Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dick Cheney's He Man Monthly


Hairstylists Can Help Identify Older Clients Who Need Health Services

Hairstylists may have a unique opportunity to help steer their elderly clients to needed health services, according to a small, exploratory study.

More than 80 percent of 40 Columbus-area stylists surveyed said that older clients often or always shared their problems during appointments.

"Hair stylists are in a great position to notice when their older clients are starting to suffer from depression, dementia, or self-neglect," said Keith Anderson, co-author of the study and assistant professor of social work at Ohio State University.

"While not expecting too much beyond the scope of their jobs, we may be able to help stylists direct elderly people in trouble to community services."

Anderson conducted the study with Andrea Cimbal and Jeffrey Maile, graduate students in social work at Ohio State. Their results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Anderson said he decided to do the study after reading sometimes-joking references in the popular press to "salon therapy," in which clients discussed their relationship, family and health problems to their stylists, who act as sympathetic ears and sometimes as pseudo-therapists.

"I wondered if stylists really did have these close relationships with their clients," Anderson said.

Oh my God! Now Obama wants to indoctrinate Congress!

Senator Barack Obama speaks to a crowd of supp...President Obama's plan to address a joint session of Congress on health-care reform Wednesday has set off a revolt among conservative Americans, who have accused the President of trying to indoctrinate their senators and representatives with socialist ideas.

"I don't want my legislators exposed to political propaganda," said Karen Bigelow, a housewife from Nacogdoches, Texas. "I did not send them to Washington to have them brainwashed by a liberal Nazi from the executive branch. Whatever happened to the separation of powers?"

In Washington, thousands of conservatives demonstrated in front of the Capitol. Some held signs reading "Congress Is For Congresspeople!" and "First They Come for Our Children and Now Our Representatives!" One woman who chained herself to a fire hydrant wailed, "To think it would come to this in my America! My father fought in Grenada."

The Utah State Legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit Presidents from appearing before Congress, especially if they're Democrats and/or African-Americans.

First Buddhist Army chaplain is from Tennessee

Spiritual diversity challenges military

by Bob Smietana

When Thomas Dyer heads to Afghanistan in December, the former Marine and one-time Southern Baptist pastor won't take a rifle with him. He won't take a Bible, either.

Instead, Dyer, a Tennessean National Guardsman from Memphis and the first Buddhist chaplain in the history of the U.S. Army, hopes to bring serenity and calm, honed by months of intensive meditation.

That preparation, he says, will help him bring spiritual care in the midst of a war zone. "We're going to put it to the test," Dyer said.

Dyer's deployment is another step in the U.S. military's attempt to meet the diverse spiritual needs of America's fighting forces. It's no easy task. For one thing, the military chaplaincy is facing all the complications that have affected American religion over the past 40 years. The decline of mainline Protestants and their aging clergy. The ongoing Catholic priest shortage. The explosion of religious diversity. The emergence of people with no faith. The ease with which people move from one faith to another.

The military is trying to adapt to these changes, while trying to find ministers willing to serve in a war zone, and who can minister to American troops without offending Muslim allies.

Chaplains say they are up to it, saying their "cooperate without compromise" approach allows them to serve soldiers of any faith. But critics wonder if the whole enterprise is doomed to fail.

Military chaplains have cared for the souls of American troops since at least the 1700s. In 1775, the Continental Congress agreed to pay chaplains $20 a month. Gen. George Washington told his commanders to find chaplains of good character and exemplary lives to care for the souls of their troops.

The first chaplains served a mostly Protestant military. Chaplains today serve in a remarkably diverse environment.

The latest report from the Defense Department tracks 101 faiths for active-duty personnel, from 285,763 Roman Catholics to the one member of the Tioga River Christian conference. In between are Baptists, Jews, Buddhists, Bahai's, Mormons and Wiccans. About a half a million active personnel are evangelicals. Almost 281,710 claim no religion.

Blogger Asks for Payment From a Newspaper

Plans to expand US embassy prompt rumors and concern amid anti-US sentiment in Pakistan

US embassy plans spur rumors, concern in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — America's plans for a major expansion of its diplomatic presence in Pakistan, including the possible takeover of a bombed luxury hotel near the Taliban heartland, have heightened tensions and bred rumors in a population rife with anti-U.S. sentiment.

Among the tales being floated: that 1,000 U.S. Marines will land in the capital, that Americans will set up a Guantanamo-style prison and that the infamous security contractor once called Blackwater will come in and wreak havoc.

The frenzy, much of it whipped up by the media and Islamist political parties, shows the difficulties for the U.S. as it seeks to increase its engagement in a country where a flourishing militant movement is threatening the war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. says it needs to expand mainly to disburse billions of dollars more in aid to Pakistan, an impoverished nation of 175 million people.

Pakistanis tend to view U.S. motives with suspicion, pointing to a history of American support for the country's past military rulers and involvement in its internal affairs, which they say has stunted the economy and democratic aspirations.

Others believe the U.S. is out to end Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, a source of domestic pride.

"Even an illiterate person knows that the Americans are against our nuclear program, and they will not miss any opportunity to destroy" the nuclear facilities, said Humayoun Qaiser, 23, a student at an Islamic university in Islamabad.

In recent weeks, several newspapers have published unconfirmed reports that 1,000 U.S. Marines will be posted at the U.S Embassy in Islamabad — which would be a significant jump from the nine there now. U.S. officials say at most the number may reach 20. Marine security guards are routine at U.S. missions abroad.

The head of the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami, which has demonstrated against the expansion, recently claimed that the U.S. also plans to build a Guantanamo-like prison, according to a newspaper report. The U.S. denies the claim.

Rumors aside, the embassy does plan to reconstruct the buildings on its 38-acre (15-hectare) compound and acquire an additional 18 acres (7 hectares), much of which will be used for apartments, embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said.

About 1,450 employees work for the embassy: 1,000 Pakistanis, 250 Americans posted to the site and another 200 Americans on short-term assignments. The plan is to add around 400 people, including about 200 more posted U.S. staffers, Snelsire said.

The major reason for the growth is a proposal in Congress to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, he said.

Health Care Cartoons

Back to School: Military Recruiters Increasingly Targeting High School Teens


As millions of students prepare for the start of another school year, we focus on an issue that concerns many parents: the increasing presence of military recruiters in the nation's high schools and the military's ability to gather information about students. We speak with journalist David Goodman about his Mother Jones article "A Few Good Kids?" and with the New York Civil Liberties Union's Ari Rosmarin, who works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights.


David Goodman, contributing writer for Mother Jones. His most recent article is titled "A Few Good Kids?: How the No Child Left Behind Act Allowed Military Recruiters to Collect Info on Millions of Unsuspecting Teens."

Ari Rosmarin, Senior Advocacy Coordinator at the New York Civil Liberties Union, where he works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights.

JUAN GONZALEZ: As millions of students prepare for the start of another school year, we turn to an issue that concerns many parents: the increasing presence of military recruiters in the nation's high schools and the military's ability to gather information about students.

Journalist David Goodman writes in the new issue of Mother Jones, quote, "Using data mining, stealth websites, career tests, and sophisticated marketing software, the Pentagon is harvesting and analyzing information on everything from high school students' GPAs and SAT scores to which video games they play. Before an Army recruiter even picks up the phone to call a prospect, the soldier may know more about the kid's habits than do his own parents."

To talk more about this, David Goodman joins us on the phone. He's a contributing writer at Mother Jones magazine. His latest article is titled "A Few Good Kids." He's also the co-author, with his sister Amy, of three books. We're also joined by Ari Rosmarin, senior advocacy coordinator at the New York Civil Liberties Union. He works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights.

Welcome to the both of you. I want to start with David. It's not just No Child Left Behind. You talk in your article about all kinds of other ways that the government has been and the military has been getting information on America's youth.

DAVID GOODMAN: That's right, Juan. You know, as families and students around the country are about to return to school this week, and New York starts next week, what they may be unaware of is that in the pack—you know, my daughter, who's in high school, along with every high school student—comes this sheaf of papers that you get in a week or two before. Buried in that sheaf is a letter informing them that all information about every high school junior and senior in the country is being sent to military recruiters by default, unless you happen to notice this letter and choose to opt out.

Oddly enough, this letter comes as a result of President George Bush's signature education law, the No Child Left Behind Act, which in 2002 included a provision, slipped in by then-Representative, now-Senator David Vitter from Louisiana, requiring all high schools to provide directory and contact information to recruiters. It effectively transformed this supposed education law into the most aggressive military recruitment tool that the armed services have had to date.

But that, as you point out, is not the only way that information is being gathered. At the same time as the No Child Left Behind law began harvesting this kind of directory information, which the military has not had before—you know, the sight of recruiters at malls and hanging around at high school football games and such has been the more typical scene that we are accustomed to with the all-volunteer Army. They go out, and they try and meet young people wherever they think they'll hang out. Having emails, cell phone numbers and home phone numbers is a whole new level for, you know, what—how recruiters can access young people. But there's more.

We found out, in 2005 privacy advocates were amazed to discover that the Pentagon had been amassing an extraordinary number of names, at this point 34 million names of young people, which is said to be "the largest repository of 16-25–year-old youth data in the country"—those are the military's own words—in something called the JAMRS database. That's the Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies program of the Defense Department. This is where all information has now been centralized, from Selective Service to the No Child Left Behind directory info.

But also it's from commercial data brokers. These are—include groups such as the Student Marketing Group and American Student List. The Pentagon is currently spending about $600,000 a year on these data brokers. Now, what's of concern here, these data brokers are getting information from when you buy a yearbook, when you buy a student ring, when you take any number of, you know, just commercial purchases. However, both of these large commercial data brokers have been accused of using deceptive practices to gather the information. So the New York Attorney General—

JUAN GONZALEZ: David, you actually mention one website,, which you say the Army spent $1.2 million backing this, and it supposedly helps to—provides tips to young people on standardized test taking, and only at the very bottom is it mentioned that it's sponsored by the US military?

DAVID GOODMAN: That's right, is being used by teachers all around the country. They send students to this website, ostensibly to provide them with free standardized test taking tips. And this is designed by the top test prep firms—Kaplan, Princeton Review. Peterson's is the current contractor providing the information. And yet, this is in fact a website run by the Army. You wouldn't know that unless you notice the little tagline in the lower right corner that links to, which is the Army recruiting website. And by the Army's own words to me, one of their most effective recruiting vehicles is

HR 3200 from a systems design perspective (Part I)

By bfwebster

[Part II is now up.]

On the occasions where I have reviewed the actual text of major legislation, I have been struck by the parallels between legislation and software, particularly in terms of the pitfalls and issues with architecture, design, implementation, testing, and deployment. Some of the tradeoffs are even the same, such as trading off the risk of "analysis paralysis" (never moving beyond the research and analysis phase) and the risks of unintended consequences from rushing ill-formed software into production. Yet another similarity is that both software and legislation tend to leverage off of, interact with, call upon, extend, and/or replace existing software and legislation.  Finally, the more complex a given system or piece of legislation is, the less likely that it will achieve the original intent.

But there are some critical differences that make legislation design both harder and higher-risk than systems design. (More after the jump.)

Software vs. Legislation

First, software is designed for a target or reference system; you can in theory predict or constrain its behavior, and its behavior is largely repeatable.

Legislation, by contrast, is executed by humans, with wide latitude for interpretation and implementation, as well as misunderstandings, disagreements on meaning, and on-the-fly modifications.

Second, software typically has several layers of independent (non-human) syntactic, semantic, and integration checking that it of necessity goes through before deployment (though plenty of defects can and do  slip through).

Legislation, by contrast, is written in a natural (human) language, with all its gaps, faults, and ambiguities, and with nothing to force error checking in syntax, semantics, and integration; there's no way of "compiling", "linking" and doing a test run of the legislation in a limited environment before it becomes the (largely irrevocable) law of the land.

Third, because of the previous two factors, two or more software engineers can typically reach professional agreement on what a given section of source code will do; if they continue to disagree, there are standard tools and methods by which they can objectively demonstrate how the software will behave, either exactly or within general limits.

By contrast, and due to the corresponding factors with legislation, two or more people (legislators, executives, judges, and citizens) can interpret a given section of legislation quite differently, and each may well have a defensible position, due to the potentially wide latitude of and arena for interpretation.

Some Design Flaws of HR 3200

This all comes to mind as I have been reviewing HR 3200, aka the House bill on health care reform. While I am neither a legislator nor a lawyer (though I have worked closely with lawyers for a decade), I am a professional software architect/engineer, and a professional writer, who has worked in the IT field for 35 years. From that point of view, I believe HR 3200 will exhibit profound problems and unintended (or unclaimed) consequences if passed. Here are some of reasons why.

To begin with, HR 3200 suffers from all the problems listed above with legislation. It is written in English, and complex, obscure, jargon-laden English at that. Many of the sections are imprecise and/or incomplete, leaving large amounts of interpretation and implementation to unelected humans. Many of the objections to HR 3200 come from this very problem, including the concern that the ambiguity is deliberate and intended to open doors to politically unpalatable consequences.

HR 3200 is also massive and very complex — over 1000 pages in printed form, with hundreds of sections. For its sheer length alone, it is difficult to understand and interpret, but (as indicated below) there are other factors that make overall comprehension nearly impossible. It also makes after-the-fact revocation or even modification extremely difficult.

Much of HR 3200 makes piecemeal modifications to existing legislation, often with little explanation as to intent and consequences. So, for example:


(c) Treatment of Current Accreditation Applications- Section 1834(a)(20)(F) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395m(a)(20)(F)) is amended–

(1) in clause (i)–

(A) by striking 'clause (ii)' and inserting 'clauses (ii) and (iii)';

(B) by striking 'and' at the end;

(2) by striking the period at the end of clause (ii)(II) and by inserting '; and'; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

'(iii) the requirement for accreditation described in clause (i) shall not apply for purposes of supplying diabetic testing supplies, canes, and crutches in the case of a pharmacy that is enrolled under section 1866(j) as a supplier of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies.

Any supplier that has submitted an application for accreditation before August 1, 2009, shall be deemed as meeting applicable standards and accreditation requirement under this subparagraph until such time as the independent accreditation organization takes action on the supplier's application.'

This happens repeatedly throughout HR 3200; in fact, one entire portion (Division A, Title IV) is labeled "AMENDMENTS TO INTERNAL REVENUE CODE OF 1986″. This makes it difficult — beyond the ambiguities of the language itself — to determine just what is being modified and what the potential implications are.

MoveOn & R.E.M. Video: We Can't Afford to Wait

Back to school homeless

There are federal mandates and some stimulus funds, but not nearly enough to keep up with this heartbreaking problem.

According to a National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) Fact Sheet published in April 2008, there are more homeless women and children living in the U.S. than in any other industrialized nation. Even if you already knew that, it's still shocking to read in a New York Times story by Erik Eckholm, "Surge in Homeless Children Strains School Districts," that in spring 2009 more than 1 million American children were homeless.

The number is going up. Estimates are that the count of homeless children has risen by 75 to 100 percent over the past two years as a result of family job losses and mortgage foreclosures, and will continue to rise at accelerated rates. This is bad news not just for parents and children but for school districts.

The stresses of homelessness tell not only on the children and their parents, but also on schools. School districts financially strapped by the economic downturn and other factors lack resources to help a child who couldn't do his homework before falling asleep alongside his parents in the family car the previous night, or who is continually shuttled from relatives' homes to a room in a motel to a campground tent.

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, first voted into law in 2001, districts are required to take specific steps on behalf of children who become homeless. The purpose is to minimize interruptions of their schooling and cut red tape that could bar or delay their entrance into appropriate programs. McKinney-Vento has "closed destructive gaps in schooling," say the sources Eckholm cites. But even with some Congressional funding to aid compliance, school districts already financially strapped by the recession and other factors are finding it harder to meet needs specified in the federal mandate as the numbers of homeless children increase.

I got a ton of liberty

Soldier killed in Afghanistan re-enlisted to get health care coverage for family

CNN news anchor John Roberts asks "How far would you go to get good health insurance?" A report this morning tells the heartbreaking story of a man who lost his job as a computer consultant, and along with the job went the health insurance for his family.

Army SPC Greg Missman had ended his military service 11 years earlier, but signed back on in order to provide his young son Jack with health insurance coverage.

After only one month on the ground in Afghanistan, Missman's father Jim received the news that Greg's convoy had been ambushed, and Greg was killed in the attack.

CNN reports that a "Pentagon spokesman said there is no way to count how many soldiers have joined the armed services to get health care benefits. As for Greg Missman, his son will continue to receive military health insurance so this soldier's sacrifice will live on."

Palin Sides With Obama on Afghanistan

On at least one of his major policies, President Obama is getting support, and a nudge, from an unlikely quarter – Sarah Palin.

Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska and last year's Republican vice presidential nominee, joined a group of conservatives signing a letter to Mr. Obama praising him for his management of Afghanistan and urging him to commit more troops there.

It's not as if Ms. Palin has been all that supportive of Mr. Obama in other arenas. Just last month, she referred to his health care plan as "downright evil," and she asserted incorrectly that the president's health proposals would institute "death panels" to cut off care to the elderly or infirm. She has criticized Mr. Obama's spending plans and other initiatives.

Among others who signed the letter, organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative, a newly created conservative organization, were Karl Rove, the senior adviser to Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush; William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard; and Ryan C. Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq.

The letter to Mr. Obama said its signatories "congratulate you on the leadership you demonstrated" by sending 21,000 more troops and replacing the military commanders in Afghanistan this year, and it called on him to grant an anticipated request for more troops from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. "We urge you to continue on the path you have taken thus far and give our commanders on the ground the forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy," the letter said.