US. Pakistan. Afghanistan.


Take action against the people on your territory that are launching attacks against us and our allies and the fledgling democracy in Afghanistan. Or we will.

Kayani, who as Pakistan's army chief has more direct say over the country's security strategy than its president or prime minister, has resisted personal appeals from President Obama, U.S. military commanders and senior diplomats. Recent U.S. intelligence estimates have concluded that he is unlikely to change his mind anytime soon. Despite the entreaties, officials say, Kayani doesn't trust U.S. motivations and is hedging his bets in case the American strategy for Afghanistan fails.
Good man. You should never trust anyone until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. What he fails to understand is that his position, and the position of his country, depends on a strong India and a strong, viable Afghanistan. They fall, and Pakistan falls.

If he really wants an Afghanistan full of Taliban then he can probably make that happen after US forces leave. That might make him happy. For a while. And then he'll have to face the problem of what those same forces want to do to his elected government.

I'm guessing there's a whole lot of national pride and plucky-underdog you're not gonna push ME around type stuff going on.

Control your territory. Deal with the terrorist havens in your tribal areas or someone else will eventually do it for you.

CrossFit. Functional. Shoes?

Girl in the picture is wearing what is commonly referred to as "weightlifting shoes" - they add about 20-30# to a sort-of trained person's (i.e., my) ability to lift heavy weight in the sport/discipline of Olympic Weightlifting. Oly lifting is an integral part of CrossFit, for many reasons, two of which are:
  1. It develops killer power, strength and speed.
  2. A bunch of lifting people (Rippetoe? Burgener?) had a big impact on Coach Greg Glassman during the developmental phase of CF. Plus he's smart enough to realize (1) above.
My issue is with the shoes. CF doctrine: Highly varied functional movements executed at high intensity, all that. Defined as compound, natural, universal motor recruitment patterns. Natural movements. No bicep curls or tricep push-downs in CF - that's more bodybuilding or power junkies. Large loads moved long distances quickly (...which should be secondary to the "natural" part imho, but not according to many very smart CF people/trainers).

Either case you don't walk around in shoes like that, they're just impractical. You don't fight or run or go to war in them. You don't go into combat with them. You don't swim, bike or walk around your house with them. They're GYM ONLY. It's a very specific piece of equipment with one use and one use only. There's damn near zero reason not to leave them at the gym when you're done, assuming you're coming back.

Just like the barbell it's a very artificial, purpose-made piece of equipment that you introduce into your life for an hour or two every day or every few days in order to accomplish something you want accomplished. Good, they fulfill the function of making you more safely lift heavier weights. They're super stable. They make beginners and seasoned elites able to lift stuff that could be dangerous or unstable otherwise. Awesome.

Personally I'd rather have that little wobble while I'm working out barefoot, or in thin- & even-soled shoes or my work boots. I want to have to pay attention to my stability. I dislike things like powerlifting jerseys (bench shirts) and purpose-made equipment that I'm only able to use in very specific training situations. They don't prepare me for the real world. They artificially make me able to do things in the gym that I can't perform in the field. They don't help me become better at tossing up a sandbag on my shoulder when I'm wearing boots or no shoes. They make me forget that my body is not designed to be super stable under extreme loads, and lull me into a false sense of control when I really won't have it as I hoist a 250# buddy onto my shoulders and try to haul him off to wherever.

Is this about gear and expensive equipment? Is this about lifting as heavy and hard and looking like it - as you possibly can? Is this pride? Is this wanting the top spot on the whiteboard with the most awesomest numbers? Is the whiteboard, your position on it - and the numbers what you value in life?

I'd rather learn how to use my body the way it works naturally, than be able to claim that I have a 600# back squat - but only in the gym, with a barbell, and proper warmup and purpose-made, very specialist shoes. I'd rather be the guy who doesn't expect to be on-balance every time there's a heavy load coming to my shoulders. Who's used to, and expects, non-uniform and unbalanced, off-kilter non-standard-shape loads coming at me at any time, and me having very little time to warm up, get ready, eat a proper breakfast, get some chalk, get some smelling salts for that big 1-rep max, get the right gym clothes, get the right barbell or just plain react properly. Life's a mess. Train for un-balance. Train for life, not the damn gym. Or the CF Games, which makes people try to "game" their approach to fitness. Ok - that last was a cheap shot since I'm medically disqualified for - and the people who run - the Games do a hell of a job with the limitations they face. Plus I hope and think next year will be some water or swimming and more obstacle-course-y stuff. [Late 2011 edit: Hey, what do you know? Now we just need more obstacles, bigger/more reps swim, more atlas stones and a serious 5K+ run and I'll be happy.]

End result, I think all specialized equipment is bullshit if it can't be easily manufactured by someone's who's dirt poor but with access to a scrap yard/garbage heap/jungle/stone quarry can't fashion for not very much cash at all. Part of the reason I got out of serious triathloning - people riding bikes worth $20 000 when someone new to the sport is toking along with a $500 bike is just not fun.

If the above is your wet dream as far as gym equipment goes, you're probably no longer much concerned with just getting ready for the world outside the gym. In long-distance triathlons I could essentially buy myself speed by spending another $5 000 on my bicycle. In lifting you can't really do that, but you can buy plenty of shiny gear, and people do. It's just getting a little silly.

Note that barbells can be easily improvised and work damn well for convenient, incremental lifting and training - so every gym should have them. Even your garage gym with a budget of $100 - get an old metal pipe/axle, two buckets, some cement - there's your weighted barbell.

When I see this:
...I know someone is doing something that works and doesn't cost a damn. Low tech gear, the boots he wears to work every day, and just getting it on with whatever is around. There's gotten way too much money into fitness equipment, really you just need some very basic stuff and off you go. Squat barefoot. Build the little wobble and the little "oh crap I better stay balanced here" into your workouts and get ready for the real world.

The people who live in the gym get infatuated with their equipment. The powerlifters just want to go big and go heavy. They don't care about your real-world performance, they're so stuck inside the box with their routine that they forget the real world of walls and boots and stuff strapped to only one side of your backpack so it's all off-balance. They want perfect form when training, only to make you less able to get over that wall with a gun in one hand.

It's how you spend your time, that one or two hours a day you train. It's how to best get ready - is that with perfect form in an artificially stable environment? Maybe when you're learning, but once you know kinda what you're doing - take off the training wheels and GET REAL.

To sum up:
Weightlifting shoes - great. Awesome. Use them. Until you're very experienced and really know what you're doing.
THEN and only then, start thinking about what exactly you want your time in the gym to prepare you for. And how to best spend that time. And whether your time is better spent doing X instead of Y. Question everything at that point, including me. Errr... I meant to say including weightlifting shoes. You know what I mean.
Just like you shouldn't always just stick to barbell lifts - try heavy sandbags. Atlas stones. Logs. Uneven rocks. People (every CF gym should have #100, 150# and a 200# dummies imho, but they don't - FAIL on CFHQ). Keep doing the same stuff over and over in the gym with the same equipment and you'll be strong as all hell (assuming a few things) - but you'll be a bit out of it when something else comes along. Strongest people in my gym throw around 135# barbells like it's nothing, but fall apart when I give them an 80# sandbag. Not good.

Strength is your over-riding goal - by all means, use as specialized equipment as you can find to make it easier for you to get there. Strength is just part of my goals, at some point my time is better spent working on my non-Strength weaknesses to make me better at my job and other stuff I do (climbing, canyoneering now that I'm too messed up for rugby & MMA).

Big numbers, big weights is what you care about - well, now you're pretty much a powerlifter. Nothing wrong with that. Grab your shoes, belt, bench shirt (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bench_shirt) and go to town. My first ever fitness seminar was with Rippetoe. He said he got out of powerlifting when he went to a meet and the guy doing Bench Press with a bench shirt literally could not get the bar to touch his chest - the shirt was pulling his arms and shoulders forward with such force that even with OMG weight on the bar, he couldn't pull it down to his chest. "[F]or example, Scot Mendelson, whose shirted bench press record is 1030 lbs, ...his unshirted best is 715 lbs..." No argument with belts, btw, I'm with Rippetoe on that - it just gives your abdomen something to push against, putting another body part more into play, which is rarely a bad thing, unless you're one of those "isolate the muscle" kind of people.

You like routine and don't care much about anything outside the gym, your regular job and comfortable life - then there's not all that much need to unbalanced stuff like "Uneven Grace" or not to stay complacent with all the specialist equipment.

How you look is what's important - I have very little experience bodybuilding and don't pretend to know much about sculpting your body to fit whatever your "ideal" is. I got into IRONMAN triathlons, rugby, MMA, aussie rules football, climbing, canyoneering, rough water stuff and CF more or less by accident - I just like doing cool stuff. So I have no idea if the shoes and all that would help you there. My guess is it'd help you push more weight, which would presumably help with the hypertrophy thing.

I couldn't find the picture of some Eastern European dirt-cheap backyard gym setup, with weights made of old pipes and concrete in metal cans, some bars and a pommel setup, but this is all you need to stay killer fit for the rest of your life:

Last edit - here's what Rippetoe has to say about them. He's a smart man and I personally think he's freaking awesome ("PUSH YER TITS OUT!"), but he's mostly into strength for strength's sake ...and not much else. Good guy, though - you could do a lot worse with your money than spend it listening to him for a weekend.


Mark Rippetoe:
Shoes are the only piece of personal equipment that you really need to own. It only takes one set of five in a pair of squat shoes to demonstrate convincingly to anybody who has done more than one squat workout. A good pair of squat shoes adds enough to the efficiency of the movement that the cost is easily justified. For anywhere from $50 to $200 for the newest Adidas weightlifting shoes, a pair of proper shoes makes a big difference in the way a squat feels. 
More from his buddy Lon Kilgore, Ph.D. (smart guy, but also told me stretching was wrong, reduced performance and I shouldn't do it - which might be correct for many specialist athletes, but certainly not someone as ROM-restricted as I):
Proper footwear in the gym is important, especially if you are lifting free weights. When we lift weights we want two things to happen: (1) all the force our body produces under the bar should contribute to moving the weight and (2) the weight needs to be controlled in a safe manner. If we lift in a running shoe, it's akin to trying to lift while standing on a giant marshmallow. The soles of the running shoes, the marshmallow, will absorb and dissipate a large amount of the force generated against the floor that should be directed towards moving the weight. A gel or air cell shoe is a great thing for reducing the impact shock that causes the repetitive use injuries associated with running. But in the weight room, shoes should provide for the efficient transmission of power between the bar and the ground. You can't lift as much weight in the wrong shoes.
 The second issue is control of the weight - and your body - while standing on an unstable surface. A compressible medium placed between the feet and the ground will behave inconsistently enough during each rep to alter the pattern of force transmission every time. This means that the subtle points of consistent good technique on any standing exercise are impossible to control. And there is an increased chance for a balance or stability loss-induced injury while lifting heavy weights, since perfect balance cannot be assured on an imperfect surface.
To put it simply, I think they're a great investment. But to wear them exclusively and always when you're lifting once you've established safety and decent-to-good form, loses you more than you gain. Kilgore and Rippetoe are specialists, in their way. I'm not. They want perfect, absolute and total control in order to maximize strength gain. Strength is important to me, but only really one of the ten or so things that go into making me good at my job. That said, I've used specialist shoes plenty, and still continue to use them sometime. Update 2012: I'm beat up, messed up and rehabbing. Elbow tendonitis, back injury, patellar tendonitis, achilles tendon and sciatica. I use these shoes constantly when lifting while rehabbing my injuries. It takes away variables that I don't really need to vary while I'm vacillating about what to do with wegards to my injuries. Make up your own mind. Experiment. Try different things. Just don't get stuck in a rut and always use the shoes and the barbells and the specialized equipment. Try "Sandbag Fran" at anywhere close to Rx weight and see how different it is. That's an eye-opener and a half.


Your religion is not a special religion.


I'm right. You're wrong. You should think like I do and do what I say and don't do the things that I tell you you shouldn't. You should also instruct your children and your women to do things the way I say you should.

Sound good?


Ok, how about each society determines how to go about its own business the way the people in that society wants to do it? Self-determination, all that. You do things your way, I do things my way and maybe we can agree on some basic things here and there. I realize that fundamental things like educating both boys and girls in basic stuff like math, science, reading and writing is still a bit controversial in a lot of places, so in the absence of the resources and will to invade and conquer and change by force we'll just go really slowly on that.

I have no problems with people who voluntarily want to listen to jacks like Ghaddafi or Ayatollah whatsisname. Go ahead. Beat up your women if they have the temerity to get a job so they can provide for the family since you can't get enough money to support your family. Ok, women getting beat up happens all the time and if it's on the other side of the world in a closed, repressive society that's going after nuclear weapons there's not much I can or want to do about it. Oh well. Same with kids. Sucks, but that's the way it goes.

Everyone thinks that their society and their religion and their way of doing things is special. The "Swedish Model". American exceptionalism. Sarah Palin. North Koreans. Stalinists.

But get off my cartoonists. People draw stuff and write stuff. It happens. Sometimes you don't agree with it. Feel free to legislate in Turkey against insulting this or that or someone. Feel free to do so in whatever country you're in.

I don't show up on your doorstep wanting to kill such and such for burning an American flag or whatever. So leave people alone. Get over yourself. Sure it should or could be a crime for a muslim to insult or make a caricature of the prophet Muhammad. Fine with me - chop his head off all you want. Feel free to make caricatures of Jesus or the other Jews.

Do not feel free to tell people who don't share your culture or religion what they can and can't do when they draw pictures or write letters.

Your religion is not special. You are not a special culture. You do not have the right to beat people up for no damn good reason. Yes, I realize that George W. Bush and friends didn't exactly share that belief and it seems a bit hypocritical for me to say "Don't be a bully" when America has been acting like one for a good ten years now, add fifty if you care about American support for keeping the Palestinians under lock and key in their ghettoes surrounded by rich, thriving Jewish-only settlements.


Prostitution. Murders.


Nobody wants a "red-light" district right next to them. You're not gonna kill the world's second oldest profession. You'll just drive it underground and put the girls at more risk.

Then there's some murders. The girls get calls or are picked up on the street where they advertise, and then get taken someplace as usual and not as usually - get killed. Oops. Big hype. Police start working on it. Then it dies down and nothing much happens.

License brothels. Put them outside of town. Sure it's a sordid business and trafficked girls get caught in the middle, but if the brothel is licensed then it's less likely to contribute to the trafficking incentive for criminal networks. Better have them safe than murdered.

Spread information about guys who attack prostitutes as much as possible, so the girls in the next city can have a place to check up on the evil guys as opposed to the regular john.

Feel free to mix your religion in on this - but as far as I'm concerned it's the safety of the girls first and your moral imperatives second.


What would Jesus or Mohammed have said about this?

As Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, he shadows the pope's every move and makes sure that every candle, Gregorian chant and gilded vestment is exactly as he, the pope and God intended it to be.
"The criterion is that it is beautiful," Marini said.
But beauty, especially when it comes to the rituals of Roman Catholic liturgy, is a topic of great debate between conservative and liberal Catholics, who share differing views on everything from the music and language of the Mass to where a priest should stand and how he should give Communion.

Face it, you've become trapped by the very things that you sought over the centuries to express your faith and accumulate your power. Your faith is no longer the central thing - it's now the ceremony and the words and the gestures and the gold and the priceless antiquities and the ever-higher church steeples. Jesus the man and the preacher would have looked at all your finery and how you try to tell other people how they should and should not live - and he would have told you to give it all up. Disgusting.

Superstition kills! ...wait, it kills Religion??

Voodoo priests in Haiti are being lynched by mobs who blame them for spreading cholera, the country's government has said.
At least 45 people have been lynched in recent weeks as Haiti continues to be ravaged by a cholera epidemic.

Education. Governance. Corruption. Looks like the voodoo priests, spreading religious superstition, got killed by that same superstition. In the meantime people are dying from lack of sanitation, and contact with food and water contaminated by sick persons' fecal matter.

Transmission is primarily due to the fecal contamination of food and water due to poor sanitation.[3] This bacterium can, however, live naturally in aquatic environments.[4] 

This week in Gerrymandering News...

“The Republicans are going to have their hand on the computer mouse, and when you have your hand on the computer mouse, you can change a district from a D to an R,” said Kimball W. Brace, president of Election Data Services, who has worked on redistricting for state legislatures and commissions.
Redistricting, it is often said, turns the idea of democracy on its head by allowing leaders to choose their voters, instead of the other way around. The new lines are drawn once a decade, after every census, to make sure that all Congressional districts have roughly the same number of people, to preserve the one-person, one-vote standard. But as a practical matter, both Democrats and Republicans often use it as an excuse to gerrymander districts for their own political advantage. This time, Republicans are better positioned to do it.

...has made Don Gaetz, the chairman of the Florida State Senate’sReapportionment Committee, a popular man. There was the friendly hug he got from a member of Congress, who offered that his district’s current lines were just fine, and the ambitious fellow lawmaker who sidled up to him at a meeting, saying that he had a great idea for a possible district.
“I’m just a lowly state senator from the panhandle of Florida, but I have all sorts of new friends,” Mr. Gaetz marveled. “Members of Congress who didn’t know I existed, and people who would like to be in Congress who I didn’t know existed.” 
I'd much prefer if districts were drawn a little more non-partisan according to community ties and boundaries. I understand that's a bit nebulous a concept, but these districts need to just change with large shifts in population, not every time a party takes control over this or that or the new census is out.


Africa. Trafficking.

"Definitely, I want to see diplomatic pressure on Mali," insists Mr Orakwue. "It is an emergency."
Naptip estimate the number of women trapped in Mali to be anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000. Other estimates - from local charities - suggest a lower figure, in the thousands.
It's not an emergency. It's the way things have been for thousands of years. It's the way things will continue to be until some sort of effective monopoly on force is achieved by SOMEONE in an area, when they are forced to form a government and deal with the outside world and turn their protection rackets and semi-official corruption into a police force and official taxes.

Anyone care to argue that these areas are better off not under the control of imperial Britain and others? Sure, plenty of crap that way too. The damn Europeans and Americans did horrible things to Africa - and continue to do so with the way the international trading economy is organized. Legitimate trade and things that Africa COULD produce is stymied by regulations protecting Western businesses. Food aid that serves to suppress food crop commodity pricing. Completely screwed up borders. Etc etc. Diamonds. Cocoa.

The solution here isn't necessarily peace. It might be, if someone is willing and able to spend the money and effort to make that peace into a society with good governance and control and education and policing. If not the place might be better off with you leaving them alone til someone is a clear victor.

As soon as fighting breaks out the Westerners are horrified (hello, Media!) and urge all parties to cease fire and maybe someone sends some peacekeepers. The long-term issues lie dormant or are ignored. No-one is in charge and the whole mess just keeps going.

Let Africans compete on a somewhat even footing - which will be a net economic gain for European and American populations, as well - though NOT for the farmers and unskilled industry that will no doubt scream and cry for protection. **** you, Mr. French farmer. You're not entitled to go on living like you have for hundreds of years with the rest of society paying your salary when there's better ways to do business and accomplish what you can't do in an innovative, economically sensible fashion.

Let Africa compete. Let Africa solve its own troubles. Let the carnage go so that someone can win. Let the diseases and the famine and poor family planning take its toll.

Yes, I'm a cruel and heartless ***hole. The alternative is what - send some money once in a while and perpetuate the problem? Create a culture of dependency?

Have too many kids and no way to provide for them and... They. Will. Die.

Mess up your planning and preparation for natural disasters and drought and Millions. Will. Die.

They have to die. The alternative is what? Massive rescue efforts and more people who then need more rescues?

Education. Enclaves of civilization that must have severely restricted immigration. Lack of natural borders and too-easy movement of people hurts, here. Witness the massive influx of migrants to a comparatively successful Republic of South Africa which is breaking that country's back. RSA cannot carry the continent on its back. They have to stop the problem at their borders.

And then we have terrorist havens. Drug smuggling. Central governments that can't control the territory they speak for. Rape and corruption.

A little realism and propping up some governments that might be highly undesirable in Europe, I think. Stability at all cost so that the greater reach of education and the internet can gradually solve this problem over the next fifty years.


You're just making it worse with your well-intentioned efforts to save people so that you will then have to save the babies they make so that you then will have to provide them food and shelter in refugee camps and deal with massive movements of people fleeing economic conditions, war and disease.

Be realistic. Be pragmatic. Don't be afraid to just move in and kill players like the Lord's Resistance Army if given the chance. Be ruthless. And be fair.

Let Africa compete.

Vegans. "Homeopathic" medicine. Snakeoil salesmen. Arrogant true believers.

In 30 cases, the issues were "probably or definitely" related to complementary medicine, and in 17 the patient was regarded as being harmed by a failure to use conventional medicine.
The report says that all four deaths resulted from a failure to use conventional medicine.
One death involved an eight-month-old baby admitted to hospital "with malnutrition and septic shock following naturopathic treatment with a rice milk diet from the age of three months for 'congestion'".
 "Another death involved a 10-month-old infant who presented with septic shock following treatment with homeopathic medicines and dietary restriction for chronic eczema," the authors say.
One child had multiple seizures after complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) were used instead of anti-seizure drugs due to concerns about potential side effects.
The fourth death was of a child who needed blood-clotting drugs but was given complementary medicine instead.
So modern, conventional medicines cause deaths too, or don't work. Or don't work as well as, or don't work just as much as, or don't do something that other "alternative" or "traditional" therapies do.

Psychosomatic effects have been plentifully described. People believe that a holy person laying their hands and chanting will cure them of X. Whoops - it did! Awesome, I'm all for it. Belief and love can cure diseases and conditions that modern medicine might have no cure for. Great.

Not so great if you don't believe that a baby should get any other food than pureed fruits and orange juice. Now you just killed a kid because you're stupid, gullible and fell for a bunch of hocus-pocus magic and your own anti-authority and anti-establishment bias and prejudice. Same thing with vaccines.

If it's you and your body, feel free to decline modern medical treatment, drug or procedure X. But don't spend too much energy trying to talk people into it, it could kill them. Same thing with your kids. Or someone else's kids, as I documented back a while.

So please, chill. Have a little reasonable common sense. Look up the doctor's credentials. Look up the "alternative practitioner"'s credentials. Look up the law on not letting your kid get the treatment that most mainstream, well-educated and reasonable doctors would say they need. Don't just go on your "gut feeling" or what you heard word-of-mouth or what your neighbour or your girlfriends say.

Ever notice how women tend to put more stock in the word and opinions of their friends and social circles? How a few women put together can all of a sudden bloom into a swirling maelstrom of vegetarianism, trends, diets and "New Age" beliefs?

Ok, so that was a bit sexist but you get the point. Women seem way more susceptible to social marketing and diet/medicine hype. I live in Southern California. I can't go on a date without butting into a food fad, diet, medicine or pet theory.

I'm a reasonable guy, I like to think. You tell me that humans evolved to eat nothing but fruits and nuts I'll say "Okay, cool." And then I'll go look that up and find out that at THE VERY LEAST - you're either dead wrong or only slightly wrong, or the matter is up for ...considerable... debate. In the meantime, that word of mouth is apparently objective truth for a fair number of young women in this part of the country.

So now you're thinking I'm completely off my rocker here. Allow me to point you to a little more authority:

As Jeff Sexton points out, men can look at testimonials and personal anecdotes as opinions of individuals.   In order for that individual to be taken seriously, he or she must establish credibility or authority.  In an example of choosing a chair, Jeff has these suggestions:
To believe and act on your recommendation, I’d need to know:
  • that your use of the chair is similar to mine,
  • that you’ve already tried a bunch of chairs, and
  • what your criteria were for selecting the chair you did.
With men, credibility building specifics must be addressed before your "opinion" will be taken seriously.  
Women use personal anecdotes as proof
Listen to a woman making a case for something, and she'll likely tell a personal story of something that has happened to her or someone she knows. 
Women cite personal experience (aka opinion) as proof.  Other women understand this. Women respond to testimonials and reviews of "people like them."  
The basis for this could be research that shows men focus on hierarchy and women focus on relationships
Women believe people who they feel they have something in common with.  It is that commonality that gives people credibility.

All this is fine. Some men don't behave as the stereotype above would make you expect. Ditto women. I personally fit the stereotype and many of the important women in my life do (my sister excepted, super smart, skeptical, engineer-type with a big heart and both feed planted about as solidly in the ground as you can get without actually digging a hole and using cement).

But then we get to the kids. And serious consequences from taking anecdotes for proof. Sure, they are sometimes.

"I bought that chair and a week later it broke!"

Could have been that you or someone in your household mis-used it. You might not think so. Factory defect. Someone might have messed it up in your home or in the store or between there and you might not have known it happened. But very likely not and it's a bad design. Best figure it out myself and make up my own mind and there's plenty of other chair designs to choose from.

Spam advertising. "Opt out" option needed.


I had the temerity to write my Democratic Congresswoman suggesting that unsolicited bulk advertising mail was not a net economic gain for our country.

I got a reply saying it was about protecting jobs. Up yours, Congresswoman Susan Davis.

1. Unsolicited.
2. Massive load on the postal system, and a huge profit-maker for them.
3. Costs each recipient a few seconds to go through, at a response rate of ...what, 0.25 percent? I'm guessing the direct mail companies don't want you to know statistics like that. They'd want you to think that LOTS of people routinely respond and use coupons and advertising that arrives unsolicited in the mail.

Problem is that it costs a ton of paper and materials and recipients' time and postal workers' efforts and gas to transport and machines to make spam mail to get that few percentage points of response. Obviously it's worth it to the companies doing the advertising. But it's not worth it to me, the unwitting receiver. I didn't ask for it. I don't come to your house and dump stuff in your hands and force you to look at it before you can get to the stuff that you want to look at.

The net effect on the average mail receiver is very small. But that's millions of people throwing billions of pieces of paper in the trash every day. A) Not good for the environment and B) take a little bit of time from millions of people every day and you now have a HUGE, massive economic inefficiency.

Get rid of this way of advertising and people would still buy products but would be less influenced by what some marketer wants them to buy - and EVERYONE would have a little bit more time every day. To spend with the kids. To get ready for work. Less trash for the trash collectors. Net economic gain for the nation as a whole.

American mailboxes are inundated with junk mail. More than 100,000,000,000 pieces of junk mail are delivered each year—that’s more than 800 pieces per household. In fact, junk mail in the United States accounts for one-third of all the mail delivered in the world. 
  • It takes more than 100 million trees to produce the total volume of junk mail that arrives in American mailboxes each year—that's the equivalent of clearcutting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every 4 months.10
  • The manufacture of junk mail releases more greenhouse gas emissions per year than the emissions released by 9,372,000 million average passenger cars.11  Check out the side bar to find out more facts about the Junk Mail Effect, or read our full report. 
  • Deforestation of Indonesia’s tropical forests is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions.14 This destruction is largely driven by demand for pulp and paper for end uses like junk mail. Logging contributes to Indonesia’s status as the world’s third largest emitter of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere, despite its relatively small size.15
Junk Mail Overflows Our Mailboxes 
  • Junk mail in the U.S. accounts for over 100,000,000,000 pieces of mail each year1—about 30% of all the mail delivered in the world.2
  • Every year American households receive a total of 104.7 billion pieces of junk mail3 or 848 pieces of junk mail per household,4 which requires 6.5 million tons of paper.5
  • Approximately 44% of junk mail goes to landfills unopened;6 the average American will spend 8 months of their lives dealing with junk mail.7
  • Entire households only average 1 personal correspondence each week, compared to almost 18 pieces of junk mail.8
  • In 2005 the United States Postal Service processed more junk mail than First Class Mail for the first time, and our postal service is increasingly oriented toward the delivery of unwanted junk mail.9
Landfills and Junk Mail 
  • It would take the equivalent of over 500,000 garbage truck loads to dump all junk mail into landfills and incinerators each year.18
  • By the year 2010, almost 50% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is expected to be paper and paperboard waste.19
  • State and local governments and their citizens spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year to collect and dispose of all the bulk mail that does not get recycled.20
  • 6.5 million tons of discounted junk mail entered the U.S. municipal solid waste stream in 2006.21
Junk Mail is Inefficient 
  • A response rate of less than 0.25% is considered acceptable for the 500 million U.S. credit card solicitations that are mailed monthly.22
People Really Want a Do Not Mail Registry…And They Have Been Waiting Over 15 Years
  • Since 1991, national polls have consistently shown that between 80 and 90% of respondents dislike junk mail and would take some action to reduce it if they could. 
  • In the Zogby International poll, 93% of respondents were aware of the Do Not Call Registry and 89% of them supported a Do Not Mail Registry to make it easier to opt out of unsolicited ad mail.24

Freedom. Price. People's attitudes.

Gaza. War is coming.

A senior Israeli army officer has told the BBC that as long as Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip, another war is "only a question of time".
He said the Palestinian Islamist group had re-armed so much since the Israeli offensive two years ago that it was now in a stronger position militarily.
The announcement came after Palestinian militants for the first time used a Kornet tank-piercing missile.
On 6 December the Russian-made laser-guided missile - which carries 10kg (22lb) of high explosive - penetrated the tank's armour, but did not injure its crew. 
You've bottled these people up for a long time. You've let smuggling be their only way of getting goods and services. You've kept them in what is essentially a ghetto and put your own civilians in little Jewish-only enclaves around their villages. You've built Jewish-only roads. You've let this become a cause celébre in the Arab and European world. You've let this become a massive inspiration for money and arms donations to both Hamas and other terrorists.

The one single entity with the highest stake in a strong, successful Gazan economy is Israel. And they've failed miserably in making that political moderate and economic success happen. Now you're stuck with Hamas. You reap what you sow. I wouldn't want to be the IDF guy in charge of this sector - 'cause he's looking at a looong long time of entrenched militants and a very uphill battle for any political moderates.

So is Israel to blame for everything here? Hell, no. American intransigence on the settlers. Religious settler organizations. Arabs contributing money to both bad guys and people whom they have no clue about as far as where the money goes. Racists and religious fanatics in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The REAL anti-semites. The kind of people who write Saudi Arabian textbooks describing Jews as inherently evil. The stuff about Jews drinking blood and sacrificing babies and all that.

But yeah, the solution to this isn't to smash the Gazans to pieces - that's what's been happening for how many years now? It just pushes the population further toward Hamas. You need to build schools and make that economy work. You need to make Israel be the good guy in Gaza. You don't need the Arab world to fix this. The solutions are all in your own hands. Start with what YOU CAN do right now - and then later on you can worry about what you WANT OTHERS to do.

Freedom of Speech. France.


I have no problems with this. To me, Freedom of Press and Speech are not black and white or absolute either you have it or you don't - it's a greyscale running all the way from "publish this and die" to freedom to speak hate and incite violence and insult people and wake them up at 0230 in the morning with your loudspeakers going through a sleepy suburb.

Abderrahmane Saidi, 26, was at a local government office on Tuesday when he grabbed a flag and snapped the pole in two during a row with a clerk.
A July decree made insulting the tricolour an offence punishable by a fine of up to 1,500 euros.
The rule was triggered by a photo of a man wiping his bottom with the flag.
Saidi was sentenced by a court in Nice. It also gave him a four-month suspended prison sentence and ordered him to attend citizenship classes.
French citizen? Muslim? France already has issues with its large Muslim population, and stuff like this won't make those issues easier. The country also has a rich history of racism.

Then you have people like the Westboro Baptist Church idiots. And people putting up videos on Youtube of allied soldiers being shot or blown up in Afghanistan and Iraq.

To me there has to be some sort of limits on this crap. I'm thinking France saying you can't wipe your butt with the national flag is a good start.

Wouldn't bother me if you outlawed burning the US flag - but wouldn't bother me much if you didn't, either. I'm more concerned with the inciting racial and religious and other types of hatred.


Doctor v. Coach.

(Transcript of actual conversation) 

Doc: Many of my patients shouldn’t be doing the deadlift.

Coach: Which ones are those, Doc? 

Doc: Many are elderly, marginally ambulatory, and frail/feeble and osteoporotic.

Coach: Doc, would you let such a patient, let’s say an old woman, walk to the store to get cat food? 

Doc: Sure, If the walk weren’t too far, I’d endorse it.

Coach: All right, suppose after walking home she came up to the front door and realized that her keys were in her pocket. Is she medically cleared to set the bag down, get her keys out of her pocket, unlock the door, pick the bag back up, and go in?

Doc: Of course, that’s essential activity

Coach: As I see it the only difference between us is that I want to show her how to do this “essential activity” safely and soundly and you don’t.

Doc: I see where you’re going. Good point. Coach: Doc, we haven’t scratched the surface.

Taken from CrossFit manual. Good story imo.

Superstition causes mass tourism of the day.

Many of the visitors believe that a group of aliens is hiding in a cavern in Bugarach's 1,231m mountain who will leave when the world ends and take them with them
The myth of a 2012 doomsday originates in claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth, according to the US space agency Nasa. That theory then became linked to dates in the Mayan calendar.
However, Nasa states on its website: "Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012." 
Ummm... LOL is about all I've got to say about that. I'm guessing when the idiots and dreamers and hell-yeah-I'll-believe-anything people show up and go up the mountain and nothing happens, they'll take that as confirmation that their prayers of deliverance worked. Or some cloud with a certain shape will show up and they'll take that as proof or whatever - anything to make themselves feel good about the faith they've invested in.


What is Fitness?

Funny how the pegs seem to FIT the holes, huh?

Funny how the cheetah seems evolved or designed to FIT the function of hunting that antelope - and how that antelope seems evolved or designed to eat grass and be alert and run fast.

The pegs fit down the holes. The grass fits down the gullet of the antelope fits down the gullet of the cheetah. Humans fit that crazy ill-defined thing called "Life" - but not very well unless you do CrossFit and get a general education or equivalent and work a little at getting good at life. You don't really know exactly what's gonna happen. You might have some idea - if you train to be a firefighter and get a job as a firefighter you can be fairly decently sure that you're probably gonna run the risk of dealing with a fire sometime in your life. The rest of us might. Or might not.

Same thing with war. Accidents. Emergencies. Having to wrestle an alligator or fight zombies (hey, it could happen!) or kill a rampaging gorilla to save your children. Or decipher whether the girl wants you to tell her the truth or wants you to just tell her she doesn't look fat in those jeans. Or get the TPS reports in on time and manage to sneak from the cubicle to the exit without aggroing your boss so you end up working the weekend again.

You get the point.

CrossFit the corporation defines fitness as Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Speed, Coordination, Accuracy, Flexibility, Agility, Balance. Sort of. They call it the "Ten General Physical Skills". 

Aye, for there's the rub. 

That's all physical. Personally I don't think you're really "FIT" for that nebulous and ill-defined and sort of unknown and unknowable thing called "Life" represented by the scribble above, if you're just good at those ten general physical skills.

I'd say add languages to that. That means You, there, American. Learn a foreign language and open up a whole new world of learning and possibilities and job opportunities and people you can make friends with. Add social skills. Add basic emergency medicine skills. Add basic knowledge about engineering and mechanical stuff. Add wilderness and urban survival skills. Add fighting skills. Add weapons and improvised weapon skills. Add motor vehicle skills - both cars, defensive driving, light trucks and maybe basic, light motorcycles, too. Basic cultural knowledge to make sure you don't just barge in in a different cultural setting and make it near impossible to get your job or objective done because you just insulted the hell out of the locals by offering your left hand or not removing your shoes or by talking with your eyes hidden behind sunglasses, or showing the bottom of your soles to the host.

Add being halfway good at kissing. Add social etiquette and how to dress appropriately and put together a decent set of clothes with not much money. Add how to fix those clothes in a jam. Add water survival skills. Add changing a busted tire on both your bicycle and your car. Add how to stay warm in a snow storm. How to build an igloo. How to get fresh water from a tarp when you're adrift in a little boat on the ocean. How to search the internet for answers. How to avoid getting angry at people who seem hell-bent on getting a reaction out of you on the internet (hiya, trolls and haters!). How to keep your kid from seeing things on the internet that you didn't even know existed. How to find a date in a new city. How to quickly and easily give directions to either a man or a woman, and how to find your way using a map and a compass. Or without a map.

How to build things. How to destroy things. How to deliver a baby. How to make that baby. How to make a reasonably successful relationship. How to deal with the fact that that relationship just didn't work out and now there's a house and money and kids involved. How to plan ahead. How to be impulsive and have fun. How to make some sort of art or creative something happen. How to entertain a kid with a minimum of effort. How to deal with friends who are suicidal or use drugs. How to say No. How to deal with being a victim of a crime. How to deal with crazy people who may or may not be telling the truth. How to spot a potential fight and make it NOT happen, whether that's your and your significant other in the privacy of your house or in a club or a restaurant with some drunken fool. How to be a gentleman or a lady and how to know and what to do when it's time for the gloves to come off and do whatever it takes to stay alive and get the job done. How to argue for what you feel or know is right, even when it's tempting to use questionable methods like torture to get what you want.

You'll probably be in an accident some time in your life. You'll probably see someone get hurt. You'll probably be dealing with people who don't speak your language (okay, maybe not if you live in northern North America and don't plan on going anywhere). You'll probably have to deal with taxes. And someone dying. And your parents getting old. Might as well get ready for it.

High time you took this whole "CrossFit" mentality and applied it to the rest of your life, in my humble opinion. Like, learn to swim at least. And if you're a CrossFit Trainer and don't know basic CPR and First Aid, you're just plain wrong. You don't have to get an EMT-B certification, though that wouldn't hurt. Just know the basics about most everything, and a lot about something.

How to cook a beautiful meal for that beautiful someone that just showed up.
How to cook for yourself taking no more than 5min per meal so you can get back to finding a job or write articles for CrossFit Journal.
How to handle the in-laws.
How to deal with a psychotic ex-girlfriend.
How to get a psychotic ex-girlfriend if that's what you want.
How to spell things correctly. How to be the kind of person who can not get upset at other people when they do things that used to drive you nuts; like, use the wrong, punctuation.
How to face your fears.
How to deal with injuries or disability.
How to find a job when you get laid off or too injured to continue.
How to deal with authority figures like police even when they're in the wrong or corrupt.
How to not get so drunk that you make really bad decisions like getting behind the wheel of a car or in bed with the really wrong person.
How to know when it's time to cut your losses.
How to spot fallacies like the Gambler's Fallacy and avoid caring so much about the result of an endeavour that you miss the warning-signs of a storm blowing up the side of Mt. Everest that'll cost you and five others' their lives one horrible night in 1996.
How to avoid caring so much about a person that you smother them and bug them constantly and screw it all up - and when it's time to drop the rule book because this one person is the most important anything or anyone in your entire life.

Indefinite detention. The Constitution. The rule of law.


An interagency task force found that 48 of the 174 detainees remaining at the facility would have to be held in what the administration calls prolonged detention.
However, almost every part of the administration's plan to close Guantanamo is on hold, and it could be crippled this week if Congress bans the transfer of detainees to the United States for trial and sets up steep hurdles to the repatriation or resettlement in third countries of other detainees.

1. Indefinite detention without trial and without POW status is just wrong and goes against every sense of right and justice that I have. Whether it's unconstitutional or in contravention of the Laws of War and the Geneva Accords I don't really care.


Ummm okay, so you're okay with me deciding that your wife is a national security risk and we're now gonna incarcerate her without trial for the rest of her life?

Oh, you're not?

How about your brother?

How about some random guy we picked up who some other random guy said did a bad thing - and there's no real evidence or anything that'll stand up in court? We can just toss them in jail and let them rot? Okay, I guess you're fine with other countries doing that to our citizens, then?

2. Who gets to decide who's a bad guy? Do you really trust the government and the CIA to make a good assessment of that?

Part of being the good guys is not doing this kind of stuff. Part of being a good guy in an open and free society is subscribing to the notion that "I'd rather have criminals walk free than innocent people in jail or on Death Row". It's not incumbent on you or I or anyone to prove their innocence. It's incumbent on our accusers to prove our guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. YOU ARE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY IN A COURT OF LAW.

Yes, some prisoners if let loose will return to, or start a life of crime and terror. That's part of a legal system. It would be preferable to drop these people off with their respective governments. If those governments say "we're not gonna mistreat them" and then do, oh well. I don't see how that's our fault.

3. The Obama administration is making a miscarriage of justice here.

4. The US Congress is making a huge mistake by making these silly little laws saying no US funds shall be used to bring any terrorists to trial on US soil. That's just wrong and you're trying to hamstring the Executive Branch with your bullcrap whining and obstructing of legitimate government and military business.

Ugh. I really don't like this.

Fallacies are fun.


535 Senators and Congresspersons. Theory. Ideals.

Afaik there's currently about 1 Congressperson for each 600,000 people in the U.S. I don't see why that number shouldn't be closer to 1 million per representative. I also question the need for two senators per state - I feel this function could just as easily be performed by one person.

Granted, these changes would make many political races extremely susceptible to extreme influxes of money and advertising on relatively few people. Small states with not much population could see exorbitant amounts of money poured in per capita. A state with, say 30,000 people would see massive amounts of attention and dollars spent per voter.

However, this is already the case, to a degree. My concern is that a bloated US Congress works very ponderously, costs a lot of money and there is actually very little physical space in and around the Capitol building for each representative.

Line Item Veto - yes, please. I'd love to see that, whether for a Republican or a Democratic President. I'd love to see the death of earmarks and pork, with federal projects and military bases handled more on merit and a desire to cut costs than on individual representatives' political power and positions on key committees.

A smaller US Congress would also take up less time with procedural and idiotic stuff like filibusters.

And while I'm dreaming let's kill the Director of National Intelligence position. The POSITION, not the person, duh. Let's kill the National Counterterrorism Center or whatever it's called. This stuff is better handled by the CENTRAL Intelligence Agency. Throw more of the bloated intelligence structure (see recent WaPo coverage) into the CIA and then have an effectiveness and efficiency review determine what lives and what dies. Either that or throw the CIA in with the DNI. The intelligence community is horribly bloated and fractured and badly needs streamlining and a simpler, more effective organizational structure, recommendations of grand-standing committees notwithstanding.


Ever notice how when a country is faced with a horrible crime or accident that people rise up in arms, and things are done to "prevent this from ever happening again"?

See various child abduction stories, building collapses, 9/11, natural disasters, the 2004 Tsunami etc. There's a complacency followed by a big event followed by public outcry followed by action.

My concern is that in the aftermath of 9/11 some bloated bureaucracies were created that don't necessarily need cabinet-level stature. We don't need our President to have to deal with 15 people all with their own power-hungry and turf-defending departments.

The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments — the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.
I don't see how Homeland Security shouldn't be part of Defense, which would be more aptly named the Department of the Military or somesuch. I don't see how the National Security Administration shouldn't be part of State. I don't see how Agriculture shouldn't be a part of Commerce, or how Interior and Housing/Urban Dev couldn't be combined. Veteran's Affairs doesn't need to be in the President's face all the time - it's just a matter related to ex-Military stuff better handled by a division or department under the SecDef.

Ever notice how politicians love to take responsibility for creating things like a "Program" or a department or an agency with awesome ideas and new responsibilities and innovative things - but no-one ever wants to make what's existing work better? It's human nature to want to be able to pat yourself on the back and point to an achievement.

It's not human nature to want to look objectively at a country's state organs structure and say:

We need:
* some way to handle Commerce and natural resources
* Justice and policing
* Military stuff and border defense
* Intelligence
* Diplomatic and foreign civilian affairs
* Education standards
* Energy-related matters
* Roads and infrastructure
* Monetary policy

Do we really need a DEPARTMENT of Labour? Shouldn't that be a part of Commerce?

Now, this isn't about to happen, and there's no way anyone is going to be powerful enough to force through a streamlining of the government - it's just grown too huge and too invested with people guarding their careers and turf. Gradual change, starting with exposés like the WaPo "Top Secret America" one. Good stuff, that. We don't need people all reading the same base intel and then manufacturing their own newsletters and "daily digest" just to justify their own existence.


Hell no. 9/11 proved that some things will slip by and the good guys don't always win in open, free societies. We need to get lucky all the time to stop terrorists. The terrorists and our enemies just need to get lucky once. They got lucky and got through. These things will happen and I personally don't want to live in the type of society that's so well defended and un-free that it can't ever happen again. Absolute certain safety is simply not worth the price we would pay in individual and collective freedom. It's the exact same thing that comes from a person getting hurt in military training (like me) - it sucks, but that's the price we pay for effective training. You have to push hard enough that people sometimes get hurt. The parents will scream and complain when Johnny dies in USMC boot camp, but to make that never happen again would be too hard and make the training too costly and ineffective. Sorry Mr. and Mrs., but your son died without ever seeing the enemy, but helped defeat that enemy nonetheless. He didn't win a Silver Star and won't be remembered much, but his death was not in vain and it has to be this way.


No, it proved that people will read what they want to read sometimes, and people understand when their civilian masters want a certain type of stuff so they go look for it, or look for ways that it CAN be that way. The evil Neocons knew what they wanted and made sure to promote it well and looked for ways to support their grudge. George H. W. Bush, the elder Bush President, got it right. The younger one and his cohorts got it wrong. Mostly. Saddam Hussein dead and a free, democratic Iraq might still be successful and a much lesser cost in civilian lives over the course of the decades and centuries to come than would have been the cost of leaving it be.

Cost of invading Iraq:
30,000 - 100,000 civilian lives as an educated guess, many more wounded
5,000 US dead and ~30,000 wounded
US global legitimacy ("hey, they lied", Abu Ghraib etc) and standing took a dive

Cost of not invading Iraq:
Low-level conflict with Saddam for indeterminate amount of time
Possible costs to US national security interests in the Middle East
Thorn in the side militarily and diplomatically for ...some time
How many dead Iraqi civilians over the next 50 years?
Eventual re-emergence of Iraqi Baathist threats to neighbours etc?
A life under a Baathist regime can't exactly be considered free and self-determining.
Eventual fall of a despicable form of government at what cost to its people and the rise of what to replace it?

Simply put, we know that bad things happened in the wake of the invasion. We also know that good things happened and that the US is about to leave to a large degree and that the Iraqis are fractured and bickering and stupid enough to use divining rods to search for explosives at check points. And tribal. And fanatically religious to a large degree.

And we know that the regime that was replaced was odious and murderous and had in the past sought to gain power and influence in the region by invading its neighbours and try for WMDs.

We simply don't know what the eventual costs to the world and the region and the advance of democracy, human rights and basic freedoms would have been if the regime change hadn't happened.

You can cry your liberal and anti-American tears all you want. And feel free to complain about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and all that torture crap. But you have no idea if it would or wouldn't have been worse to leave Iraq as it was under Saddam and his truly evil sons.