Saturday, September 29, 2007

Japan set to discourage savings

Well, thar's not what they are saying, of course, but when you refer to low-risk savings accounts as "stagnant" I think we can see a Kelo-style investment vs savings question being answered firmly in the "strongly encourage people to spend" column.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Women in the military

It wasn't so long ago that the idea of women in combat roles in the military was a hot button topic. Officially women still aren't allowed in combat roles, but with a winkwink we all know they do the same jobs as the men in the military--they have to. Not only because of the fluid nature of today's military, but because we just don't have enough bodies to throw into the breach.

That said, the problems of women in the military is another one of those untold stories which is going to explode when we finally get out of Iraq: Helen Benedict, "The Private War of Women Soldiers."

I realize that soldiers are only men, in stressful situations, etc., but the problems need to be addressed. And soon.

From the "I Hate It When This Happens" File

Oktoberfest reveller stuck in chimney for 12 hours

Monday, September 24, 2007

Treasury Department: We can only fix Social Security through a combination of increased revenues and/or smaller outflows

I really don't mean to be snarky, but I just can't help it: Duh!

But this is actually a big step for the Administration, to take privatization off the table. My own prescription of common sense Social Security fixes:

-raise the ceiling limit on income subject to social security withholding (currently, 6.20% up to earnings of $97,500/year, with a hard cap of $6045). Raising the earnings ceiling to $150K or $200K will increase revenues by quite a bit, particularly among those taxpayers most likely to get big benefits anyway (longer lifespans) and most likely to not really need the money as much (more likely to have private retirement plans);

-increase the retirement age, currently at 67 for younger workers. People are living longer, and while the retirement age has been increased a bit, a raise to 69 or 70 would help not only those older workers who want to continue to work (but find work choices limited at age 65) but if we keep the early retirement at 62 this will provide a wider range of choices for workers.

-initiate a needs-test, particularly for those with higher income levels after retirement age. For example, a taxpayer earning more than $100,000/year in income might have their total benefits limited to the amount they paid into the system and no more. This would eliminate some people (mostly, the wealthy elderly) from getting benefits far and above the amounts they paid in which would help keep money available for others.

Needs testing is a hot button issue for Social Security, but by keeping the threshhold high this seems to be a common-sense approach. Paying out thousands of dollars to people who don't need it (and didn't pay that much into the system) is commonsensical to me.

Marijuana & health care costs

I've seen several columns in the last few years, which basically boil down to "allow it, then tax the crap out of marijuana. Here's one at the Marijuana Policy Project, a group which otherwise does a great job on the medical marijuana issue.

But I think it is tough to have it both ways: To say that there is a medical need for marijuana to be available to those who need it (particularly those who appear to find no relief through other means is one thing. To say that marijuana should be openly available (i.e., not need-based) is completely another thing.

Administration official: Obama is 'intellectually lazy'

Hard to respond to this one with my jaw dropped open

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Living the Bible for a year

A very interesting premise.

Don't unions do this when they want to prove some point to management without actually going on strike? Wonder if God is pissed at this guy?

Friday, September 21, 2007

How to get your pet projects passed, without the bother of having people vote on it..

We know all about earmarks (pet projects, often pork-laden, than legislators put into a bill before its final passage). But Rep Young (R-Alaska) has apparently done one better: Added an earmark after the bill's passage, but before being signed by the President.

What a timesaver!

TPM Muckraker is trying to figure out, exactly, how that could even happen. And they are getting stonewalled.

But that's not all! The recipients of the earmark (a Florida county) didn't want the money in the first place, and voted to send it back. (Imagine that--doing the right thing!). Of course, in the "no good deed goes unpunished, they got their hands slapped.

It is important, I think, to keep in mind that this all was done by a member of the "small government" Republican Party.

"Do You Love Pina Coladas?..."

Couple cheated online..with each other! Oops.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The American mind at work, solving car bombs...

OK, so not all car bombs. But a partial solution to those ramming through checkpoints, particularly at military bases..

Here's Declan!

Declan sling.jpg
Originally uploaded by permdude
More as I get them...

Cheney is still in his secret bunker

Even when he's not.

The lengths this man goes to keep "secrets" is positively Nixonian. Let's hope another Nixonian (Fred Thompson) doesn't follow him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Kissinger strawman

Henry Kissinger, like many Republicans these days, makes a big ass strawman in his latest comments on Iraq.

Andrew doesn't pick up on it in his post, but *no one* is advocating the "abrupt withdrawal from Iraq" that Kissinger pontificates upon, poorly, with his latest domino theory.

The truth is, as Obama has pointed out very well, there is no military solution to the political problems of Iraq. Taking out the military, then, is a wash to the eventual long-term solutions that will come. Indeed, if Iraq was a welfare mother and the US military was a welfare check, Kissinger and others would have cut off Iraq 3 years ago.

Japanese wives speculate, and lose, on currency markets

Honey, where's that nest egg of ours?

McCain forgets his place again

I don't like the ad against General Patraeus--I think it isn't such a huge deal as those "looking for a fight" rightie bloggers are making this out to be, but I think it is just in poor taste, and targets the wrong person.

McCain, however, wants to give out some red meat, and says should be "thrown out of the country."

Yes, Senator--that's exactly how we deal with speech we don't like. I'm sure the Founding Fathers had this in mind the whole time--free popular speech, but criticize a government employee and you'll be tossed out of the country.

NYT to end paid access

About damn time.

As a researcher, this is great news because I can verify information from the Times (including publication details) in order that requests to reprint their material for my clients have the full information necessary. I doubt permissions issues entered into their heads in making this decision, but it is a bonus to them, I think.

Another Republican flames out in a sex scandal

I realize that this really isn't a political issue, but you'd think we'd be seeing more of these involving Democrats, if the Republicans are as good at digging out dirt as I suspect.

Which means that either Democrats are genuinely less dirty than Republicans overall, or I'm wrong and Republicans are all dirt throwing and not dirt-digging. I suspect the former.

Anyway, here is your Republican sex scandal of the week.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A new addition

My profile picture is me and my second child, my daughter Ceci. It is about 2 years old or so (she's almost 4). But yesterday, at 12:05 pm EST, a new member of the Fred family made his arrival, Declan, @ 6 pounds, 6 ounces and 19 inches long. A very small guy.

Born at home (a planned homebirth), the baby came through just fine. My son (10 years old) and Ceci both got to watch the birth, a memory which will last their entire lives. And watching the wonder on their faces will last my entire life as well.

It was a good day to be born.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Teaching children to fear men

As a father of young children, I've often felt the unspoken fear of males that is generated in the mostly-female-led groups my kids are involved in. More than just the natural reticence to open an all-female group up to a male, the problem is that the assumption of guilt overrides common sense in interaction. I'm presumed to be a perv when dealing with strangers' children.

This piece in the WSJ (one of several) hits it on the head very well. Sadly, as a male I'm simply not permitted these days to say that I love children.

The result of all this hyper-carefulness, however, is that men often feel like untouchables. In Cochranville, Pa., Ray Simpson, a bus driver, says that he used to have 30 kids stop at his house on Halloween. But after his divorce, with people knowing he was a man living alone, he had zero visitors. "I felt like crying at the end of the evening," he says.

What kind of kids are we raising in this atmosphere? What kind of behavior are we teaching men to do that is acceptable in such a climate?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recognize your house?

Spy plane maps roof heat loss in London neighborhood. I can see some good coming out of this, although roof heat loss is the most expensive kind to fix. But it might lead to things like re-caulked windows, added attic insulation, door seals and so on. All to the good.

So long as this isn't used as a stick by government, to force homeowners into action. And I wouldn't put it past the UK to do just that.

What passes for "justice" for the Bush Administration

Apparently running while a Democrat is a crime. Who knew?

Fake win?

Only a matter of time, I suppose, before we started reading stories like this.

More quickies

Couple stays in Travelodge 22 years: I stayed in a Travelodge in England when I went there last--about three years ago--in Hammersmith. Nice, cheap place. But 22 years living out of your suitcases?

NFL determines Patriots cheated in videotaping Jets signals: This doesn't strike me as even being a fine line here. A clear violation. Suspend Coach B for two games--maybe that'll teach them to do it better.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thoughts on 9/11

I sit here in my office, more or less across the street from ground zero (two blocks away), and have thought about 9/11 quite a bit today, and the past few days. This was also reinforced by seeing the excellent (and not opinionated) Oliver Stone film, "World Trade Center" on one of the pay premium cable channels over the weekend. The horror, disbelief, shock, tragedy, loss and heroism told in this movie was very moving. Today I commuted downtown by bus instead of subway, but not out of fear, cos it was wet and so sticky and I did not want to sweat even more on the crowded subway platform. I'll be on the subways during the day and on the way home. I was fortunate not have lost anyone I knew or loved six years ago, but there is a sense of communal membership to this tragedy that is very overwhelming, not often discussed, maybe occassionally with family and friends. Today I have read the Journalists' Accounts of 9/11, and it is/was something. At this point, as it was back then for so many folks who were in the city, it helps to talk about it.

Realizing the memorial service was a block away, I just took a wet walk in the rain to observe. It's not easy, or potentially, not possible for uninvited pedestrians to get into the modest ceremony in the little park by the construction, but I was able to see and hear the officials read off the names of the people who perished. It never stopped...It must have been going on for a while and will be going on for a bit longer. They were on the "S's" when I left. Many locals and tourists and some prayer groups observing. Of course, a large police presence, too. I was wondering about the purpose of fire engine, with sirens and all, seemingly en route to an emergency coming down Broadway across the street from the service. I hoped it was just for something related to the ceremony, but probably not. Strange, eerie day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Most corrupt countries list

Forbes' list of the most corrupt countries in the world, as compiled by Transparency International, is a yearly exercise in bracing, depressing, and needed news. I realize that here in the US we have a problem with wealth concentration, but it is nothing like what is going on in the poorest countries in the world, in which billions of dollars (much of it in the form of aid for the poor) gets funnelled into the hands of literally a handful of people.

In many places, a $1000 would make you a very, very wealthy person. Imagine a billion dollars then, in a place like that. Then imagine it should have gone to keep people alive.

I'm not so cynical as to think that simply cutting off aid will somehow make things better. People will still be poor and die unhealthy and short lives. But throwing money away isn't helping squat.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Riduculing Bin Laden

A reader at Andrew Sullivan gets it. We need to stop doing bin Laden's work for him.

There's no better way to psychologically disarm a bully than ridicule. It is the opposite of fear.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Kickin' Ass?

How can you change this course?

If this sorta hearsay is actually true, I think it just defines and reinforces why we got into Iraq and why we are still in Iraq. This is consistent thinking (speaking) though. Remember, "bring 'em on"...? This is one of the reasons I would not mind having Hillary as president. Women don't have as much testosterone. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general, this macho, big penis, rambo mentality of many rulers is what starts wars. And Dick's Bush is no exception. And a dumb-ass macho ruler at that. Oy veh what a mess the next leader is going to have to try and clean-up...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Playing us for a sucker.

And they are probably right.

On a related note, a new neighbor moved in a few days ago. He's a "big Hannity fan" and listens to Rush pretty much every day. But noooo, he's not a Republican. He's an "independent." Who believes we need to stay in Iraq in order to contain Iran. He couldn't wait for Fred Thompson to announce, mostly (it seemed to me) because all his other candidates sucked.

Republicans have done to their own name what they did to the word "liberal." People are running away from it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ugliest lottery winner, hands down.

I suppose I shouldn't be so down on the guy, but holy cow:

Now that he's worth $82 million or so, I bet he'll still be the target of goldiggers...

Deciding for The Decider

One of the problems in the early parts of the Iraqi war was disbanding the Iraqi army. By allowing the only national force to disappear into the civil population with training, weapons, and tactical knowledge, we set the stage for much of the violent disunity that was to come.

Even The Decider realizes this was a mistake (and anytime Bush acknowledges a mistake, he should be encouraged. You can't fix problems if you don't admit they exist).

But hold your thanks: Bush doesn't know how the army came to be disbanded.


Today's mini blog

Botched police raids (and perhaps some aren't mistakes at all...)

Some background over why our staunchest ally in Iraq has left in disgust

Studying to the Test: The Surge Report Card and Military Priorities

Banned books

Once again, Banned Books Week is rolling around. I don't want to get into the reasons why books are challenged or banned, only to note that the internet is figuring out a way to still get those books into the hands of people anyway.

As much as I dislike Google Book Search (for copyright reasons), their Explore Banned Books is the perfect response to challenged and banned books. Kudos.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

What I'm wasting time on instead of blogging

Don't get me wrong--I'm still reading the news, reading blogs, etc. But Pinch Hitter has just sucked up my time the last few days.

I'm up to level 9, but have been stuck there awhile now.