0.5
Non-affiliated 14.2% 14.2 11.8 10.8
Other/DK 7.2% 7.4 4.5 4.9
a. 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (N=50,281)
b. 2004 General Social Survey (N=2,812)
c. 2006 Pew Research Center Surveys3 (N=23,255)
d. 2005 Baylor Religion Survey4 (N=1,687)

The Pew Forum

So its no wonder the rest of the world hates us. We have made it policy to not care about our appearance to other nations and the United Nations. We have chosen to not be accepting of others or to play nice with others. Our global relations are dwindling and in a increasingly globalized world such a policy seems counter intuitive. It seems what we need is to care about our nation, about our image, about our people’s opinions and ideas. I think the future looks bright. A black president could change minds, especially one who chooses to make his message one of hope, of optimism. Perhaps he could help to increase awareness of racism, to squelch it when it occurs. It can’t be just up to him, it’s on all of our shoulders.

Will we ever break free of racism? I doubt it. At least not until all people start interbreeding and we all level out in color. Or maybe the globalization will help bring people together. If we try, we can get closer and closer. That’s the way it is.

A Short Memorial

I felt compelled to do this. If you haven’t already heard, Tim Russert passed away due to a heart attack suddenly Friday. He was the host of the television program Meet the Press, as well as being a political analyst for many of NBC’s affiliates and several news sources elsewhere. The reason I enjoyed watching Meet the Press was because of Russert’s ability to ask the difficult questions of the politicos he had as guests, and he managed to do so in the most objective manner out of every other news broadcast I’ve seen in the US. I can’t imagine how the show will continue without him, but I’m sure someone will take the place. As it goes, good luck Tim, wherever you are now. And if it’s Sunday, it will always be Meet the Press.

Timothy John Russert, 1950 – 2008

Barack Obama and Hillary’s New Role

So, here its is. Barack Obama has won the primaries and he will be vying for the presidency against John McCain. It would seem the Democrats would come back together to support their candidate. But this isn’t the case.

I’ve been hearing a good deal of reports saying that many of Hillary’s supporters are saying they will not vote for Barack Obama. I’m still not certain if this is just the immediate reaction of a group of people who put their all into a campaign run by the likely first female presidential candidate or if this bitterness will last. The concept of people actually switching from Democratic to Republican voting simply because the woman didn’t win is astounding. In all truth, Obama and Clinton’s stances on the issues are very similar. Really, changing from one to the next is like picking Oreos over Hydrox.

So Hillary lost, get over it. I fully believe that we should have a female president. Was I excited with the prospect of Hillary running when she first threw in her hat? Of course I was. It was thrilling to think a woman could run, especially one who might have a good chance at the nomination. But then I watched her speak, I watched her tactics, I watched her husband (whom I liked when he was president) act like a zealot and a fool. I was not impressed with Hillary’s campaign. Is it time for a female president? Yes. Just not time for Hillary Clinton.

That’s not to say I was always happy with Obama. When the two began bickering in the debates and on news shows and in interviews, I was driven to turn off the program so as to avoid the screeching sound that followed. But what I appreciate about Obama is that he did his best to avoid attack politics. And he still vows to do so, to stick to the issues and to not dig up the dirt on another candidate just to drive people his way. I suppose we’ll see what happens.

Today, however, Hillary will speak to her supporters about the end of the campaign. It is now up to her to show her support for Obama as the next Democratic presidential candidate and help ease the bitterness that so many people are now feeling having their choice lose. She needs to speak clearly and passionately about backing Obama and the Democratic party. And she needs to put away any animosity she had at one point for Obama, because if her voice does not convince people, some will be lost to other parties. And if the Democrats lose voters, we may lose the next election. And if we lose this election, there will be many more years in Iraq, many more years with little consideration of domestic issues like health care and environment, economy and poverty, the housing crisis and the continuously rising gas prices. Its time for a change, and the only way to reach it is for all Democrats to get together behind one candidate. Put away the anger and the bitterness and do the right thing for our nation.

Fuel of the Land

I’m quite certain people are aware of the increases in fuel costs as well as food costs. Groceries have gone up 40% in the last year. And sure, a good deal of that is due to the massively jumping gas prices. It costs more to ship food from its various sources whether by train, plane or automobile, so to speak. But a lot of the cost increase is coming from the huge overproduction of corn to suit the needs of ethanol producers.

The world is facing the most severe food price inflation in history as grain and soybean prices climb to all-time highs. Wheat trading on the Chicago Board of Trade on December 17th breached the $10 per bushel level for the first time ever. In mid-January, corn was trading over $5 per bushel, close to its historic high. And on January 11th, soybeans traded at $13.42 per bushel, the highest price ever recorded. All these prices are double those of a year or two ago.

As a result, prices of food products made directly from these commodities such as bread, pasta, and tortillas, and those made indirectly, such as pork, poultry, beef, milk, and eggs, are everywhere on the rise. In Mexico, corn meal prices are up 60 percent. In Pakistan, flour prices have doubled. China is facing rampant food price inflation, some of the worst in decades.

Earth Policy Institute

Essentially, we are limiting food production by focusing heavily on corn production. A good deal of the corn goes toward making the ethanol which then takes away from viable food corn. However, much of the remaining corn after ethanol production is put into feed for animals, but this still means that it will not be used for human consumption.

Another issue with corn ethanol production is the environmental cost. E85 was touted as the next fuel that would decrease costs at the pump and help out the environment by lowering emissions. The issue is almost opposite. Creating the ethanol requires more trucks, more use of diesel and gasoline, more heating and energy, and this increases greenhouse gas emissions. It also runs much less efficiently in E85 compatible vehicles, requiring more fill-ups and therefore drawing from the ethanol reserves much faster. It also increases some of the potentially harmful chemicals in the air, chemicals not emitted by gasoline.

Because burning ethanol can potentially add more smog-forming pollution to the atmosphere, however, it can also exacerbate the ill effects of such air pollution. According to Jacobson, burning ethanol adds 22 percent more hydrocarbons to the atmosphere than does burning gasoline and this would lead to a nearly two parts per billion increase in tropospheric ozone. This surface ozone, which has been linked to inflamed lungs, impaired immune systems and heart disease by prior research, would in turn lead to a 4 percent increase in the number of ground level ozone-related deaths, or roughly 200 extra deaths a year. “Due to its ozone effects, future E85 may be a greater overall public health risk than gasoline,” Jacobson writes in the study published in Environmental Science & Technology. “It can be concluded with confidence only that E85 is unlikely to improve air quality over future gasoline vehicles.”

Scientific American

Another key issue is the overuse of land for higher production of corn. It is likely, at least in my opinion, that if corn based ethanol production increases, land will continue to be overtaxed and sapped of important nutrients due to lack of care and proper crop rotation. If this occurs, the land will simply dry up and blow away, such as occurred in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

Now, even though I continue to make arguments against corn based ethanol, I am a proponent of alternative fuels. There are many other ways to get fuel from the land, even creating ethanol using switchgrass, so-called cellulosic ethanol. I will include a list of news and information sources after this point. We do need to do something about our dependence on oil, a resource that some day will run dry. We also need to focus on protecting our planet and our atmosphere because when the atmosphere is gone, we won’t be doing so well anymore.

Environment Friendly Fuel: Cyanobacteria as Ethanol Producers

Cellulosic Ethanol

Biodiesel

Electric Car

Alternative Fuel Information