patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
I will be Marching for Science in DC on Saturday!

I'm flying United. Kind Ms. Irlweg tells me not to worry.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
Here is another song about Donald Trump. Feel free to add additional verses. So many lies...

The Donald Lies Over the Ocean
Tune: My Bonnie
lyrics by Alan Thiesen, placed in the public domain

The Donald lies over the ocean.
The Donald lies over DC.
The Donald lies over and over.
He won't pull a fast one on me!

Won't pull, won't pull,
He won't pull a fast one on me, on me.
Won't pull, won't pull,
He won't pull a fast one on me.

He claims one point five million people
Turned out for his grand swearing in.
The photos show four hundred thousand,
And lying, you know, is a sin.

Lying, lying,
Lying, you know, is a sin, a sin.
Lying, lying,
Lying, you know, is a sin.

They rant about terror in Sweden,
A Bowling Green massacre, too.
Tell Donald and all of his cronies
That none of that batshit is true.

Batshit, batshit,
None of that batshit is true, is true.
Batshit, batshit,
None of that batshit is true.

He claims that he's bringing back coal jobs.
That's something that no one can do.
So while you are trying that, Donald,
Bring milkmaids and icemen back, too.

Bring back, bring back,
Bring milkmaids and icemen back too, back too.
Bring back, bring back,
Bring milkmaids and icemen back, too.

He claims that Obama has bugged him
With wiretaps up his wazoos.
Is Donald aware that he's lying,
Or does he believe Breitbart News?

Does he, does he,
Does he believe Breitbart News, Bart News?
Does he, does he,
Does he believe Breitbart News?

He promised to kill off my health care
I'm hoping that that's a lie, too.
But I've got a terrible feeling
There's one thing he said that is true.

One thing, one thing,
There's one thing he said that is true, is true
One thing, one thing,
There's one thing he said that is true.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
A friend of mine asked, "What does the Democratic Party stand for?"

My answer is below. I paint a rosy picture of the twelve virtues of the Democratic Party. I imply that the Republican Party must be really awful, because it has none of these virtues. Is this picture accurate? Maybe not. Like just about everyone else in the world, I am subject to confirmation bias: I tend to seek out and remember information that confirms my preexisting beliefs, and ignore evidence that contradicts my beliefs.

I plan to examine the virtues I attribute to the Democratic Party one by one in future posts, gathering evidence to see if my impressions are accurate. I encourage you to comment with evidence for or against my claims.

I should make it clear that when I talk about "The Democratic Party" or "The Republican Party", I am talking only about politicians. There are many fine people registered as Republican voters. I was one, once.

  • Economic issues: The Democratic Party...

    1. Reduces the Federal budget deficit (as a percentage of GDP)
    2. Creates jobs and increases wages
    3. Offers universal health insurance
    4. Promotes the long-term economic interests of the American people, as opposed to the Republican party, which promotes the perceived short-term economic interests of the very rich

  • Social issues: The Democratic Party...

    1. Reduces the abortion rate, while keeping abortion legal and available
    2. Believes in equal rights for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference
    3. Protects the environment

  • Foreign policy: The Democratic Party...

    1. Didn't start the last two wars
    2. Promotes democratic ideals, at home and abroad

  • Issues of competence and trust: The Democratic Party...

    1. Tells the American people the truth
    2. Values facts over ideology when formulating policy
    3. Governs competently

The Republican Party does none of these things.

I don't think Democratic politicians have done a good job of getting their message across, and that isn't just because vastly more money is poured into Republican messaging. I bet most Democratic politicians don't even know that Democratic Presidents consistently reduce the Federal budget deficit as a percentage of GDP, while Republican Presidents consistently increase it. I bet most Democratic politicians don't even know that the abortion rate plummeted during the Clinton and Obama administrations, while declining by only a few percentage points during recent Republican administrations.

Stay tuned for future posts on these twelve topics. Please be patient; this may take me a while.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
This song is not sophisticated, not subtle, and not polite, but those qualities seem useless in today's political environment.

The Donald Trump March
tune: The Mickey Mouse March
lyrics by Alan Thiesen, placed in the public domain

Who's the leader of the land,
A land that once was free?
Trump is not for me.

Who's the fool who's Putin's tool,
Corrupt as he can be?
Trump is not for me.

Donald Trump! (Steve Bannon)
Donald Trump! (Steve Bannon)
Together they will drain the country dry. (Dry! Dry! Dry!)

Come along and join the throng.
We shall again be free.
Trump is not for me.

Now it's time to say goodbye
To this kleptocracy.
D-O-N (Enabling our enemy!)
A-L-D (Defiling our democracy!)
Impeach that S-O-B!
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
In 1971, Sally Ride was an undergraduate at Stanford University, and she was the top player on the women's tennis team. Ride and three other players were denied travel funds to compete in a tournament in Ojai, CA. When they offered to pay their own way, they were again denied permission because they didn’t have a chaperone.

At a time when decades of progress in reducing discrimination against women and minorities seems to be reversing itself in this country, I hesitate to draw any moral from this story, but I wanted to share it with you anyway.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
Let me tell you about Mary R. Back in the 1970s, she was a single mother with no job skills to speak of. Poor planning? No, her husband had been shot to death.

Mary R. went on welfare. While on welfare, she went to college and got a degree in computer science. (I'm not sure you can do this any more. I think that President Clinton's welfare "reform" makes it difficult or impossible to stay on welfare for four years.) After she graduated, Mary got a succession of well-paying jobs in Silicon Valley. She and I worked together for a couple of years at a small Silicon Valley startup, which is where she told me this story. Last I heard, Mary was a successful manager at Intel. Through her income taxes, she has repaid the government many times over for its investment in her.

Thanks to all the taxpayers who, forty years ago, made Mary R.'s success possible, and to all the taxpayers today whose taxes are improving the productivity of American workers and creating more successful careers. We taxpayers rock!

I could as easily have written about horrible things the government does with our money. For me, our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan fall in that category; YMMV. But I think that the remedy when our government ****s up is not to pay less in taxes, but to learn from our mistakes and elect better leaders. It seems to me that government is essential to just about everything we do; any well-functioning market economy is the child of government. For examples of market economies without government intervention, see Zimbabwe or Somalia. For an example of what happens when the government protects business owners but not employees or consumers, see Qatar.

(None of this means that I enjoy the paperwork involved in filing our income taxes. This year, we're taking an extension.)

Also see Thanks to the taxpayers who made my life possible and "It takes taxes... to raise a child".
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
Taxpayers made my life possible.

My mother, Grace, grew up in poverty. Her mother was a garment worker in a New York City sweatshop, and her father's business failed. When Grace graduated from high school, there was no money for college tuition. Nevertheless, Grace was able to attend Hunter College, which was free to New York City residents because it was supported by the taxpayers of the City and State of New York.

If Grace had not gone to college, she would not have gone to graduate school. If Grace had not gone to graduate school, she would not have met my father, and I would not exist.

Grace earned much more money throughout her career than she would have earned with only a high school education, and therefore she paid much more in taxes. She undoubtedly paid society back many times over for the cost of her college education. Furthermore, I believe that the value to society of her work far exceeded the amount she was paid.

The specific taxpayers who made it possible for Grace to attend college may be deceased now, but I trust that today we taxpayers are making other success stories possible.

Thank you, taxpayers! We rock! Happy Income Tax Day!
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
We love the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to Obamacare, we will spend $21,621.60 less for health insurance this year, and we have vastly better coverage.

Here are the boring but important details. In 2013, we spent $36,023.40 in health insurance premiums for our family of three. This year, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we will spend $14,401.80, and we could have spent less. We did not choose the least expensive insurance available through the Affordable Care Act, and we are not eligible for a government subsidy.

Why were our insurance premiums so high in 2013? We were trapped in our expensive health insurance plan because my wife is a cancer survivor and I am self-employed. As premiums rose from year to year, anyone who was healthy enough to qualify for less expensive insurance did. The pool of insured people got sicker and sicker, so premiums rose higher and higher.

In 2013, our per-person out-of-pocket maximum was $25,000. This year, it is $6,350. In 2013, we paid more than $25,000 in medical expenses that were not covered by insurance. So far this year, we have paid $295. Our total savings for all of 2014 thanks to lower premiums and better coverage could easily hit $40,000.

We are telling the world more than we really want to about our finances because we think it is important to counteract the misleading stories of people who say they had to pay more for insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Did you hear the one about Bette from Spokane, who said she had to pay $700 a month more for health insurance? She didn’t get her new insurance from the website; she went back to her old insurer and switched to the most expensive plan they had available.

The bottom line is that nobody who is eligible for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act will have to pay more than 9.5% of his or her income for insurance, and most people will pay much less. As I type this, there is still time to apply.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
The Affordable Care Act will be wonderful for my family. We currently pay $36,000 (that's right, thirty-six thousand dollars) a year for health insurance for a family of three. And it's mediocre insurance, with a $5,000 deductible and a $25,000 maximum out-of-pocket. That's what happens when you're self-employed (or your employer doesn't provide health insurance or you retire before age 65) and your family has a poor medical history.

The year my wife Alta had ovarian cancer, we paid $72,000 in health care expenses. That's the sum of our insurance premiums and the medical expenses that our insurance didn't pay for. We felt lucky and grateful to have insurance. Without it, we would have owed more than $250,000.

The insurance plan we have will go out of business the end of this year. If the Republicans manage to get the Affordable Care Act postponed, we will be unable to get any health insurance at all. And Alta has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I'll post an update after I have found out how much we will save by getting insurance through the ACA.

EDIT: The breast cancer was diagnosed at a much earlier stage than the ovarian cancer. Alta's prognosis is excellent.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
The post below was written by [ profile] osewalrus. I have copied and pasted it.

"Thou shalt not put a stumbling block before the blind" --Leviticus 19:14

After many years of negotiation, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is finally ready to sign the Treaty For the Blind in Marrakech, Morocco in a few weeks. Oh look, intense lobbying by the Intellectual Property (IP) Mafia is causing the U.S. to waver at the last minute . . . .

It is disgraceful that the U.S., at one point a major proponent of the Treaty, is now wavering because the usual suspects from Hollywood have come lobbying at the last minute. and why? Because God forbid international law should acknowledge anything, ANYTHING might be so important that it creates an internationally recognized limitation and exception to Copyright Law. And why would the United States, which has many domestic laws already in force that go beyond what the Treaty would require, listen to Hollywood and the other copyright and patent bullies?

For [campaign contributions] blind the eyes of the wise, and twist the tongues of the righteous. -- Deut 16:19

Help keep the U.S. on the right side of the Treaty For The Blind and tell the I.P. Mafia to stuff it. We have organized a We The People Petition here. We need to reach 150 signatures just to be visible on the main page. [Note: The petition now has 449 signatures. Their goal is 100,000.]

Please help us by clicking on the link and signing the Petition. If you are so inclined, please pass this along to friends.

Edit: Also see Harold Feld's longer blog post on this issue. It has evil villains and secret trap doors and a pool of sharks with laser beams strapped to their heads.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
I have just uploaded to the Filk Archive ( two songs performed by Bill Maraschiello that I recorded at OVFF 2 back in 1986, only about a month before Bill's tragic, sudden, and unexpected death.

Thanks to Bill's brother Paul for permission to make "Half-Pint Baby" and "The Hugo-Winning Authors" available, and to Adam Puche for digitizing my audio cassette recordings.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
I have just learned that today is Internet Freedom Day, so it's a good day for me to say a few words about Aaron Swartz.

Aaron was a genius as well as an idealist. He co-authored the RSS 1.0 specification at the age of 14. I benefit from this work every day.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Adam of downloading several million academic articles from JSTOR, and threatened him with over 30 years in prison. In view of the fact that the original intent of U.S. copyright law was “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," it can be argued that downloading academic articles (which Aaron may or may not have done) and making them available to the public for free (which Aaron did not do, but may or may not have intended) promotes the progress of science better than locking up academic articles behind a paywall. Jacob Lyles believes that "Aaron's [alleged] crime is theft in precisely the same way that a member of the underground railroad was an accomplice in theft."

Aaron's work to make our scientific heritage available to the public is being carried on by diverse groups, including Demand Progress, which he founded; The Archive Team, which has released the Aaron Swartz Memorial JSTOR Liberator; Creative Commons, whose licenses Aaron helped design; and Public Knowledge. Aaron, sleep softly. You live in mankind.

More about Aaron from Larry Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and osewalrus.

Edit: No, I don't hate copyright laws. I think that in this particular case, our copyright laws do not well serve their original purpose.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
My song below dramatizes the following articles about Mitt Romney's tax shelters:

Where the Money Lives (Vanity Fair)
Mitt Romney's Cayman Island holdings complicate tax return debate (Washington Post)
Mr. Romney's Financial Black Hole (New York Times)
Mitt Romney's Tax Dodge (Rolling Stone)

The Mitt Romney Shanty
lyrics by [ profile] patoadam, completed 10/30/2012, placed in the public domain by the author
melody: "The LiveJournal Shanty" by Brooke Abbey, except for the last line of the chorus, the melody for which is here

I’m a poor confused voter, and I’d like to know
Why Mitt Romney’s taxes are so goddamn low.
So I'll sail the world over, with courage and stealth
To learn how Mitt Romney has sheltered his wealth.

So it's heave at the capstan! We’re sailing away.
(We’ll post Facebook reports at least three times a day.)
And it's haul on the halyards! Our flag is unfurled.
We sail for Mitt Romney's tax havens, all over the world.

To the warm Cayman Islands, my bold buccaneers!
Mitt has a dozen tax shelters out here.
Twelve corporations, each one is tax-free,
With assets that Mitt doesn't want us to see.

Read more... )

If you enjoyed my song, you'll love The Elegant President: A Poem for Mitt Romney by Julian Gough:

Read more... )
What we need is an elegant country for elegant folk.
Not fuckups in pickups with hiccups from drinking and dope
Who can't afford healthcare, who can't afford dinners like this
Those people aren't drowning, they're waving their communist fists.
Read more... )

Finally, I encourage you to read An Open Letter to Candidate Romney:

You said that you think that 47% of Americans “think they are victims” ... I am not a victim. I have been beaten. I have been bullied. I have been raped. I have been addicted. I have been alone. I have been poor. I have been homeless. I have been sick and broken. I have chosen — each and every single time — to stand up and pull myself and my family out of those circumstances. I beat every one of them without any riches to aid me. I did that without any inheritance, any gifted stocks or bonds, any loans, any rich family, or any elevators for my cars. I did it because I am not a victim, I am an American.

Remember: One small vote is enough.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
Here are my thoughts on the debt ceiling negotiations. All comments welcome. Feel free to agree or disagree, to say that this post is interesting and insightful, or to complain that it is didactic and boring.

I start from the premise that the government is supposed to save us money by doing things in the public interest that it can do better and cheaper than private enterprise. I bet you agree that it doesn’t always do this. It is possible for the government to waste our money in at least three ways:

• When it does something not in the public interest. I place our military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan in this category. YMMV.

• When it does something that the private sector could do better. I can’t think of a major government program in this category. Your suggestions are welcome.

• When it fails to do something in the public interest and within the limits of its constitutional authority that it could do better and cheaper than the private sector. For example, all the evidence I have seen indicates that government health insurance is less expensive than private health insurance. Since 1969, the real cost of Medicare per beneficiary has risen by a factor of five. This is terrible, but the real cost of private health insurance has risen by a factor of eight. We would save buckets of money if public health insurance were available to everyone.

If I’m right so far, the general principles of what to do about the federal budget are clear. We should eliminate government programs that waste money. We should continue, expand, and create government programs that save us money. We should happily tax ourselves enough to pay for everything, because the government would be saving us money.

Read more... )

Here is a mystery I don’t understand. I have emphasized that the government can, and often does, save us money. If I am right, why haven’t I heard anybody else saying this? Many voters want lower taxes and less government spending because they believe that the government wastes their money. Why don’t politicians explain to them that the government is at least trying to save them money?
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
One day two or three decades ago, as I was donating blood, I was given the opportunity to sign up to be a potential bone marrow donor. I jumped at the chance.

(For years after that, I was under the impression that to register as a possible bone marrow donor, you have to donate blood first. Not so. You can send away for a free kit that you use to collect a few cells from the inside of your cheek.)

So why did I register as a marrow donor? Until I started to think about writing this message, I was under the impression that I had made a rationally altruistic decision that would give me a chance to save a life. But that's not the whole story. I also wanted the drama and glory of being a hero. I wanted to get that email or phone call saying that I could save a life. I wanted to turn off my targeting computer and single-handedly destroy the Death Star. I wanted to run into a burning building and rescue the baby trapped in a crib.

But we rarely have opportunities to be heroes in real life. They say that only 1 in 540 donors is ever called. On the other hand, if 374 new donors sign up, one of them will probably be a match for a patient some day, because (539/540)374 < 1/2.

I still think it made sense for me to sign up. Not so much because of the slim chance that I might be called on to donate, but because if enough people sign up, more lives will be saved. But the other thing I realize now is that I should donate blood more often. That is a less dramatic but surer way to save lives.

My wife A. would have died in surgery last year if she had not received blood transfusions. My thanks go out to the anonymous heroes who saved her life. I recently found out about Leah, a leukemia patient, who will need blood and possibly bone marrow. Her illness is what prompted me to post about this now. Best of luck to Leah for a speedy cure!

If you are in the U.S. and you wish to register as a potential bone marrow donor, see the National Marrow Donor Program for details. If you wish to donate blood, see the American Red Cross.
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
I'm looking for an instrument that is tuned like a standard guitar but is smaller and therefore easier to travel with and to play. (Barre chords are not my friend.)

Filkers who play the Vagabond travel guitar, the Tacoma Papoose, and the Washburn Rover have graciously told me about the advantages and, in some cases, disadvantages of their instruments.

I would gratefully appreciate any comments on these or other travel guitars.

Thanks in advance!

EDIT: I got the Little Martin. Thanks for your help!
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
Recently, I told a friend of mine that I have trouble understanding the Bible. Different denominations interpret it in radically different ways. Different translations say different things. I don't trust any particular religious authority to tell me what the Bible means. Why is one religious authority more likely to be right than any other?

My friend said that maybe different people are supposed to interpret the Bible differently. More generally, perhaps it's a feature, not a bug, that different people have different religious beliefs.

In seeking inspiration for what to say here, I re-read an inspiring speech by Harold Feld. How can a speech about community wireless networks be inspiring? Well, it is also about why and how we should strive to make a better world. At one point, Harold touches on how the Passover seder is explained to children. He says that we give each child a different explanation, because we have a responsibility to try to reach each child in the place where he or she is now.

In the same manner, perhaps God or the Dao or the cosmic microwave background radiation touches each of us in a different way, in the way that is best for each of us, and that is why we have different religions.

"There are as many ways to God as there are people." -- Joseph Ratzinger, 1995
(Thanks to [ profile] eintx for pointing out this quote.)

"If there's a God, your purpose is to LIVE. To help people. To make the world a better place. And if there's NOT a God... your purpose is to LIVE! To help people! To make the world a better place!"
-- Tom Smith, 2006

"Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in God and the Prophets. They just have a few minor disagreements about who the Prophets are." -- anonymous friend

"So believe in God in Heaven, or believe in hearth and home
That the children are our future, or that we are not alone
Just believe that something matters, and believe with heart and soul
For the act of believing is what keeps us whole."
-- Harold Feld
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
[ profile] catsittingstill has what I think is a fantastic idea. She wrote:

You remember the Koran burning thing.

Well, I have an idea. What if we start a backfire (metaphorically)? Let's make September 11, 2010 "Stand Up For Religious Tolerance Day"

Everybody post something on religious tolerance.

That way we don't reward Koran burning trolls with attention, BUT we don't stay silent and let it look like we don't mind, or even agree.

If you think it's a good idea, please pass it on!

Great idea!
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (alan guitar)
I would like to know why people hold the political opinions they do and vote the way they do. (Translation: Why doesn't everyone agree with my obviously correct political opinions and vote the way I do?) I have listed some popular explanations below. I should mention that the brief summaries I give do not do justice to the writers' nuanced arguments.

How can I tell which hypotheses are correct? Or are they all correct, as in the parable of the blind men and the elephant? Or is it impossible to answer "why" questions, because correlation does not imply causation? Can you suggest other theories I'm not familiar with?

Conservatives are authoritarian; liberals aren't.
Mark J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics

Conservatives come from strict-father families; liberals come from nurturant-parent families.
George Lakoff, The Political Mind and Don't Think of an Elephant

Conservative are more easily squicked than liberals.
See this article

Morality is based on five principles: caring for others, fairness/reciprocity, group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity/sanctity. Liberals base their beliefs on the first two principles; conservatives base their beliefs on all five principles.
Jonathan Haidt, as described at

Political opinions are based on emotion, not reasoning.
The Political Brain, by Drew Westen

Blue-collar workers, who used to be liberal for economic reasons, have become increasingly conservative because conservative politicians have increasingly emphasized social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
Thomas Frank, What's the Matter With Kansas?
patoadam: Photo of me playing guitar in the woods (Default)
That cracking sound you just heard was the sound of the American system of government breaking under the weight of corporate campaign contributions. The Supreme Court just ruled, in Citizens United v. FEC, that even the wishy-washy campaign finance laws that we now have are unconstitutional, and that there is no limit to the amount of money that corporations and the very wealthy can pour into elections.

Our political system, which seems to be a contest between Republicans and Democrats, is actually a contest between the corporate interest and the public interest. And right now the corporate interest is winning.

For more information, see The New York Times and Larry Lessig.

EDIT: Also see this post by [ profile] osewalrus.
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