Thursday, May 24, 2007

India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

I found this story very interesting: tired of American companies applying on patents for indigenous knowledge, the Government of India is building a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, a giant database of indigenous knowledge from the medical traditions of Ayurveda (in Sanskrit), Siddha (in Tamil) and Unani (in Arabic, Urdu or Persian). This is a phenomenal effort in which some 30 million pages of ancient texts will be converted into digital data.

Quote of the Day: Angela Kelley

Angela Kelley of the National Immigration Forum on the Newshour, addressing criticism that the new immigration bill on the Hill amounts to amnesty:
What's the alternative, Ray? We deport 12 million people? We spend $240 billion a year over the next five years to do that? That's more than the DHS [Department of Homeland Securitty] budget.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Some links to stories that caught my eye ... with of course my 2 cents!

Forget all you know about the income gap between rich and poor. USAToday analyzed the data and found the income gap is a generation gap, where the baby boomers are prospering, while the younger among us are suffering. If true, this should strongly influence policy. Social security and Medicare reform, anyone?

American Public Media's program Marketplace reported the UK government is introducing Sharia bonds, bonds that steer clear of un-Islamic enterprises like gambling, to attract the untapped Muslim financial enterprises. There are some interesting issues, but this led me to think of a crazy idea. The story interviewed a lady called Ms Thorneycroft of Lawyers Christian Fellowship, who protested that the government could be attracting money with strings attached - say, no funding for media purposes. Bad, right? Well, what if we embraced that principle partly - say, cut taxes in general, but allow taxpayers to allot upto a certain percentage of their tax revenues to certain causes. Think we need more education funding - fine! But then you have to cut out spending on other causes. I think allowing the taxpayer to be much more involved in spending will lead to a citizenry much more cost conscious than what we have now.

Got to love the double standards politicians have. So workers coming together in a union to negotiate higher wages - good. Oil producers trying to make sure they generate adequate revenues for their masses - bad. Anti-trust lawsuits, screams the US House. Well, phooey! It's amazing what passes for leadership when gas prices are high. Here's a suggestion to those respected members - if you want to solve economic threats, develop some vision. But seeking to break the oil cartel is not only beyond your abilities and bad policy, it also pushes poor people on the brink further down to subsidize a rich nation addicted to consumption.

Mr John Edwards has been in the news recently for receiving $55,000 in speaking fees to address a group of UC Davis students. Of course, he's hardly the only one - the story points out former President Bill Clinton pocketed $100,000 while Mr Rudy Giuliani charged Oklahoma State University $100,000 for a speech -- and $47,000 for the use of a private jet. So, setting aside partisan rhetoric ... why should schools spend those superbucks on attracting candidates and the like? Doesn't that account to a misuse of public money? How come there aren't equal access clauses like there are with the public airwaves. Not that that is the solution. In the end, we should do with politicians what we do with musicians - if you want to hear them, you can pay out of your own pocket!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Damning Testimony

I have not been following the news very actively recently (and probably won't for the rest of the month), so it came as a surprise when I heard about Jim Comey's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Face the Nation. I pulled up the video from YouTube. This is a MUST WATCH, 20 min long but a real outrage.

Here are the Cliff notes version: Jim Comey was acting Attorney General when John Ashcroft was hospitalized. Comey and Ashcroft had decided that the terror spying program wasn't strictly legal, so Comey as acting AG refused to certify the program's legality. White House officials including then-counsel Gonzales then try to take advantage of an ailing Ashcroft by heading to the hospital and making him sign a document he no longer had the authority to. The details are shocking and makes me a little sick to the stomach!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Socialized Medicine

Just heard a clip of Congressman Ron Paul, presidential candidate, pointing out that the quality of care at Veterans Administration hospitals is what you can expect from government medicine. At a time when people are happy to criticize the VA and yet want more government involvement in healthcare, this helps put things in perspective. Think VA, think DMV, think any of the myriad bureaucracies we deal with - do we really want more of that crap?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Paul and Moore are Good for American Democracy!

Recently there has been a lot of heat on two individuals from opposite ends of the spectrum. On the one end is film maker Michael Moore, superhero to the left, whackjob to the right. His latest movie, Sicko praises the socialized systems of Canada and Cuba, and has got him in trouble with the law for violating a trade ban. On the Republican side, Ron Paul, candidate for president is facing heat from his party for saying that 9/11 was the fault of American interventionism in other countries' business. There is a temptation to cast both aside as looneys, but maybe we shouldn't.

First Moore. His movies are biased and predijucial, and frankly often dishonest. And yet they're powerful. I hate Moore's politics, and him personally, and yet would never turn down the opportunity to see a Moore flick, simply because he has a way of putting his viewpoint in perspective. I have read that in Sicko, Moore deals with the death of an 18-month old who was denied access to the ER. Inflammatory? You bet, as it should be when an infant dies. Of course, Moore papers over the flaws in the Canadian and Cuban systems, but then again, no one in their right mind would consider Moore balanced.

Ron Paul is less famous, but I think he does more to uplift the Republican debates than so many of the candidates out there. Don't get me wrong - I principally oppose many of his viewpoints. And yet, there is something to be said for a candidate who believes in what he does and is willing to stand by it, who doesn't answer by opinion polls or pander to a base. Here's what I believe - take it or leave it ... that's an exciting credo. And it brings focus to issues rather than personalities. Indeed, I find myself waiting for his turn, even if I shake my head when he talks of disbanding the Department of Education or essentially abolishing a foreign policy.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Garbage List

What does it mean when a list of Top 100 most influential people excludes the most influential person in the world? It means it's garbage, nonsense, not worth the paper it's printed on (hmm, someone needs to come up with a phrase more appropriate for our cyberage). Which is what Time magazine's latest Time 100 list is. Evidentally, Oprah Winfrey and Tina Fey are more influential than President Bush. So what if the latter controls the most powerful nation, has the most imposing military in the world, has to ensure the continued success of the global economy and has at his disposal to blow up half the world. Tina Fey is funny, and evidentally that makes her more important.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

Some of the things I'm looking at or thinking about as I work on my models (computer models, silly!) ...

A sign that things in the Middle East aren't as simple as fundamentalist or liberal - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is being attacked for indecency after he embraced and kissed the hand of a former teacher. A fully gloved hand, mind you. Interestingly, the article points out his previous trangression among conservatives was to suggest that maybe, just maybe, women could be allowed to attend football games! Shocker!!

Rupert Murdoch wants to buy the Dow Jones company, meaning the Wall Street Journal would be his. The family is reported to be not interested, but it gives you pause. Could Murdoch take over the entire Fourth Estate someday?

The American Research Group's new poll shows McCain leading in all 3 vital primary states - Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. McCain has gained 6% in New Hampshire in the last month, but in Iowa, the story is of Guilani losing a solid 10%. No idea why that happened! So maybe McCain isn't quite down and out. Of course, with the front-loaded primary schedule, these states may not be as important as before.

On the topic of McCain 2008, here are some thoughts for his campaign. While he's still my pick for President, I think it might be time for his campaign to think what it reflects of his performance as a president. He's spent too much money too ineffectively, hardly a prescription for appealing to conservatives. Conservatism is about smart investments, and right now, McCain's return on investment is pretty poor. Also, while he has correctly chosen to focus on Iraq, there are other issues he needs to address. How about railing about runaway spending? Entitlement reform? Taxes?

And finally, at a time we are obsessing about our increasingly violent society in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, this figure helps us relax a little more. Turns out we are getting less violent after all ...

courtesy: DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics