Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

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Saturday, July 25, 2009
The pandering continues.
"Every time I think I'm a Republican, they do something crooked. And every time I think I'm a Democrat, they do something stupid." That's how Jay Leno answered a question from a 60 Minutes correspondent about his political leanings. It's the most insightful thing I've ever heard him say, and current events frequently remind me of it.

Keeping track of stupid proposals by politicians would be a full-time job. I cataloged the Bush Administration's bad ideas for awhile, but eventually gave up. (Six months after they left office, we're still learning more.)

This week's political stupidity comes from Mark Brewer and the Michigan Democratic Party. Brewer was secretly behind last year's atrocious would-be ballot proposal that would have made about 120 changes (if memory serves me correctly) to the state constitution. He denied involvement until a Democratic PowerPoint presentation about it turned up on a union website. Courts ultimately threw it out.

Brewer's now back with more shamelessly pandering ballot proposals:
Party officials declined to release details on any of the plans, but said the potential measures include:

• Hiking the minimum wage to $10 an hour for all workers.

• Imposing a blanket moratorium on home foreclosures for 12 months.

• Cutting utility bills by 20% across the board.

• Requiring all employers to provide health care to employees and their dependents.

• Hiking by $100 a week -- and extending for six months -- unemployment benefits, while expanding eligibility.
Rather than document the overwhelming stupidity of these proposals, I'll just refer you to this Daniel Howes column.

We deserve better than absurd unrealistic promises.

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Changes for another "safe" profession.
For years, it's been well-known that there's a shortage of nurses in this country. That's why a lot of people choose it as a profession: the comforting knowledge that you'll always be able to find work.

Well, chalk up another thing our current economic recession has changed, at least temporarily, according to PRI's Marketplace:

[Reporter Cathy Duchamp:] There are still job openings for nurses. But vacancy rates nationwide are lower than they have been for years, says Peter Buerhaus. The Vanderbilt University professor is lead author on a recent study of the nursing labor market. He says in the last two years a record number of nurses have returned to full-time hospital work.

Peter Buerhaus: The numbers were absolutely beyond our comprehension.

Buerhaus says the reason experienced nurses are coming back has to do with family finances.

Buerhaus: Seventy percent of nurses are married. When their spouses either lose their jobs or are worried that they might, then some RNs who are not working decide, "Aha, I need to pop back into this labor market." And others who already may be working, but say, part-time, they increase their hours of work.

The story goes on to say that hospital administrators predict this is only temporary, and they're pressing ahead with their efforts to encourage more people to enter the profession.

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Monday, July 06, 2009
Robert McNamara, 1916-2009.
Some people lead lives that would seem appropriate as the subject of a Shakespeare play (in the tragic sense, although there are probably some appropriate examples for comedy as well). The first person who always comes to my mind in Richard Nixon, whose positive attributes were thoroughly undone by his negative ones. I've come to think that another may be the late Robert McNamara.

Some supporting evidence:
As a biographer concluded: "For better and worse McNamara shaped much in today's world -- and imprisoned himself. A little-known nineteenth century writer, P.W. Bornum, offers a summation: 'We make our decisions. And then our decisions turn around and make us.'"

(Last two links via Metafilter)

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Incandescent innovations.
I seem to have stumbled into writing about light bulbs on a semi-regular basis (the Google ads on this page are testimony to that). In today's installment, courtesy of the New York Times, we learn that incandescent light bulbs may survive the 2012 Federal standards, thanks to some recent innovations:

“There’s a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly,” said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.”

The first bulbs to emerge from this push, Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers, are expensive compared with older incandescents. They sell for $5 apiece and more, compared with as little as 25 cents for standard bulbs.

But they are also 30 percent more efficient than older bulbs. Philips says that a 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb and lasts about three times as long, eventually paying for itself.

The line, for now sold exclusively at Home Depot and on, is not as efficient as compact fluorescent light bulbs, which can use 75 percent less energy than old-style bulbs. But the Energy Saver line is finding favor with consumers who dislike the light from fluorescent bulbs or are bothered by such factors as their slow start-up time and mercury content.

Read the article to find out some of the approaches they're using.

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