input form code snippet

08/22/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: Geek
here's an interesting little snippet of code that you can enter into your input forms (if you program in html) which will automatically place some start text into the field, and then clear it when the user clicks on that particular text box:

ONFOCUS="if(this.value=='some text')this.value='';" ONBLUR="if(this.value=='')this.value='some text';">

Swift Boat Veterans who can't get their story straight

08/22/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Were they lying then or now?

Roy Hoffman, today: "John Kerry has not been honest."
Roy Hoffman, 2003: "I am not going to say anything negative about him — he's a good man."

Adrian Lonsdale, today: "He lacks the capacity to lead."
Adrian Lonsdale, 1996: "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."

George Elliot, today: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
George Elliot, 1996: "The fact that he chased an armed enemy down is something not to be looked down upon, but it was an act of courage."

Larry Thurlow, today: "...there was no hostile enemy fire directed at my boat or at any of the five boats operating on the river that day."
Larry Thurlow's Bronze Star citation, 1969: "...all units began receiving enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks."

Dr. Louis Letson, today: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury."
Medical records, 1968: "Dr. Letson's name does not appear on any of the medical records for Mr. Kerry. Under 'person administering treatment' for the injury, the form is signed by a medic, J. C. Carreon, who died several years ago."

Grant Hibbard, today: "He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate."
Hibbard's evaluation of Kerry, 1968: "Mr. Hibbard gave Mr. Kerry the highest rating of 'one of the top few' in three categories—initiative, cooperation and personal behavior. He gave Mr. Kerry the second-best rating, 'above the majority,' in military bearing."

SUV's more dangerous than cars and gap widens

08/18/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
If you've ever been tailgated by an SUV while driving in a standard automobile, I'm sure the thought has crossed your mind about how easily that shiny grill that's filling your rear view mirror would bypass your bumper and smash into you personally should there be some kind of accident.

SUV's on the road just seem frightening. And, while it's not always the case that what seems frightening is actually so (take roller coasters for example -- very low rate of injury or fatality), in the case of SUV's, it turns out that that getting into an accident with an SUV is more deadly if you are driving in a regular automobile.

There are a few reasons for this: the average SUV has more weight than the average car, and so will do more damage to the car. Because they ride higher, the SUV will more likely ride up onto the car and impact the passenger compartment than be stopped by the automobile's bumper.

The (somewhat selfish) argument for SUV's has always been that even though they're dangerous for everybody else, they're safer for the occupants of the SUV. It goes along the lines of "I have to protect my family, and why shouldn't I be able to do that" or "There are alot of crazy drivers out there, so I need protection".

Let's ignore for the moment whether someone has the right to protect themselves by endangering others. The real news here is that the entire argument turns out to be false: driving an SUV is more dangerous even for the occupants of the SUV. Why? While they're safer in collisions with other automobiles, they're more likely to roll over due to their higher ground clearance. And rollovers tend to have fatal consequences.

So adding up the lower risk from collisions and higher risk from rollovers yields an overall higher risk from riding in an SUV.

In an article all of the numbers are laid out. Statistically you've got a better chance of dying in an SUV. Of course, there are many nuances here. Some SUV's perform better, and the largest ones are safer, but not as safe as the safest automobiles.

I'm convinced that there are people who are concerned for their safety, but I'm also convinced that there is a huge block of the driving public who use their SUV's to threaten and intimidate, and like the sense that that's what they do, but fall back on the the safety issue when taken to task for their reasons.

Aside from the somewhat disingenuousness of that response, ( the two probably go hand in hand -- people who like intimidating cars may not be so concerned with the earnestness of their comments ) is there a God-given right to intimidate and threaten on the road ?

Fear of the Stick

08/17/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
There was a spate of articles discussing why people feel so unsteady about the economy these days and why the Bush administration isnt' receiving more credit as economic indicators continue to rise.

The premise is that while indicators are rising, and people on the whole are better off, the fear of catastrophe, is rising at a greater rate.

Known as job stability, it's a measure of how stable the income to the average wage earner remains over time. And, as it turns out, things are much more unstable, up to five times more unstable than they were in the recent past.

Some of the causes can be seen fairly easily: Pensions used to be based on defined-benefit plans: you were guaranteed a certain paycheck for a pension after you put in a certain number of years on the job. Now, there is no defined benefit. Instead, most plans are defined-contribution, such as 401k's. You are expected to contribute a certain amount, but there is no guarantee on what the sum total of your contributions will be when you're ready to start withdrawing.

Another big cause is the decline of unionization. Workers without the benefit of a union to fight for wages and job security have much less income stability.

A cursory look at workplace benefits shows that in general, from pensions to health insurance, they've all been targeted.

This is, of course, all good if you're an employer. It makes perfect sense to keep employees a little in fear for their jobs. If the unemployment rate stays somewhat higher, that's good too because it keeps wage pressure down. It's in keeping with the new era of 'personal responsibility' as the TNR article points out.

You could view it as a pendulum swinging between providing a certain level of security in life and the workplace, but not so much so that it fosters stagnation and lethargy as has been the charge of the tenure system and unions.

But are those the only two possibilities? FDR has been accused of letting everybody off the hook with massive social programs, but all he was doing was responding to the horrible fix the nation found itself in after the stock market crash and the policies of Hoover. There was massive starvation and homelessness. The intention was not to give people a means to slack, but to provide a very basic social safety net.

Does keeping a workforce at attention also mean doing away with pensions and health benefits ? Why, as productivity grows and efficiency grows, are there still not enough resources to provide for healthcare for the general public? At what point will there be sufficient resources ? Or, is it the case that there are sufficient resources today, but not the general will to expend those resources on healthcare ?

All that aside, the idea of income instability being at the cause of the unease affecting the opinion of the American worker today is an interesting one.

Do you like kittens?

08/15/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Of course you do

To better harmonize

08/13/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Now this is precious. In this article, the administration is taken to task for quietly re-writing many federal regulations regarding everything from foresty to safety regulations for cars.

Regulations have the advantage of not being subject to congressional review, so the administration can quietly go about its business of gutting safeguards such as prohibiting the publishing of safety records for SUV's because of the 'competitive damage' those records might cause.

Damned straight. Produce an unsafe vehicle, you need some competitive damage for payment.

This one, however takes the cake. After changing rules exempting timber companies from environmental review, the explanation given by the forest service was this:
"to better harmonize the environmental, social and economic benefits of America's greatest natural resource, our forests and grasslands."

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Here's another one. After diluting the rules protecting coal miners, the explanation given was
"We are moving on toward more effective prevention of black-lung disease."

This is sometimes called lying.

And another one: In 1995 a report was issued on truck driver fatigue: fatigue was causing a striking number of deaths on America's highways. The current regulations allowed 10 hours of driving with a mandated 8 hour rest.

The Bush response after industry lobbying? The new rules allowed 11 hours of driving but then mandated a 10 hour rest.

There are more examples in the article.

The thing that strikes me isn't so much the pro-business change in regulations: that's expected. What's so fascinating to me is the mis-information and lies that they couch these changes in.

Why can't they simply come out and state what they've done, rather than to twist things to suggest that they haven't done them. It's an attempt to pull the wool, but why ? If they're correct, and this is good, why the wool?

A class of its own

08/13/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Interesting article on the finances of the United States, and how we have managed to dig ourselves into quite a hole. Between the horrible finances that the US is in now (record deficits, lowest personal savings rate ever) and the fact that the baby boomers will be leaving the job market (projected only 2 and a fraction people working for every retiree receiving benefits), the United States is in a heap of trouble.

How did it happen? 30 years of the Democrats spending too much and the Republicans taxing too little. The current administration, however, gets special mention:
While Mr. Peterson blames both parties for conniving against fiscal common sense, he puts the present administration in a class of its own. George W. Bush has discarded traditional Republican qualms against big government, replacing the old Democratic model of tax-and-spend with his own model of borrow-and-spend. Thanks to three unaffordable tax cuts and an unfinanced Medicare drug benefit that will eventually cost $2 trillion a decade, Mr. Peterson writes, ''this administration and the Republican Congress have presided over the biggest, most reckless deterioration of America's finances in history."

The word on the street

08/13/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
Listening to Mickey Kaus on Day-to-Day this morning. He points out that the word on the street is that this election is now one for Kerry-Edwards to lose.

Ron Fournier looks at how recent polls have been leaning in the direction of Kerry-Edwards, but Democratic strategists don't want the campaign to get too confident. LINK

"If public polls and pundits are right, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Oregon and 15 others states plus the District of Columbia are in Kerry's column or leaning his way with 269 electoral votes — one short of the presidency."

The Talking Cure

08/13/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
This has been brewing for some time: The Talking Cure is under assault . The Talking Cure? We all know what that is. It's what Tony Soprano got from Dr. Melfi, and what Billy Crystal gave to Robert DeNiro in that duo of bad gangster / shrink movies.

Classically, it takes the form of a psychiatrist sitting in a chair, with a patient lying down on a couch nearby, with the doctor out of sight. The patient talks to the psychiatrist, who allows the patient to engage in free association, with the objective of getting access to unconscious thoughts and emotions which, in theory, are at the root of most mental disorders.

The talking cure is credited to Freud, who published "The interpretation of Dreams" in 1899. Repressed thoughts and emotions, resident in the "id" were responsible for most ailments, and they could be exorcised via talking. Modern psychotherapy was born.

A Freudian psychiatrist (like my father) would see a patient for a "psychiatrist's hour", or 50 minutes, allowing the patient to talk freely. Notes would be taken. The cure would come when the patient managed to become conscious of the hidden thoughts and emotions at the root of the disorder

And therein lies the conflict: There isn't an awful lot of empirical evidence for the efficacy of the talking cure, so say a subset of psychotherapists who repudiate Freudian theories.

And also so say the insurance companies who are growing increasingly reluctant to pay for an hour of a doctor's time. "Show us the meat" they cry. We want to see studies proving that the talking cure truly works.

It's gotten to the point of a religious war, but the war remains central only to those who go to conventions: the talking cure is not and never was available to joe sixpack: it was always too expensive, even when it was in favor by all in the profession. And since the keepers of the money determine which treatments are in favor and which are not, the talking cure will remain where it is, a therapy of choice for those that can afford it.

Which also means that it's not going away any time soon. All of the Freudian psychiatrists I know tell me how business is booming, and expect it to continue to do so.

My father gradually found himself mixing the talking cure with pharmacological treatments: an hour of talk followed up with prescriptions for medications. His work at clinics abbreviated the psychiatrist's hour. Patients would come in, talk to my father for a short while, mostly to update my father with their condition. Then they would leave with their prescriptions.

I once asked my father what he thought about what he did: did he actually "cure" people? He thought about it, and said that there were some people who could be cured. Some had specific physiological ailments which could be treated successfully with medication.

Others were in need of a weekly "grounding". I'm reminded of the Roman Polansky movie "Repulsion" where Catherine Deneuve goes insane when she's left alone by her sister for an extended period of time. My father would act as the sister, coming in and reconnecting patients back with reality.

I have this image of patients being slightly lighter than air: over time they begin to lift off the floor, floating away. My father comes in, grabs them by their ankles, and pulls them back to the ground again.

So, while he called himself a Freudian, and had the works of Freud on his desktop, he became much more utilitarian than a classic psychotherapist. He was an expert in pharmacology and I believe relied more upon that than talking. Until the day he stopped practicing, however, he never gave up his own private practice of having patients come over for a 50 minute hour of the talking cure.

Strange Brew

08/13/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
This is amazing. First we get 2 8-10 inch rainfalls in and around Philadelphia, and now the Poconos have gotten 10 inches in the last 24 hours. I hope my house is still there.

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