Required Reading for Republicans

Steve Olson has a good post on why the Republican party is losing the support of libertarians. An excerpt:

The Republican Party is crumbling. They lost congress in 2006 and will lose more ground in 2008 because they offer nothing new, nothing original, and nothing positive. We have seen the party of entrepreneurship, small government, and personal freedom become the party of fear, war, and police power. After the party leaders mocked, sneered, and cackled at those of us who believe in a limited constitutional republic, they now ask us to hold our nose and support John McCain.

It’s worth reading the whole post, especially for the list of reasons he opposes McCain, chief among them his plans to stay in Iraq for 100 years and his plans for new wars.

Those Romans Had a Good Idea

According to this article on the origins of Valentine’s day, the Romans, in their festival of Lupercalia had a “lover’s lottery”:

Roman armies took the Lupercalia customs with them as they invaded France and Britain. One of these was a lottery where the names of available maidens were placed in a box and drawn out by the young men. Each man accepted the girl whose name he drew as his love – for the duration of the festival, or sometimes longer.

Sounds like a cure for the anti-single-person nature of our modern Valentine’s Day.

Of course, when the ancient Catholic church subsumed Roman culture, the Pope dismissed the festival as pagan and immoral. (This may have had something to do with the naked men sacrificing a goat, wearing the goat skins, and hitting women in the streets with strips of goat hides to give them good luck and fertility.) He replaced it with a considerably more boring ritual:

The church decided to come up with its own lottery and so the feast of St. Valentine featured a lottery of Saints. One would pull the name of a saint out of a box, and for the following year, study and attempt to emulate that saint.

See, this is what happens when you let a guy who’s sworn never to marry run your religion. “Hey kids! You know what’s even more fun than girls? That’s right, studying!”

In any case, I hope you have a better Valentine’s Day than I’m having right now; I’ve got a sore throat that hurts whenever I swallow or talk. For once, I’m kind of glad I don’t have a girlfriend today, because that would mean talking.

But, you know, I wouldn’t turn the lottery down.

Canadian Health Care

There’s a great article about the Canadian healthcare system over at Campaign for America’s Future debunking a lot of the myths that we here all the time here in the United States.

Honestly, the more I hear about it, the more attractive the Canadian system sounds. According to the article, it isn’t nationalized health care, but rather more like nationalized health insurance. Basically, everyone is covered by the government health insurance.

As you might imagine, this greatly reduces overhead and waste for the doctors, who no longer have to deal with dozens of different insurance companies and who no longer have to argue with an insurance company to convince them to pay for their patients’ care.

And the article deals with the tax issue too; although Canadian taxes are higher, they also don’t have to pay ridiculous heath insurance premiums like we (or our employers) do here in the States. I’ll bet it evens out pretty well.

I’ve spent the last year trying to get health insurance, which has been difficult since I’m self-employed and since I have a preexisting condition. Blue Cross/Blue Shield has explicitly refused to cover me. The more frustrated I get with the state of health insurance in this country, the more I think that Canada has the most sane health care system out there.

I wonder how hard it would be to emigrate.

“If you build world class facilities, you will get world class students. If you build prisons, you’ll get prisoners.”

This is an amazing video from about six years ago. Bill Strickland built a world-class school in the middle of one of Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods. Now neglected kids and welfare moms are learning skills from reading to analytical chemistry to art.

All that it took to change these people’s lives was a little respect.

Obama on Religion and Politics

I’m watching a video of a speech Barack Obama gave about religion and politics. It’s really good; I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but in general it’s commendable stuff.

Among the topics discussed are Obama’s religious experience (he is not a Muslim, despite the emails you may be getting), the need for separation of church and state to preserve religion, and the way to mesh religious faith with a pluralistic society.

It’s about forty minutes in total, but it’s worth the time if you’re interested in where Obama stands on religious issues.

Circa Notebooks

IMG_0426 After seeing it recommended on Lifehacker and 43 Folders, I decided to try out the Circa notebook system. The difference between Circa notebooks and ordinary notebooks is that Circa notebook pages are bound together by eleven individual plastic rings.

Circa notebooks combine the best of a 3-ring binder with the best of a spiral-bound notebook. Like a 3-ring binder, you can easily add any printed page to the notebook. In fact, because the rings are so close to each other, you can attach smaller pieces of paper, like 3×5 cards or even business cards. You can also easily rearrange or remove pages as needed.

But unlike a 3-ring binder, the Circa is compact and easy to carry. It sits on your desk just like a spiral-bound notebook, taking up half the desk real estate of an ordinary binder.

IMG_0432The biggest disadvantage of the Circa system is that in order to add your own pages to the notebook, you have to buy Levenger’s expensive hole punch. I looked at several other sites and at similar systems like Rollabind, and this is the most economical option.

Fortunately, it’s also a high-quality product, which is why you’ll find so many enthusiastic supporters of the Circa system on the various productivity web sites.

As much as I love computers, I find that nothing works as well as paper for planning my day. I just get more done when I use a paper to-do list than when I use anything digital; paper is just more flexible.

And with the Circa notebook, I can keep everything I’m working on organized together in a neat, organized, and portable package.