Monday, June 30, 2008

Good Week Bad Week

Good week for:

1. Espana, after their national soccer team beat the Germans 1-0 in the Euro Cup Final yesterday. Spain had not won the title in over 44 years. The celebrations were wild in Spain overnight. Let's call it the world's largest fiesta!!!

2. Caged animals, when a giraffe helped 15 camels, 2 zebras, multiple llamas, and a pig escape from their cage at the traveling Dutch circus. That must have been quite a site to see these animals wandering through the town. Have you all seen the episode of Man vs. Wild when Bear Grylls guts a dead camel in the desert and lays down within it's carcass to show us how to protect ourselves from a sandstorm?

3. The people of earth, as a recent study found that happiness around the world (at least in 40 of the 52 countries studied over the time period 1981-2007) is increasing. The reasons why sunny disposition is increasing around the world are listed here:

Low-income countries such as India and China have experienced unprecedented
rates of economic growth; dozens of medium-income countries have democratized;
and there has been a sharp rise of gender equality and tolerance of ethnic
minorities and gays and lesbians in developed societies.

Bad week for:

1. Appeals, when Floyd Landis' bid to reclaim his Tour de France title was again denied by the courts. One of the best accounts I have come across of what might have happened, and the indisputable results of his urine testosterone tests is here. Floyd, give it up, and go join Roger Clemens in the "I have the worst defense ever against the evidence of the use of performance enhancing drugs" club.

2. Trying to sell your life, when an Australian man put his life up for sale on E-bay. He ended up selling his house, all his possessions, a trial spot for his job, and all of his contacts for about $382,000. Apparently, he was looking for $480,000. He was upset about the bad breakup he had with his wife and thus, was trying to start his life fresh. Another woman was trying to sell her house and heart on the internet. But, to me the all-time best utilization of the internet for one's prosperity was the young fellow in Canada who sold and bartered his way from a red paper clip all the way to a house in 14 separate trades. This guy was amazing. Please read about each trade by clicking on the photos at the top. My favorite trades revolved around Alice Cooper, but there were such funny offers for the apartment in Phoenix when the trade was still in question. Unfortunately, it looks like those offers are not archived on the website. One of the offers that I remember was a 24-hour lap dance from a Japanese stripper. No one can dance like that for 24 straight hours!! Plus, I don't think that would even be enjoyable for the guy...enough already!

3. Eating more (well, unless you live in Japan), as researchers at University of Texas Southwestern found that injecting latex into the face of cadavers decreased the aged look of a face and made the faces look younger. So, listen to your grandmothers, eat a 2nd helping, and plump up those cheeks!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More on govenmental control (e.g., fat tax)

I started typing this as another comment in repsonse to the previous post, but I figured that since I had so much to say (and it's my blog), that I'd start a whole new post here on this issue, because so many other issues are brought up in my reply. Here is the reply:

Wow, this is certainly one of the most controversial and discussed topics on this blog. I appreciate all of the banter and the really good points brought up by everybody.

R. Waterhouse brings up fantastic points about civil liberties, and where to draw the line on other "dangerous" activities, such as promiscuous sex.

This is such a complex issue. Certainly, the most FAIR system would be NO entitlements and people paying for the consequences of their own indiscretions. There is a huge part of my internal psyche that feels it should be this way.

Then, the other part of my psyche that ends up causing me cognitive dissonance, is that as human beings, we cannot be completely selfish and we should help out the less fortunate. As pointed out by Kath, behaviors that may seem to be solely personal choice are considered by the medical community as "diseases" (e.g., alcoholism, drug addiction). The fact is, that too many people have some sort of combination of being either too "diseased", too weak, or too stupid not to get themselves in trouble with the evil pleasures in life. Thus, sometimes it behooves a government to try to willfully impose a kind of restriction, tax, or punishment for those behaviors. But that results in the predictament of the slippery slope of reaching a point of too much governmental control. I agree with Will that the banning of trans-fats and smoking in public places are probably good policies.

I think the only answer is some kind of balance. This argument can last forever. One of the classic examples is the whole "war on drugs" by the government. Why should we ban any drugs? I can make plenty of good arguments for abolishing all of the rules on drugs. Why should smoking pot, doing cocaine, doing heroin, or any other drug be illegal? The DEA and the billions of dollars spent on the war on drugs has largely been a waste. These drugs are still widely abused, and, one can argue, that making the drugs illegal has increased harm to society in terms of violence and costs of trials and imprisonments. If drugs were legal, there would be no drug lords. There would be less shootings over drug deals gone awry. The police force could be smaller. Our jails would have more room. There would be fewer trials funded by public monies to try to imprison and sentence these folks. Finally, drugs could be sold and taxed just like cigarettes, which would give the government more revenues to spend on more worthwhile causes.

Arguments can also be made in the other direction. Why is alcohol and tobacco legal, while the other drugs are not? Many more thousands of people die each year as a result of alcohol and tobacco, than all of marijuana, cocaine, heroin combined. If the government wanted to keep people safe, then they should ban alcohol and tobacco first, and then worry about the other drugs, and other things like fatty foods.

I don't have the best answer for how much governmental control is appropriate for all of these issues. In the end, or for the time being, I think that federalism (state's rights) might be best. I think it is best for the issue of gay marriage, and it may provide some semblance of a solution. Why? Because it would not require people to leave the country if their idea of appopriate governmental control was the complete opposite of their beliefs.

There could be gun-toting states and non-gun toting states. States that allow gay marriage and states that don't. States that ban drugs and states that don't. States that despise moral hazard and believe in pay for your own regarding healthcare, and states that believe health care should be a collective cost. I'm sure there would be plenty of comments about this as well from both sides (e.g., "poor people won't be able to be as mobile and move to another state" or "the country would be too fractured to run efficiently") but, really, many of the important issues are determined at a state level (e.g., death penalty, gay marriage, rules on abortion timing, etc).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Supreme Court Bans Death Penalty for Child Rape

In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court ruled against dealth penalty for child rape. FYI, 6 states currently allowed the death penalty for this type of crime, although it has been 44 years since anyone in the US has been executed for a non-murder offense.

I have mixed feelings about this decision, because I think child rape is one of the most horrific crimes that can be perpetrated by any human being. However, I do think the court came to the right decision. The biggest argument for employing the dealth penalty in these situations would be to deter future heinous crimes by the violent and ill individual. However, these people are so mentally warped that I do not think any type of consequence will stop them from committing this type of violent crime.

The argument to execute the offender as a punishment for the crime does not hold water. The child is definitely scarred for life (as is the family), but the death of the perpetrator does nothing to rid the victim or their families of the terrible memories of this horrid event. It only gives a quick, one-time feeling of satification due to a false sense of redemtion.

Don't get me wrong, I do not think these people have a good chance at "rehabilitation". Data from multiple studies indicate that the recividism rate for these types of crimes is near 50% and often exceeds that, depsite psychiatric counseling. Thus, these people will always be a risk to society. However, because the risk of repeat crimes is not 100%, execution is not the answer. Instead, they should be locked up for life. And, from what I hear from my trainer at the gym (don't ask), these people get their "due" when they are incarcerated. To me, that's better punishment than peacefully dying from a potassium chloride injection.

Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fat Tax- Japanese Style

Japan has instituted a "fat tax". Their government is imposing heavy fines (in the millions) for private corporations and local governments that have overweight employees on their payrolls. How do they determine if someone is overweight? The measurement of the waistline must be no more than 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women. The goal of the new law is to decrease their overweight population by 10% over 4 years and 25% over 7 years.

I think this is quite an ambitious goal, especially for the country that already exhibits excellent cardiovascular health and longevity. However, I will be very interested in the results of this initiative. Will the Japanese government have its goals met?

I think it may have a positive effect. There is nothing that drives people more than adverse consequences, and because of the steep fines set as punishment, I would expect Japanese citizens to increase their vigilance towards calorie reduction and increase their calorie expenditure via exercise.

Would this work in the United States, where obesity is a much bigger problem than in Japan? I'm not sure, but if monetary fines and possibly the threat of losing employment are enforced, then it may. Certainly, the Japanese will likely have an easier time at accomplishing their goal because of their nationalized health care system, the general hardworking/no nonsense nature of their citizens, and their baseline diet, which is highly dependent on seafood.

If it does work in Japan, then I think lawmakers should consider some type of similar system here. Obesity is simply exploding in the U.S. over the past 20 years. It is crushing our health care system because of the multitude of medical problems, and thus medical expenses, associated with obesity. Here's just a short list of problems that are obesity-related: diabetes, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, polycystic ovarian disease, increased triglycerides, fatty liver, breast cancer (possibly), gallstones, gout, pancreatitis. The problem with most of these conditions is that many of them lead to coronary artery disease, stroke, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure.

Something must be done, and public awareness has not been a sufficient impetus thus far. Perhaps we should institute a radial "fat tax" plan akin to our Japanese comrades. Although, I better watch out, because my waistline would certainly qualify me for a fine under Japanese rules!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tom Friedman's Salvo

I've been harping on energy policy these past few weeks. One of my favorite writers, Tom Friedman has a nice opinion piece in the NYT and seems to take the same side of my argument, only with more elegance.

Here are some excerpts:

Regarding Bush's call for more drilling:

"It’s as if our addict-in-chief is saying to us: “C’mon guys, you know you
want a little more of the good stuff. One more hit, baby. Just one more toke on
the ole oil pipe. I promise, next year, we’ll all go straight. I’ll even put a
wind turbine on my presidential library. But for now, give me one more pop from
that drill, please, baby. Just one more transfusion of that sweet offshore

He reminds us that bill H.R. 6049 — “The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008,” which extends for another eight years the investment tax credit for installing solar energy and extends for one year the production tax credit for producing wind power and for three years the credits for geothermal, wave energy and other renewables, is set to expire. Senate Republicans have blocked the bill six times. Why do we only give tax credits to oil companies??!?!?!?!

Regarding what Bush should say to the country:

“Oil is poisoning our climate and our geopolitics, and here is how we’re going
to break our addiction: We’re going to set a floor price of $4.50 a gallon for
gasoline and $100 a barrel for oil. And that floor price is going to trigger
massive investments in renewable energy — particularly wind, solar panels and
solar thermal. And we’re also going to go on a crash program to dramatically
increase energy efficiency, to drive conservation to a whole new level and to
build more nuclear power. And I want every Democrat and every Republican to join
me in this endeavor.”

I completely agree. Remember, the Department of Energy's own study found that drilling in ANWR would only decrease the price of oil by 75 cents per barrel. And a study by the Energy Information Administration found that drilling offshore in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico would have no significant impact on the price of oil.

Follow this link and send an electronic petition to congress to stop plans for more drilling on the coasts.

Good Week Bad Week

Good week for:

1. Having adequate “support”, as an American hiker who fell and was trapped in the Alps, used her sports bra to signal others to call for help. She attached her bra to a cable near the ledge on which she was stranded, which eventually caught the eye of a worker at the base of the mountain. I can see the new Discovery Channel show, “Woman vs. Wild." That should garner some good ratings, at least among the male, 12-89 years old demographic.

2. Laughing very hard, as this week, NBC will start airing episodes of some crazy Japanese shows. My favorite has got to be this show, where if you get the question wrong, a huge spatula on a spring-loaded lever is released to hit the contestant in the groin. Check out the first episode tomorrow (6/24) at 8 pm.

Bad week for:

1. Faking it, when “Justine”, one of the partners in a same-sex male couple, dressed as a female for a courthouse marriage ceremony in Virginia. Officials several weeks later investigated the situation and determined that Justine was really named Justin. Those are some slow moving baliffs in Virginia. Did it really take them that long to realize something was amiss?

2. Calling the pot black, when it was revealed that Al Gore’s energy consumption actually rose 10% in 2007, despite installation of solar panels and more efficient light bulbs. The kicker is that Gore’s MONTHLY energy consumption is 50% more than the average ANNUAL consumption of Americans. Gore was already called out for his hypocrisy about 1 year ago, when it was determined that his electric bill was over $16,000 per month. What exactly is he doing in that house? He needs to be setting a better example, because these stories are completely embarassing for his whole mission.

3. Being constipated, as a 6 foot python slithered through the sewer pipes and appeared in the toilet of a man’s highrise apartment in Australia. At least his pipes were cleaned need to call Roto-rooter.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Russert Rainbow

Just finished watching the replay of the memorial service held at the Kennedy Center today for Tim Russert. His son Luke gave a great speech. He has inherited his father's oratory skills.

Bruce Springsteen joined the all-star group via satellite from Europe and told a story about Tim and then played a beautiful version of "Thunder Road".

That was the end of the 90 minute memorial, and at the close, they played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on the PA system. As the attendees left the Kennedy Center, they walked out to see a majestic double rainbow in the sky above them. Watch this video from the 7 minute 30 second mark to see more about this. It was quite a poignant image. Watch the whole video to see highlights of the eulogies from the ceremony.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What a year for Beantown

The Boston Celtics clobbered the LA Lakers tonight in the 6th game of the NBA finals to win the championship. It has been an absolutely phenomenal year for Boston sports franchises. The Red Sox won the 2007 World Series in a 4 game sweep over the Rockies. The Patriots dominated the NFL and were within a fingernail's length of an unprescendented 19-0 season, only to lose the Super Bowl on the final drive against the NY Giants.

Finally, the Celtics, led by their big 3 (Garnett, Allen, Pierce) dominated the NBA and defeated their old rivals from the 80s, the LA Lakers.

I acknowledge that the game was a blow-out tonight, but I thought the post-game celebration by the crowd and players was a little subdued. Maybe it's just relative, because I was just watching game 7 of the 1984 finals between Boston and LA on the NBA Network yesterday, and the mayhem that ensued at the end of the game was unbelievable (forward to about 2 min 15 seconds of this video to see the wild celebration. Watch Larry Bird run for his life towards the tunnel to avoid getting completely swamped by the flood of fans on the court).

OK, so maybe there is better crowd control these days, but it just sure seemed like the fans knew how to have a super celebration back then. Maybe it was those short shorts and wild hairdos that stirred them into a frenzy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don and Timmy

I listened to the Imus in the Morning program on Monday morning. Imus was respectful, and said some nice things about Tim Russert in the first 5 minutes of the show, but his tone was frankly not as somber as I would have expected for someone he had on the show greater than 15o times over the past 10+ years. Here's the link to the podcast (click on link to show from 6/16 in the playbox on the right of the page).

The best part of the show were the guests that came on, such as Mike Barnicle and James Carville, Mary Matalin, Joe Leiberman, and Howard Kurtz. The guests were much more emotional and told much more touching stories about Tim (that made me cry, again) than anyone from the Imus crew. Charles, who used to have Thanksgiving dinner with the Russerts, said about 10 words about Russert (something to the effect of "it's doesn't seem possible"). Bernie (the producer of the show), said some brief nice words about how Tim would ask him how his father was doing.

Within 5 minutes of the start of the show, Imus and Warner Wolf were joking about the NBA Finals and PGA Championship. Throughout the rest of the show, in between interviews, they were having their usual small talk and were telling jokes. Imus was also very concerned about getting to listen to the playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate on satellite radio while in the car as he drove to the airport later that day.

I don't know, maybe I was expecting too much of Imus. Maybe I'm a big sap by being so sad about someone that I loved watching and listening to so much, compared to someone that Imus used to talk to at least every month.

Regarding the whole "controversy" surrounding his firing, Imus said that there was never any question that he would have Russert back on the show, despite what many people were saying. Later in the show, he did say they had a "complicated relationship", but there was "no one else to put on the show." Imus did say that of the 150+ plus times on the show, he was never "awful."
If you want to hear true sincerity and respect for The Man, listen to the interviews with Barnicle (25.5 minutes in) and Carville (79 minutes in).

I was initially a little upset about Russert's lack of public support for Imus after the scandal. However, Carville, during his interview, stated repeatedly how much Russert loved Imus and the whole team and that he called Carville repeatedly with ideas to help out Imus. It is clear to me that Russert was given a gag order by NBC and that he never diminished his loyalty for his friend, Don Imus. I should have never doubted him. I'm sorry Tim.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage

Warning: This is a controversial topic.

I got an email today from some organization urging me to help "Stop Same-Sex Marriage in California". The email was asking for money to fight this battle, and stated:

We need resources to fight back, to stand up for God's own truth, for
common sense, for marriage as the union of husband and wife, and for the next
generation's right to know and be known by their own mother and father.

Ok, here is my quick and simple stance on this.

1. I think the fact that same-sex couples are allowed to get legally married does not make one single iota of difference to any heterosexual couple in the world. The strength of their relationship, the validity of their marriage is not impacted whatsoever by homosexuals being able to share the same rights.

2. People should spend more time worrying about fixing their own relationships rather than telling other people who to love and how to love them.

3. Just because same-sex marriages are recognized by the State of California, and maybe by all 50 states some day, does not mean any religious organization has to recognize it.

4. People are worried about the children of these same-sex couples. Well, study after study has shown that children of same-sex couples do just as well as any other children in terms of self-esteem, gender identity or emotional health.

5. I think children of a loving same-sex couple may be more lucky than children born to a heterosexual couple but raised by a single parent with the other parent uninvolved in their care. I was happy to see Obama urging black fathers to become more involved in raising their children. This is what people should be upset about....fathers who abandon their children.

6. Do you think homosexuals are purposely choosing to be "different" and to rebel against societal norms? I don't think so. I don't think they can help it. As evidence, watch these videos from 60 Minutes that explores the origins of homosexuality. You will think twice about criticizing homosexuals for their "choice" (note the video of the 3 year old boy who would rather play with Barbies than toy cars/trucks).

7. Do people think keeping a ban on gay marriage is going to prevent the already thousands to millions of same-sex couples from having romantic relationships? No way.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Energy (continued)

I have to get my mind off of Tim Russert. So, let me come back to a very lively topic that garnered 11 comments to my recent post.

I have posted the evidence that drilling in ANWR will not yield oil for 10 years and will only lower the cost of oil by a few dollars per barrel. I think it would be foolish in the year 2008, to start a multi-billion dollar project in the the very north of pristine Alaska to squeeze out a relatively small amount of oil compared to our overall consumption.

Instead, if the money spent to on the ANWR project went to tax credits to privately-owned companies that focus on non-fossil fuel energy sources, I think it would do a lot more for the overall energy picture. Or, at least shift over the $10 billion in government (tax-payer) subsidies from oil companies to alternative energy companies. It is absolutely ludicrous that these companies are still getting all these subsidies while making record profits at our expense.

I think it it foolish to try to increase the extraction and consumption of a natural resource that will eventually be depleted, when instead we can focus efforts on energy sources that are LIMITLESS (solar, wind, nuclear), clean, and easily attainable. It seems like such an easy choice. Plus, we can also work on decreasing consumption.

This is not a far-off pipe dream. GM is coming out with it's plug-in hybrid that can go 40 miles without using any gas, and can get 640 miles on only 12 gallons of gas. Tesla motors is coming out with an electric sports car that is 100% electric, goes 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, and gets an "equivalent" of 135 mpg.

What is not cool about that type of technology? Doesn't that feel better than burning oil? It is like non-fat ice cream...guilt free. You still can have your sexy fast car and not pollute the earth. And, remember, drivers of fuel-efficient cars are more likely to pick up women.

"Our Issues This Sunday"

Tim Russert started every episode of MTP with those 4 words. In his exhuberant tone, he would recite the issues he planned to discuss during the current week's episode, as the ultra-dramatic music blared in the background.

Today, the Moderator's chair was empty. Instead, Tom Brokaw chaired a special episode of MTP along with some of the regular guests and close friends of Tim. I just finished watching the taped version (missed it this morning because of work). It was tremendous. Please watch it here if you haven't done so. NBC will have to find a new host for MTP, but it will be nearly impossible to fill the big shoes of Mr. Russert.

I don't think I've ever been more sad about any famous person's death. I think Russert was one of the most influential persons in the United States. Think about it...he had anyone who was anyone on his show every week. He had every major candidate for President in the past 17 years on his show. He made the candidates better, because they truly had to think out the issues. They weren't going to pull a fast one over on Tim. He set the standard for Sunday morning shows. He brought the truth to the masses watching at home.

Then, there was all of the people he mentored at NBC. From what I have heard from them in their interviews, he seemed to be an amazing mentor and teacher. Finally, he has touched millions of people with his books "Big Russ and Me" and "Wisdom of Our Fathers", and through his writings he helped strengthen relationships between fathers and sons across the nation.

At the end of the special episode today, they closed with a video montage set to Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road". It is a tearjerker. The Boss dedicated the song to Tim at his show last night in Europe.

Russert and Father's Day

Tim Russert was NBC Washington Bureau Chief and moderator of Meet the Press, but he is also known for his books about fathers. Here is a touching tribute by Chuck Todd from NBC about how Tim was always concerned about his colleagues and their relationships with their families.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Imus and Russert

As I said in an earlier post, I will be listening to the Imus in the Morning show with gusto on Monday, to see what Don Imus says about the death of Tim Russert.

An interesting post on "", which seems to indicate that Russert did go to bat for Imus during the whole controversy, but was handcuffed by NBC execs on displaying his support for Imus publically. I think that was the case...they were just too good of friends for Russert to turn his back on him. Moreover, Russert was too good of a guy. However, Russert couldn't publically support Imus the way Mike and the Mad Dog or others did after the firing because of his position as the Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News (you recall that Imus in the Morning was simulcast on MSNBC). The evidence of this is indirect...but Imus has had Russert appear as a guest on his show several times since the incident, while Imus has shunned others who abandoned him. Thus, I think Russert did really try to help Don Imus out and prevent his outright dismissal from MSNBC. has posted podcasts of several Imus-Russert interviews...listen when you have a chance.

Also, the "Opinionator", Chris Suellentrop of the NYT has posted a nice collection of comments from the Blogosphere regarding Mr. Russert.

Russert Tributes

Here are some heartwarming and touching tributes to Tim Russert.

Tom Brokaw and then Tim talking about his start at Meet the Press

The opening of the Dateline special last night

Tributes from politicians around the country

Pat Buchanan

James Carville

Tim gives advice to his son

Watching all these videos clips of him, it reinforced to me why I love him so much...he was so tenacious and thorough when interviewing people, but he always was smiling and had a twinkle in his eye while doing it.

I will be listening Monday morning to hear what Don Imus says about his long-time friend (you may recall that their relationship was strained after the firing of Don from CBS radio and MSNBC).

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Russert

I've watched 5 consecutive hours of MSNBC and now NBC coverage of Tim Russert. I can't stop watching...he was such an amazing man. He was known as one of the most honest and rigorous interviewers of politicians, writers, and pundits. He had such a thirst for knowledge and for seeking the truth. But, it is the personal side of Tim that is really so amazing. He was such a humble man, who cared deeply for others, for spending time with his family, for having meaningful interpersonal contacts. It is quite poetic that he died at the start of Father's Day weekend, as he mentions both his father and son in almost every interview he has given. He loved the city of Buffalo, he loved the Roman Catholic Church, he loved the common man, he loved politics, and most of all, he just loved life.

I am still in absolute shock about this...

Tim Russert 1950-2008

I am shocked and deeply saddened about the tragic and sudden passing of Tim Russert, NBC News Washington Bureau Chief, host of the extremely popular Sunday morning show "Meet the Press", and frequent guest on MSNBC and the "Today Show". He collapsed and died from a massive heart attack (proven by autopsy) while on the set of NBC News this afternoon, despite the best efforts of the paramedics to revive him.

I feel like I know Tim Russert personally. I have taped and watched "Meet the Press" every Sunday for the past few years, and watched it online when it wasn't taped. I thoroughly enjoyed his interviewing style, holding his guests responsible for the comments they had often made in the past, which often contradicted their current stances. He was very fair and nonpartisan. He grilled conservatives, liberals, republicans and democrats with equal vigor. He was so enthusiastic in his coverage of politics. His face was akin to a bulldog, but he appeared to have the most charming and warm personality. He was keenly intelligent, but also knew how to smile and laugh with his guests. From the testimonials that are pouring all over the internet and television right now, he was beloved by all that new him. He was always repectful, kind and caring. Before and after the cameras were taping, he would ask the guests about their personal lives and he would ask about their family.

Tim Russert was only 58 years old. It is ironic that he has died on Father's Day weekend, as he is also famous for writing stories about fathers, in his book "Big Russ and Me". I don't know what to say. He was the man, the stalwart and Godfather of political coverage.

Tim Russert was also a frequent guest on the Imus in the Morning show. Here is a funny compilation clip of Tim actually sitting in the studio and ripping on Imus from the mid-1990s.

I will miss Tim Russert greatly. The United States of America will miss Tim Russert tremendously.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Drilling is not the answer!!

I was in my morning routine today (watching CNBC to get a handle on the pre-market futures while I get ready for work) and Doug MacIntyre, Senior Market Analyst for the Energy Information Administration came on to discuss the "oil crisis".

Doug talks about the "benefits" of drilling in ANWR (Alaska), at around 4 min 30 seconds into this video clip. He quotes data from his most recent analysis for a report that he has provided to the US Senate. What his team found is that it will take 10+ years to get the oil from ANWR into our system, and that at the most, it will only reduce the price of oil by a few dollars per barrel. Please watch the video (you can forward it to that spot).

Wow, drilling in Alaska just sounds like such a great solution to our energy problems....NOT!!!!!!!

OK, we haven't had a poll in a poll....should we drill for oil in ANWR? (vote to the right of this post).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Disgusting Medical Practices

Police in Italy have arrested 13 doctors from Milan for performing needless medical surgeries. The doctors collected some $3.8 million for performing these surgeries. What's worse, is that wiretaps placed reveal that the motives for the surgeries were most likely for monetary reasons.

I hope this doesn't surprise you. And, I hope that you are not comforted by the fact that this occurred in Italy and not the U.S. In my young medical career, I have already seen too many examples of doctors performing unnecessary tests and procedures, or trying to extend the life of patient whose outcome is futile. The financial incentive is too corrupting (most tests, procedures, longer hospital stays means more billing and more money in the pockets of physicians). Also, there is a "secret mafia" of consultants/specialists who refer patients to each other to increase their revenues. Finally, don't forget about all of the incentives placed in front of doctors by pharmaceutical companies. While the rules have become stricter, you can imagine that there are still underlying pressures and enticements. This is one of the reasons why so many people are taking over 20 medications.

What does this mean for you if you are a patient?

1. The next time your doctor orders a test, ask him why it is necessary and how he/she will act on the information. There are so many tests that are ordered that do not change your medical management whatsoever.

2. The next time you doctor orders a radiographic test, again, ask why, and what the alternatives are to the test. The reason for extra caution here (as opposed to a blood or urine test) is that you should not be exposed to extra radiation if you do not need it (FYI, a standard CAT scan delivers more than 200x radiation than that of an X-ray). Studies have shown that the radiation increases your risk for cancer.

3. If a surgeon recommends an operation for a non-emergent condition such as chronic back pain(not for a ruptured appendix or cholecystitis, or something emergent and obvious), get a 2nd opinion. Remember about the financial incentive to operate.

4. Ask your doctor if all of the medications that you are taking are needed. Sometimes medications are continued for a previously indicated condition, but your change in health status may no longer require it.

5. Fill out a living will and make sure your loved ones have one in place. The default in the hospital is to do everything. Couple that with the "God Complex" that many physicians have, and before you know it, there will be tubes going into every orifice in the body, and all kinds of aggressive and largely uncomfortable procedures that will follow when illness strikes. Do this living will when you are feeling healthy and are of clear mind. Try to remember that death is not optional, and try to balance out with extending your life on Earth with your QUALITY of life.

6. Be skeptical!! This is not the 1950s when everybody used to take what their primary doctor said as Gospel. There are a lot of bad doctors out there who barely made it through med school or barely passed the boards (many are not even board certified, but are still practicing medicine). Look up your conditions on the internet. Become educated, and have an active part in your health care decision making. Remember that doctors are busy and may miss things. But, I still think that you are more likely to get more unnecessary care than lack of vital care, given the ease with which tests in this country can be ordered.

I've said this in the past, but I think there are way too many financial incentives in the health care system. Everybody is trying to make money: doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies. With all of the green to be made, patient's needs and desires are often last on the list of priorities.

Good News, Bad News

Ever wondered what you should do with your old clunky television or computer? Well, now there's a solution. Best Buy has started a recycling program for your old electronic devices. That's great....but the bad news? The program is only operational in Baltimore, San Francisco, and the state of Minnesota.

Hopefully they will expand this program soon. Does anyone know of other options for getting rid of old electronics, especially like here in the Northeast?

More on Fuel

A reader of the blog (Don) has been active in the comments section lately, and I certainly welcome his insight and arguments. He is quite intelligent and understands free markets.

I agree with most of what he said, but I do have two slight differences of opinion:

1. While he concurs that we should have more alternative fuel research, he states that government tax dollars (our money) should not be spent on it and that the free markets are the best equipped to handle it.

Well, I agree, that in the UNITED STATES, the free markets are the best to handle it (and apparently the only way it will get handled), because our recent PRESIDENTS, ADMINISTRATIONS, and CONGRESS as well, on both sides of the political spectrum, are too screwed up to do anything about it. In other countries (e.g., European countries), governments have no problems implementing alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind and solar power. (France and Germany get most of their energy from alternative energy sources).

I personally would not mind if some of our tax dollars went into alternative energy research/implementation. Why? First, I would MUCH rather have our tax dollars go to this endeavor rather than the TRILLIONS that are going into the Iraq War. Second, it would be one of the greatest things our government could do to improve national security. Why should we still be paying all this money to corrupt OPEC countries who sponsor terrorism? They will be using our oil money for improving their weapons. Third, the high price of fuel is essentially a "hidden tax", isn't it? EVERYTHING is more expensive....driving, flying, FOOD. It is crippling the country.

So, while I welcomed high prices in oil now to provide the private industry with the free market impetus to bring on alternative energy, if our blundering and inept government had done something about this a long time ago (back in the 70s, 80s, 90s), we would not be in this position today. I want the pain now so that the future generations don't end up living in the US when oil costs $300 per barrel.

2. Don also argues that we could be drilling in Alaska for oil. This is NOT the solution!! There are only about 4 months worth of oil up there. Then we would be done and would be back at square one again! We need long-term solutions and thus, should not destroy peaceful Alaska for a 4-month band-aid.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Good Week Bad Week

Good week for:

1. "Poetic justice", as 28 teenagers who broke into Robert Frost's old house in Vermont, had a keg party, and caused over $10,000 in damage were sentenced to take a class in poetry.

It reminds me of sheriff Joe Arapio who makes his prisoners at his Arizona jail wear pink underwear, and only allows them to watch the weather channel so they can see how hot it will be working outside the next day.

2. Sowing the fields, as a 17-pound Densuke black watermelon was sold at an auction in Japan for $6,000. While you can occasionally get a dud watermelon at the grocery store (not pink/red enough, not juicy enough), there are still plenty of delicious watermelons that I have had from local grocery store for about $3.

By the way, did you know that the record for watermelon seed-spitting is 68 feet 9 inches!!

Bad week for:

1. Being "#1" in the world, as the dominant Roger Federer, was demolished by the Spainiard Rafael Nadal in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. It was Nadal's fourth straight French Open title. I have seen Federer in action several times, including live at the US Open, and he is like a machine. He has won 12 grand slam titles (3 Australian Open, 5 Wimbeldon, 4 US Open), but has NEVER won the French. It seems that the clay court is like his kryptonite. Federer has now lost 3 straight French Open finals to Nadal. I may be coming down too hard on Federer, and it just may be that Nadal is SO GOOD on clay, and that is the difference.

My question to you all is, how can someone be so good at playing tennis on one surface, but become so beatable on another suface like clay?

2. Buying early, as Apple has announced that the new 3G iPhone will not only be faster, have more memory, and possess more features but will be MUCH cheaper than the initial iPhones. The new iPhone will sell for $199 (the initial iPhone sold for about $600 last year). Suprisingly, Apple's stock was lower on the news.

Market update: we have broken support on many of the major averages including the DJIA and the S&P 500. The NASDAQ has been strong the past few months, but is also on the verge of breaking horizontal support. Be careful out there...we could be headed for a test of the March 17th lows.

3. Driving "rapido", as truckers in Spain, Portugal and France blocked highways in protest of high fuel costs.

Again, efficient markets are working properly, as a new report indicates that 66% of Americans said they are cutting back on the amount of driving they do and 71% indicated that they are considering buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Car manufacturers will step up their production of more fuel-efficient vehicles, which will then be on the road for years to come, even if gas/fuel/oil prices fall in the next few years. Plus, the new technology developed to maximize fuel economy from engines will remain, setting new standards that will likely persist for years to come. Overall, there will be decreased consumption of fossil fuels, and people will realize they don't need to have gas-guzzling SUVs, especially in non-snowy areas (I still don't understand the popularity of SUVs and trucks in Florida and Texas).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Eating Bugs

One of the lead stories on today was a link to piece on why we should eat insects. It seems that eating bugs would go a long way to help solving the world food shortage. Sound totally disgusting? In 113 countries, eating bugs, scientifically known as "entomophagy", is common practice. In Mexico, some 1500 different species of bugs are served at restaurants, especially high-end restaurants.

Bugs, pound for pound, are more nutritious than meat, fish, and poultry. They contain a high proportion of protein and a fair amount of minerals. Beside the fact that insects are a good nutritional source, raising insects is far cheaper and more efficient to feed compared to feeding pigs and cattle (food conversion efficiency is 20 times better than that of beef).

It does seem quite gross to me, although I have tried fried grasshoppers once, and they were actually quite tasty. And, as this article points out, bugs may seem unpleasant because of the exoskeleton, appendages, and weird eyes, but humans, in general, have no problem eating crustaceans, which have these same characteristics and are thus the ocean-equivalent of insects. And, crustaceans eat trash and dead things from the bottom of the sea, while most insects feed on leaves and plants.

Convinced yet? Ok, maybe not yet. But, please watch this video clip from one of my favorite shows, Man vs. Wild. It's a two minute clip, but you must watch to the 2nd half of this clip where the crazy Bear Grylls eats a gigantic rhino beetle larva (he eats two in a him eat the 2nd, larger one).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Good Week, Bad Week

Good week for:

1. Picking up girls with a hybrid, as a recent study found that 9 out of 10 women would rather talk to man who drives a fuel-efficient vehicle rather than a sports car. The other 10% of women still prefer aggressive stick-shifting.

2. Enophiles, as researchers found, yet again, the benefits of red wine towards reducing the typical age-related decline in cardiac function (in mice). Lucky mice...when will they start human trials of red wine? I guess that wouldn't really one would want to be in the placebo group.

3. The Fonz, as this article on the history of "thumbs up" credits Fonzie with reinvigorating the gesture. As you might know, in the days of the Roman Empire and gladiator fights, the crowd would give a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate whether the gladiator would live or die. Contrary to popular belief, a thumbs up meant the gladiator was to die, a sign that your to get "outa here". Concealed thumb (thumbs down) meant the gladiator was to live. Interestingly, in Iran and Greece, the thumbs up is derogatory sign. Good to know....

Bad week for:

1. Stoners and pot-heads, as new research from Australia reveals that long-term pot smoking shrinks two important areas of the brain, the hippocampus and the amygdala. This explains a lot, about me, I mean, Australians.;_ylt=AojvvF4LZMxPqrFT5FvC2boDW7oF

2. Grocery bills, as a homeless woman was secretly living in the closet of an unsuspecting Japanese man for months. Apparently she hid a mattress in his closet, and would sneak out, shower, and eat his food when he wasn't home. He finally caught her by installing security cameras. I guess it's better than having your house infested with mice.;_ylt=AuDB3HPerFPfjXbXy8vBWFoDW7oF

3. Having diarrhea in space, as the only toilet on board the space station has malfunctioned. Until a new pump is brought up to them, the astronauts will have to use plastic bags to contain their waste. Hope the bags don't break!;_ylt=AkCu2rLl.P6mW1Cd1EopsMYDW7oF