29 Aug

Newsweek – Estimates Say Fewer Jobs, Larger Deficits if Republicans Were in Charge

The bottom line, then, is that recent GOP proposals would produce fewer jobs and far larger deficits than the plans Obama has already passed or currently wants to pass. This isn’t to say that the Republicans couldn’t create jobs or cut the deficit if restored to power—just that right now, they’ve chosen to support policies that would prove less effective in both respects than the Democratic programs they so vehemently criticize.

via Newsweek – Estimates Say Fewer Jobs, Larger Deficits if Republicans Were in Charge. Oops?

27 Jun

Rolling Stone Politics – BP’s Next Disaster

Here’s what BP has in store for the Arctic: First, the company will drill two miles beneath its tiny island, which it has christened “Liberty.” Then, in an ingenious twist, it will drill sideways for another six to eight miles, until it reaches an offshore reservoir estimated to hold 105 million barrels of oil. This would be the longest “extended reach” well ever attempted, and the effort has required BP to push drilling technology beyond its proven limits. As the most powerful “land-based” oil rig ever built, Liberty requires special pipe to withstand the 105,000 foot-pounds of torque — the equivalent of 50 Mack truck engines — needed to turn the drill. “This is about as sexy as it gets,” a top BP official boasted to reporters in 2008. BP, a repeat felon subject to record fines for its willful safety violations, calls the project “one of its biggest challenges to date” — an engineering task made even more dangerous by plans to operate year-round in what the company itself admits is “some of the harshest weather on Earth.”

via Rolling Stone Politics – BP’s Next Disaster. The next place for BP to start drilling, the Arctic.

23 Jun

NYTimes.com – On Border Violence, Truth Pales Compared to Ideas

It is a connection that those who support stronger enforcement of immigration laws and tighter borders often make: rising crime at the border necessitates tougher enforcement.

But the rate of violent crime at the border, and indeed across Arizona, has been declining, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as has illegal immigration, according to the Border Patrol. While thousands have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars, raising anxiety that the violence will spread to the United States, F.B.I. statistics show that Arizona is relatively safe.

via NYTimes.com – On Border Violence, Truth Pales Compared to Ideas. Once again perception and idealougy trumps facts.

02 Mar

U.S. Declassifies Part of Secret Cybersecurity Plan – Wired.com

What may be the most controversial part of the declassified plan is a discussion of a need for the government to define its role in protecting private critical infrastructure networks. Critical infrastructure includes the electrical grid, telecommunication networks, internet service providers, the banking and financial industry, and others.

via U.S. Declassifies Part of Secret Cybersecurity Plan | Threat Level | Wired.com. Is it necessary for the government to protect the civilian  infrastructure, probably though the details will be the sticking point.

10 Mar

Science and Politics, Like Oil and Water

One of my personal biggest pet peeves with regards to the current political system in America, and for that matter a large and vast number of society is how few people actually use evidence to back up their position. Rather than presenting facts we are presented with ad homein attacks, personal stories and told what people feel rather than what research shows and demonstrates is true. Today the Congressional Representative Randy Neugebauer for the district I live in sent out one of his email newsletters.

In the newsletter Rep. Neugebaur talks about Pres. Obama’s recent decision to reverse a Pres. GW Bush era policy of restricting government funding on any new human embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9th 2001. Quoting from the newsletter (emphasis mine):

Today, President Obama reversed the Bush Administration’s policy of banning federal funds from going to research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

I am disappointed in President Obama’s executive order. I strongly believe the rights of the unborn need to be protected from the point of conception, which is why I cannot support the use of tax dollars to fund research that millions of Americans, including myself, believe destroys human life.

The major advances in stem cell research have come from adult stem cells, not embryonic ones.  Several findings have recently been made that show stem cells found in umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, and bone marrow tissue have the same flexibility as embryonic stem cells.  Research using adult stem cells is being used to treat diseases, and taxpayer research dollars should go toward advances that are producing results.

Let’s discuss some of Rep. Neugebauer’s points, most importantly the “believe destroys human life”. Not that it does destroy human life, because well there is no evidence of such, just people’s belief that it does. There is no evidence of any such destruction of human life in those blog posts, articles or links presented by Google, in fact most of them talk about just the opposite, about how scientific research is making it less and less necessary for stem cells to be grown in the labs from human embryo’s.

Update: I made a mistake, but it actually works out favorably. According to Scientist and Engineers for America: “The Executive Order does not affect the prohibition on using federal funding for creating destroying, or discarding human embryos. This prohibition first became law in 1996 and is known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment. Subsequent laws appropriating money for the Department of Health and Human Services all carry this prohibition (shown here in H.$. 3043, the 2008 appropriations for HHS). After today, federal dollars can go toward research on hundreds of cell lines in existence, but not to creating new lines.” So Rep. Neugebauer can’t even claim that federal dollars are going towards destroying human embryos. Sorry about the mistake.

Which might make you ask, so what’s the big deal about the executive order then if it really isn’t needed? Two points here, first of all that science has yet to find a fully reliable source for stem cells as embryos grown in the lab. Second to quote PZ Myers: “You don’t get to hobble the horse and then complain that it hasn’t won any races!” So first of all to fully find a reliable source of stem cells that doesn’t involve growing embryos scientist need to study actual embryonic stem cells (embryonic stem cells have the unique characteristic of being the most adaptable and thus the best avenue for areas of stem cell research). Also Rep. Neugebauer wants to say that the research hasn’t presented anything of any value while at the same saying that science should somehow magically produce results with the main source of science funding cut off. Okay I have a business and decide to cut off 90% of their funding, let’s see the company produce something wonderful, sure.

My final point along this topic is that Rep. Neugebauer or more likely one of his staffers hasn’t linked to a single news article or scientific paper in any of his newsletters describing his actions or providng a more thought out reasoning for why he thinks the way he does. Though what’s to be expected when Obama is the first president “to speak about data in his inaugural address, and only the second to mention statistics.”

That to me is the absolute saddest state in American politics that our presidents aren’t more willing to use data and statistics to back up why they make decisions that they do.

My hope is that we can change this chart around at some point.

Chart Belief in Outrageous Statements

Chart Belief in Outrageous Statements

18 Nov

Keep Lowering the Bar: On Everything

Want to become a successful candidate, business, tool, whatever – then keep lowering the bar towards people interacting with you. Companies that raise the bar towards interaction with the business and the people involved in the business will eventually fail. No matter how large you are, the people want and enjoy easy access. Even if they don’t consciously realize it they will go for the business that has a lower bar to buy from.

Apple’s first genuine hit was the Macintosh with a graphic user interface that made it easy for everybody to understand how to interact with a computer and see what was going on. What sparked Ebay’s first real success ease of access, selling was quick and painless. If you didn’t sell well who cared it was junk anyways. YouTube lowered the bar towards sharing videos online, Flickr photos, Google searching, Obama to donate and get involved, the list goes on and on. Why is MasterCard adding the ability to pay with out even pulling out your card, ease of access towards that card. The easier it is to use your MasterCard the more likely you are to use it.

As a business you should not create artificial barriers towards letting your users interact with your business/product. This means provide lots of free samples, make it easy to get in touch with you, make your web site easy to navigate and fun to use.

If you are a software company make you applications easy for your customers to get their hands on and use. Interfaces should be clean and easy to grasp. Limit preferences, most of the time the defaults are just fine, the more settings you have the more chances you have to confuse your customers. If a customer can’t grasp an interface the user doesn’t need to be educated the interface needs to change.

I don’t know if the bar can ever be low enough or if it ever is too low, but the lower you make the bar the more likely you are to attract people to your product (be it software, hardware, food, information, skill, or even yourself) means that many more potential customers.

Thanks to Matt Cutts for the inspiration of this post based on his review of the Google Voice Search iPhone App. Specifically “The easier/faster it is to search, the more I searched.”

29 Sep

This Republican Party Bothers Me

(I am a registered independent and my views align with the Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic Parties, yes, all at once. I consider myself a social libertarian, something I conjured up on my own to explain my views, which are too complex to explain here.)

The Republican Party of the United States over the past several years has bothered me, more and more.

The party has in the past years undergone a change that I believe will not cause the party to gain more unity, but rather cause more people to split from the party. The party has been pretty consistent in only area, everywhere else it says and does two very different things. The party also seems to be promoting the idea that logic and intelligence are flawed qualities in a politician. Wikipedia (as normal in this day and age) has more sources and more information than I could hope to convey regarding this so go look there for more details.

My largest problem with the party has been a promotion of people who genuinely appear to know nothing about how proximity doesn’t equal experience, economics, international affairs, or it seems just about anything other than religion or lipstick. I am genuinely bothered when opponents paint Obama as an elitist to win an election. I want an elitist President, I want a President so ridiculously smart and intelligent I can’t even hope to follow him/her. I want a President who believes in science, a President who is curious beyond anyone else I know, a President who sees the world as the complex system it really is, I want a Renaissance President. And yes I do want a President that actually causes excitement amongst both this nation and other nations. Let’s face it we can’t do everything on our own, we do not rule the world, not by far. Especially in the face of our declining economic strength and political power in the world (awesome book on this subject).

Most of all, I want a President who expresses a belief and actually applies it fully. This is one of the largest reasons why I can’t vote for a Republican the majority of the time. As I stated at the beginning of this post, I do believe in some of the views that the Republican party expresses, but they don’t apply those views.

What is going on with a party that as far as I can tell says one thing and does another except when it comes to religion? The only thing that the party seems to actually say and do regards social conservative positions.

This party needs to find itself and figure out what it really believes or work out some new form of logic to explain the disconnect between what they say and do.

Most of all a party that believes in the idea that one religion is somehow righter than everybody else and that the rest of the country should fall into line with a religious belief. Let’s get one thing right – Social Conservatives ultimately believe in their views not because it makes sense or they have the evidence to back it up, but because their religion says this is the way things should be. Their religion doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate my life. It’s freedom of religion – not freedom to have religion pushed on you. How does homosexuals being allowed to marry harm their marriage? I also didn’t realize I needed to be reminded to pray in school.

If I was a member of the RNC I would be embarrassed by Sarah Palin just as any Democrat should have been embarrassed by Kerry in 2004. We shouldn’t be embarrassed by our candidates, we should be proud of them.

Intelligence and logic should be first qualifications for a candidate something the Republican Party seems to ignore as far as I can tell, though I would love to hear otherwise.

13 Aug

Abortion Should Be Rare

Feministing has a post up today regarding abortion and the Democrats new platform (PDF warning) for the 2008 election. The whole of the article essentially focuses on how “safe, legal and rare” has become “safe and legal”. My main area of concern is as follows:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

I wonder why the Democratic leadership removed the word “rare” in their platform for this upcoming election. First is that Obama has been a pretty strong supporter of comprehensive sex-ed as well as supporting contracteptives. Second it seems that having the word rare in there adds to a wider range of appeal. I would argue there are very few supporters of abortion who want abortion to be a non-rare event. Instead the majority of pro-choice postions support compresenhive sex-ed and cheap and open access to contraceptives to reduce abortion. Why not, the fewer abortions the less of a controversial issue it becomes. Get smart people and increased contracaptives mean fewer abortions which works for both parties.

So I must ask the Democratic Party why the change in language, it seems you are both going against what makes good political and logical sense? Or is there a secondary reason that I am not seeing?

09 Aug

Is It Wrong To Be Enthusiastic Over A Politician

A recent McCain political ad, emded here from John McCain’s YouTube channel.

The ad compares Obama to Paris Hilton (I learned writing this post, that Paris Hilton has a website.) and Britney Spears and asks that just because someone has a lot of enthusiastic followers doesn’t make him ready to lead. This ad just doesn’t make sense to me. Wouldn’t you want a politician whom people are enthusiastic over, don’t we want to be excited over our political leaders?

Now the awesome thing is the response Paris Hilton did.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

So many political ads seem to simply be put out without any real thought behind them. I really wish the discourse level of politics in America would be raised. The sad thing is that I see The Daily Show and Colbert Report as helping to raise the discourse level