The chocolate ration is being increased to 25 grammes per week.

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Iran deal: “Abject Surrender” or not?

The Weekly Standard is a horrible, hack organization, that has no journalistic integrity at all.  They are partisan to the end, and will never give Obama credit for anything.  Their current headline is Abject Surrender by the United States written by a waste of water named John R. Bolton, also a partisan hack that wouldn’t know fair and balanced if it punched him in the stomach.

So, is the deal the Obama administration made as bad as the right wingers are saying?  The conservative business website Business Insider has this to say about it:

In sum, this first step achieves a great deal in its own right.  Without this phased agreement, Iran could start spinning thousands of additional centrifuges.  It could install and spin next-generation centrifuges that will reduce its breakout times.  It could fuel and commission the Arak heavy water reactor.  It could grow its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to beyond the threshold for a bomb’s worth of uranium. Iran can do none of these things under the conditions of the first step understanding.

Furthermore, without this phased approach, the international sanctions coalition would begin to fray because Iran would make the case to the world that it was serious about a diplomatic solution and we were not.  We would be unable to bring partners along to do the crucial work of enforcing our sanctions.  With this first step, we stop and begin to roll back Iran’s program and give Iran a sharp choice:  fulfill its commitments and negotiate in good faith to a final deal, or the entire international community will respond with even more isolation and pressure.

The American people prefer a peaceful and enduring resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.  This solution has the potential to achieve that.  Through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do its part for greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.

This is just the conclusion.  There are lots of other details in the piece.

The Weekly Standard is a disgusting publication and deserves to die.


My favorite Android apps (Nov 2013 edition)

Many of these apps I paid for.  In every case, it was well worth the cost.

My current phone is a LG Nexus 5.  My previous phone was a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.  All these apps worked on both.

In no particular order:

  • Twitter client: Plume for Twitter – I evaluated a lot of clients, and I hated them all for one reason or another.  This one has made twitter bearable for me, mainly because I can mute certain types of posts to make my stream smaller and more manageable.
  • podcast player/manager: DoggCatcher – very nice for podcasts, both for playing and downloading.  It’s a set it and forget it type of thing.
  • music player: DSub and Google Play Music – I prefer to use DSub, but it’s been giving me problems lately so I’ve switched to Google Play Music.  I uploaded my entire music collection to Google’s cloud and I can stream it to my phone from anywhere.  DSub is a client for Subsonic, which is a server that runs on my machine at home (where I keep my music).
  • anti-theft: Cerberus anti theft – for when I lose or get my phone stolen… peace of mind.
  • utilities:
    • Light Flow – LED&Notifications – allows for the control the notification LED on my phone.  I love it, but I’ve had trouble since I updated to 4.4 (Kit Kat).
    • Setting Profile Full – allows for changing settings of the phone based on location.  I mainly use it to turn on Wi-Fi when at home or work.
    • Timeriffic – allows for changing ringing characteristics of the phone based on time.  I mainly use it to mute my phone at night and during scheduled meetings.
  • games: Solitaire MegaPack – for my fix of various card games.
  • keyboard: SwiftKey Keyboard – a good standard keyboard replacement.  I don’t know if it’s the best, but I like it.
  • exercise companion: My Tracks – allows me to record walks and gives me stats (elevation changes, distance, speed, etc).
  • launcher: Nova Launcher – I love this replacement launcher/home screen manager.  Lots of cool features.
  • productivity: Remember The Milk – todo list manager that I can access from a browser.  Full featured. Easy to use.
  • backup: rsync backup for Android – allows an rsync backup of my sdcard to a remote machine.  Indispensable in case my phone gets lots or I accidentally wipe it (yes, this happened).  The setup of this app  is complex and not for the non-techie.
  • banking: USAA Mobile, Capital One® Mobile – The USAA app is much better than the Capital One® app.  Capital One bought Ing Direct.  I fully expect some day I will need to close my Capital One® account because they’ll screw up everything that was good about the old Ing Direct.  At least I have USAA to fall back on.  I originally got the USAA account/app to be able to deposit checks via my phone (by taking a picture of the front and back of the check).  Now, many banks allow this.  USAA is still the best, mainly because the interface is easier.  Also, the daily limit is $10,000 instead of $3,000 for Capital One®.  This isn’t an issue very often, but it’s come up twice.  One problem with USAA, you need a connection to the military to get an account.  I used the fact that my father had served in the Army.

Once it gets fixed for Kit Kat, I’ll add this back:

  • utility: MoreQuicklyPanel – allows access to a bunch of features from the notification area.  Currently broken on Kit Kat.

Criminal justice in America

The Economist has a three-part series on criminal justice in America.  All US citizens would do well to read this, especially those with previous brushes with the law.  Part 1, part 2 and part 3.

One only has to look at the incarceration rates per 100,000 population to see that we lead the world, by a large margin, in locking our own citizens up.  Our rate is 716 per 100,000.  That means, for every 100,000 people in the US there are 716 people in prison.  Let’s look at Spain, a country in severe economic straights and one of the largest in Europe.  Their rate is 149 people per 100,000.  We incarcerate 4.8 times as many people as Spain.  I tried to pick a “fair” comparison.  I could have chosen Iceland with a rate of 47.  That makes our rate 15.2 times higher.

No one knows how many non-violent criminals are serving life without parole in America, but there are at least 3,278 people who will spend the rest of their life in prison for something non-violent.  The drug crimes that trigger life without parole can be as trivial as owning a crack pipe or a bottle cap with a trace of heroin on it.  The non-drug crimes can be just as ludicrous: trying to cash a stolen check; siphoning gas from a truck; threatening a cop while handcuffed.

And then, there’s this:

Clarence Aaron had no rap sheet: he is among the one-fifth of non-violent life-without-parolers in the federal system serving time for a first offence. While a student at Southern University in Louisiana, he acted as a middleman in a drug deal. He neither bought nor sold the drugs in question, but when arrested he refused to testify against his co-conspirators. They did not return the favour. Consequently, all but one of them have been released from prison (the last is due out next year), while he is almost 20 years into a life sentence.

Like most prisoners serving life for non-violent crimes, Mr Aaron is black. Racial disparities among non-violent “whole-lifers” exceed even those of the prison system itself. Among federal prisoners, blacks are 20 times more likely to receive such sentences: they are 65% of the national total, compared with 18% for whites and 16% for Latinos. In some states the numbers are yet more skewed: blacks are 91% of non-violent life-without-parole prisoners in Louisiana, 79% in Mississippi and 68% in South Carolina.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the deep south, where racism is more alive and well than anywhere else in the US, is disproportionately using life without parole against blacks.

Incarcerating people is expensive, but the human cost is much higher.  Locking someone up for the rest of their life for a non-violent crime is inhumane.  It destroys lives, and not just those of the incarcerated, but their families.  We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and decide if we want to continue on this path.  If we do, I don’t think history will judge us kindly.

UPDATE: yet another example of extreme sentencing.

You want fiscal responsibility? Start here.

“Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year. — Reuters journalist Scot J. Paltrow investigates how the US military’s bad accounting not only wastes taxpayers money, but helps ruin the life of ordinary soldiers and veterans.”  [Via MeFi]

To all your supposed fiscally responsible people out there: if you want the government to spend less, then start here and not by attacking money that is directed to poor people.