None For You, You're....

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Posted on : 9/08/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Giving Birth!

At least, that is the desired outcome of a policy established by the UK's NHS.

Family doctors are being told to try to talk women out of having Caesareans and very strong painkillers during birth to save the NHS money.

...

Caesareans cost the NHS around £1,200 a time while epidurals - anaesthetic injections into the spine - are around £200.

The Blogfather had the best retort:

I don’t remember this from the dancing NHS tribute at the Olympics. 

Disappearing Voters

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Posted on : 9/07/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

Slate recently published a story about disappearing voters in Milwaukee, WI.

Sixty percent of Milwaukee’s black voters have disappeared.

Democrats have feared for years that one of the particular challenges of running campaigns in 2012 would be simply locating their voters.  The party’s constituencies (young people, immigrants, minorities) tend to be among the most mobile demographic groups.  And as NPR speculated this week in an analysis of battleground-state foreclosure figures, the housing crisis will likely only have made things more difficult for Democrats looking for their supporters.
The focus on the story is on how our tough economic times have caused people to move frequently.  And while I will readily admit that people losing their homes or people moving frequently due to rent issues has to be a big problem, I also want to suggest that there may be another factor in play.

Fraudulent voting causing names and addresses to appear in voter rolls that cannot be confirmed in person.

The police review of irregular voting in the 2004 election clearly indicates that there were hundreds of votes cast that could not be reliably tied back to a legal Wisconsin resident.  One district attorney pegs the number of questionable votes as closer to 4,600.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found myriad voting problems occurred in Milwaukee and other parts of the state in the 2004 election, the one later investigated by the Milwaukee police and state and federal prosecutors.

Three of the newspaper’s findings provide some perspective:

1. In Milwaukee, there was a discrepancy between the ballot count and the number of people listed as having voted of about 7,000.

(Investigators were later able to whittle the discrepancy to 4,600 votes, or 1.67 percent of the 277,000 votes cast in the city.)

2. Some 1,300 on-site voter registrations in Milwaukee could not be processed for a variety of reasons, including missing addresses and missing names. More than 140 of those who voted listed addresses outside the city.

3. At least 278 cases statewide where felons may have improperly voted, though the number was likely considerably higher, since only a partial review of those who voted was possible.

The Journal Sentinel reports prompted a joint federal-state investigation in 2005. Those investigators found more than 200 cases of felons voting illegally in Milwaukee and at least 100 cases of double voting in the 2004 election, numbers that echoed the newspaper’s findings.

About a dozen cases of voter fraud were pursued, with mixed results, but then-U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic concluded there had been no findings of widespread fraud.

Then-Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann said in June 2005 he was troubled by the 4,600-vote discrepancy that remained, suggesting that questions will linger about whether systematic fraud occurred in the city.

"I have a reservation about those 4,600 votes," he said.
This apparently is a continuing problem in Wisconsin.

Just another reason for us to undertake comprehensive elections reform to ensure that every legitimate voters gets a chance to vote, and that there their vote is counted while at the same time preventing illegitimate votes from being cast.

[just....erg -Ed.]

An Elevator Into The Sky

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Posted on : 9/06/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

One of the bigger initiatives currently in vogue among technology geeks is the idea of a space elevator.  The short version is that a cable would be suspended form a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.  The cable would be attached to the earth near the equator.  The satellite would be a sort of counter weight that would maintain tension on the cable.

And then a "climber" would climb the cable into space.

One of the primary obstacles to space exploration and exploitation is the expense of getting things into space.  Current costs to get one pound of anything into space exceed US$11,000.  The hope is that a space elevator will cut those costs to closer to US$100 per pound.

One of the early companies to research the technology required to construct such a system has announced that they want to build a space elevator....for the moon!  We need to get back to the moon at some point and having an easy way to get people and equipment onto the moon as well as back off of it would certainly be a good step in the right direction.

And if we can build such a system for the moon and eventually for Earth, what is to stop us from doing the same thing on Mars?

For us science fiction geeks, life is good.


Independent Expenditures

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Posted on : 9/05/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Everyone's favorite punching bag, Karl Rove, recently spoke about a number of topics while at a breakfast during the GOP convention.  The one thing that I think was interesting was his take on independent campaign expenditures.

Rove, who is heading the powerhouse outside spending group Crossroads GPS, defended the use of outside money in elections.

“The Democrats have been doing it for years and I got sick and tired of fighting with one hand behind my back,” he said. “I don’t remember this angst when Americans Coming Together, funded George Soros and five of his pals, were beating up Bush.

I don’t remember anybody writing a frantic editorial in the pages of the New York Times when the NAACP voter fund announced it received a $14 million contribution form an anonymous donor in order to run an ad attacking President Bush as a racial bigot.”
That's really the problem these days, isn't it?  The GOP is fine with anything the GOP does but screams bloody murder if the Dems try anything similar.  The reverse is equally true.

Mr. Rove had some other thoughts that are worth your time as well.

Why We Fight

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Posted on : 9/04/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

And why we should not leave the war until it is won.

Insurgents beheaded 17 civilians in a Taliban-controlled area of southern Afghanistan, apparently because they attended a dance party that flouted the extreme brand of Islam embraced by the militants, officials said Monday.

...

The victims were part of a large group that had gathered late Sunday in Helmand province's Musa Qala district for a celebration involving music and dancing, said district government chief Neyamatullah Khan. He said the Taliban slaughtered them to show their disapproval of the event.


The last time we prematurely abandoned as war, over two million innocent civilians were slaughtered in southeast Asia by communists.  How many innocent Afghans, Persians, and Arabs will die if we abandon the Middle East to intolerant Islamic extremists that seek to rule that part of the world?

Aren't those innocent civilians worth saving?  Or are we a "I've got mine, Jack" nation when it comes to individual freedom?

Book Recommandation - Children of Chaos

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Posted on : 9/03/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

As with most stories that I tell, first I have to tell you this story so you will understand the one I really want to tell.

Dave Duncan is an outstanding SFF writer.  He creates fantastic worlds complete with unique religions, magics, mythologies, and moral codes.  While I'm certain that he puts a lot of work into the back story of each world, his books make it seem an effortless act of creation on his part.

I first ran into Mr. Duncan's work while reading his "Tales of the King's Blades" series.  His "Chronicles of the King‘s Blades" were also wonderful reads.  These series are placed in a world where the monarchs of one kingdom are protected by Blades.  These Blades are recruited as youngsters and educated at a sort of monastery where they learn not only how to read and write, but also how to swing a sword to deadly ends.  "Graduation" consists of being magically bound to protect the person that plunges a sword in the graduate's chest.

Typically, this is the king.  Although he is known to provide such protection to other important people in his kingdom.

From that moment on, the Blade is compelled to protect that person.  Failing in that task results in a rage driving the Blade into suicide or madness.  Sometimes both.

Within that framework, Mr. Duncan creates at least four different sub-cultures.  One based on Czarist Russia.  One based on Aztec sun worship.  One that is Polynesian.  And of course one that has a western (i.e. middle ages Europe) feel to it.

Really good stuff.

So it was with that background that I picked up his "Children of Chaos" at the local library.

The world in this book is perceived by its inhabitants as having twelve distinct sides; a dodecahedron.  The name of the world naturally is "Dodec".  They believe that in wandering their world, they travel "over the edge" to an adjacent "face".  Mr. Duncan makes the apt point in his preface that it has not been a terribly long time since most of humanity considered our world to be flat.

The pantheon of dodec includes eleven gods and goddesses.  Which would seem a little odd in that the world has twelve sides.

There is a twelfth goddess named Xaran that represents death.  It seems that humanity is inclined to deny death where ever it is found.

In this world it is possible for a person to dedicate themselves to a single god or goddess.  Doing so requires some sort of sacrifice.  For example, disciples of Eriander, the androgynous god/goddess of sex and madness, obtain a powerful, enhanced sex appeal.  However the price for this gift is that they can never be truly loved.  They are masters of engaging in sex.  But no one will ever see them as anything more than an object of sexual desire.

The story centers around a group dedicated to the war god Weru.  They are called Werists.  It isn't a coincident that those names are close to the prefix "were" that we use in terms like "werewolf".  Werists gain the ability to change into a "battleform" that is obviously modeled after some sort of human-beast hybrid.

Werists had traveled to conquer an adjoining face.  At one city, they offer peace to the city's doge; a sort of elected king-for-life.  In exchange, they take his young children as hostages.

"Children of Chaos" is about those children after they have become adults, their attempts to escape the Werists, and the people that either help or hinder them along the way.

As with Dave Duncan's other works, this book is a ton of fun.  He has prepared a fully formed world and brought characters to life on the page.  What a wonderful read.




Bias Acknowledged

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Posted on : 9/02/2012 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The ombudsman for the NYTimes recently penned a column about what he has discovered over his two years in that position.  The whole column is worth a read.  However, he makes a couple of points that support the larger contention about the perspective of the NYTimes.

The first is that the Times....their occasionally valiant ombudsman aside...rarely sees where they may have erred in their reporting.

The Times is hardly transparent. A reader still has to work very hard to find any Times policies online (though some are tucked away there), and there is still no place where Times editors speak on the issues. As for humility, well, The Times is Lake Wobegon on steroids (everybody’s way above average). I don’t remember many autopsies in which, as we assembled over the body, anyone conceded that maybe this could have been done differently.
Emphasis in the original.

The second of Mr. Wilson's more interesting observations relates to (gasp) bias.

I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within. 

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times. 

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
This isn't exactly earth shattering news to those of us that don't work for or uncritically believe everything in the New York Times.

The story also notes the credibility of the times among Republicans has dropped relative to Fox News.  It is also noted that the credibility of Fox News among Democrats relative to the NYTimes is almost precisely inverse of that measured among Republicans.

This isn't progress.

Part of being able to have a common debate of the issues is being able to have a common basis for that debate.  When the media effectively chooses sides in their news reporting, they undermine our ability to conduct a civil discourse on current events.

An examples would be claiming that the "science is settled" with respect to global warming.  Ummm...it ain't.

Another example might be consistently reporting about potential effects of raising taxes on the budget deficit without concomitantly reporting about potential effects of cutting spending.  Or at least discussing those cuts in a manner that doesn't suggest that proponents of cuts are some sort of ghoul looking to feast on the dead.

I have maintained for many years that the rise of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News was the direct result of the media failing to publish "all the news that's fit to print".  Perhaps the Times will discover this before they turn into the next Village Voice.