Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Michelle, We Hardly Knew Ye

Michelle Bachmann first came to our attention about six years ago when, at the conclusion of GWB's State of the Union Address, she grabbed him and wouldn't let go.

Since then she's set a new standard for loopiness, been a major face of the New Republican Party, and embarrassed Minnesota to heck and back.

Now, she's gone – or at least, leaving.

What's with the background music on that?

Anyway, it's got to be good for America.

Update: Gail Collins surveys Michelle's loopiness.  The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act! Thank you, Michelle, for guarding our freedoms.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Richard Wagner

Today is Wagner's 200th birthday. Not something I celebrate, I assure you.

This post isn't about him, but about Anna Russell's wonderful satire of his Ring Cycle. I'd heard it from time to time on the radio, but today discovered there's actually a YouTube video of it.

If you don't have 20 hours over 4 evenings "at those prices" to see "The Ring," (or the inclination to do so) you might enjoy 30 minutes of Anna Russell telling you the story.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Age of Miracles and Wonders

The Oklahoma tornado is still terrifying the next day. Climate-change denier Senator James Inhofe says it's "hard to explain." He's apparently going to make sure Oklahoma gets disaster assistance from the federal government, even though he voted against disaster assistance for states hit by Hurricane Sandy. Of course they'll get it (and should).

I'm disgusted with myself for getting political about this, but politics is not just a distasteful parlor game. Lives are lost or wasted when we make bad policy decisions, we've been making terrible ones for 33 years, our survival depends on turning that around, and the chances of doing that look very bleak.

But just to prove I'm human, let me share some joy amid the sorrow:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Amazing Human Brain

Well, mine isn't, but this guy's is, anyway. It's in German, but you'll have no problem figuring out what's going on.

Via Americablog.

Health Care American Style

In the United States we have some of the best doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in the world.

Unfortunately, we probably have the worst health care system in the First World. Some day I'm going to do a long post about this (I've been telling myself for at least two years), but for now let me just refer you to this New York Times article about the prices different hospitals charge to treat the same illness.

To quote from the article:
A hospital in Livingston, N.J., charged $70,712 on average to implant a pacemaker, while a hospital in nearby Rahway, N.J., charged $101,945.

In Saint Augustine, Fla., one hospital typically billed nearly $40,000 to remove a gallbladder using minimally invasive surgery, while one in Orange Park, Fla., charged $91,000.

In one hospital in Dallas, the average bill for treating simple pneumonia was $14,610, while another there charged over $38,000. 

Data being released for the first time by the government on Wednesday shows that hospitals charge Medicare wildly differing amounts — sometimes 10 to 20 times what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, raising questions about how hospitals determine prices and why they differ so widely.

The data for 3,300 hospitals, released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, shows wide variations not only regionally but among hospitals in the same area or city.
The article says, "Government officials said that some of the variation might reflect the fact that some patients were sicker or required longer hospitalization." Yeah, I guess they might. But on the other hand, we're talking about average bills here, not individual bills.

Find your area hospitals on this interactive map. Do they charge more, less, or about average? This is a Must Visit web site.

The Mayo Clinic charges less than the U.S. average. The Cleveland Clinic charges 1 to 2 times the U.S. average.

The Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego is the only area hospital that charges less than the national average.  All the rest charge 1 to 2 times the national average, except Sharp Chula Vista, which bills more than 2 times the national average.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Recipe for Disaster

A "fusion paranoiac" plans an armed march on Washington D.C.

What could go wrong?

Talking Treason

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal talks about James Porter, the new president of the extremist National Rifle Association:
... Porter seems to be highly representative of the amazingly common type of contemporary “conservatives” who combine extremist language about their political opponents with violent language about their political options—who in effect point their guns at “liberals” while making it known they and they alone will decide what “liberties” to surrender, democracy or laws be damned.
It makes it worse that Porter is one of the old boys who thinks it ha-larious to refer to the American Civil War as the “war of northern aggression” (as “we” put it “down south,” he said to a New York crowd recently). Since that war, whatever else it represented, was without question an armed revolution against the government of the United States, you have to wonder if the Confederacy—or as it was commonly referred to in the north for many decades, “the Rebellion”—is Porter’s model for defense of oneself against “tyranny” (you may recall that John Wilkes Booth shouted “Sic semper tyrannus“—“thus always to tyrants”) after shooting Lincoln.

Am I perhaps being unfair to these people in suggesting that they are behaving like America-haters and are flirting with treason? I don’t think so. Porter and those like him could dispel this sort of suspicion instantly, any time they wanted, by just saying: “Let’s be clear: the kind of ‘tyranny’ we are arming ourselves to forestall is something entirely different from anything Americans have experienced since we won our independence—a regime engaged in the active suppression of any sort of dissent, and the closure of any peaceful means for the redress of grievances. We’re not talking about the current administration, or either major political party, as presently representing a threat of tyranny.”

I’m not holding my breath for any statements like that to emerge from the NRA, or indeed, from the contemporary conservative movement. It’s ironic that people who almost certainly think of themselves as patriots—perhaps as super-patriots—are deliberately courting the impression that loyalty to their country is strictly contingent on the maintenance of laws and policies they favor, to be achieved if not by ballots then by bullets. Republican politicians should be repudiating such people instead of celebrating them, accepting their money and support, and even adopting their seditious rhetoric. [My emphasis.]

Did You Hear about This?

You sure would have if the guy was a Muslim.

Two Middletown police officers attempted to enforce the Obama police state by stopping a guy for running a stop sign. Not to be cowed by the oppressors, he came out shooting. One police officer lost a finger, the other had minor thigh wounds. The police cruiser's dash-cam caught it all.

There are some real twisted characters out there – with 40 round magazines.

Others are sitting in Congress.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Too Late Now, Sad to Say

Sandra Day O'Connor thinks maybe the Supreme Court should not have heard Bush v Gore.

Or maybe they should have decided that votes determine the winners elections.
The result, she allowed, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less than perfect reputation.”
After nearly 13 years, the stench is just as strong.

But, as Pope Antonin I says, "Get over it."

A Train Passes Through a Bangkok Slum

Via Americablog, which advises "Wait for it."

By which he means "Watch it to the end (41 seconds, total), and you'll have a new understanding."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

What the Heck's the Matter with Kids Today?

Is it nature or nurture that creates kids like this? Both, probably. Despite the snickering of one of these guys about his biology teacher, I have no doubt that there were some great teachers in their lives.

Fascinating talks from teenagers.

A safer, cheaper nuclear reactor:

This kid won a science fair by developing a 100% accurate, 3-cent test for pancreatic cancer. I was going to enter my model of an erupting volcano, but wanted to give him a chance.

If you have a teenager yourself, here are nine impressive TED Talks by kids that might inspire them.

These kids are bright, but something or somebody inspired them to take themselves and their passions seriously.

Update: Sorry, the earlier version of this post did not include the video of Jack Andraka's talk about how he developed a test for pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer.