Friday, December 26, 2008

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) In case anyone wondered if the credit crisis and recession were anywhere near over...the answer is no.

2) Clearly, Bush really is concerned about his legacy.

3) Or maybe not.

4) This is why the religious right will never get anywhere in this world: they beat up on little kids.

5) Sometimes Santa takes away, rather than give.

6) I can tell you this much: NOT sleeping is not good for your heart.

7) One thought in this season of giving: blood. The weather and the economy is taking its toll on the nation's blood supply. If you have the chance, give a pint.

8) Given item 3, above, how does the Bush administration square their domestic policy with their foreign policy?

9) This is some guy's mug shot:

I'm thinking the only jobs he'll ever get include the words "Did you want fries with that?" or maybe as a stock broker.

10) A short history of Boxing Day. Happy Boxing day, all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Boy, don't I know this feeling?

Merry Happy, everyone!

A Dead Meme

The good thing about Christmas Eve is no one has anything of import to write about. The bad thing about Christmas Eve is no one has anything important to write about:
the war on Christmas is a godless plot cooked up by a cabal of latte-sipping liberals, greedy retail tycoons, bearded ACLU communists and Ban Ki-moon acolytes who secretly gather in Bay Area synagogues to smoke pot, deface Bibles and perform abortions.

Or — maybe — the whole thing is just a canard, the backlash against a wave of political correctness that swept the U.S. in the late '90s, resulting in some strange new concessions to cultural sensitivity: cities insisting on calling the telltale conifers "holiday trees," efforts to ban the pleasantry "Merry Christmas" and crackdowns on the use of holiday nativity scenes and other religious iconography. But to many, the War on Christmas is a hyperbolic construct that blows the problem out of proportion. "There is no war on Santa," Michelle Goldberg wrote on Salon.com in 2005. "What there is, rather, is the burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasingly organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union." According to Max Blumenthal, who published a recent article on the topic, the trope's persistent popularity is fed by financial opportunism: "The Christmas kulturkampf is a growth industry in a shrinking economy, providing an effective boost for conservative fundraising and a ratings bonanza for right-wing media." O'Reilly himself has lent credence to this theory. "Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born," he said on Nov. 29, 2005. "Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable."

Yup. A history of the war on Christmas!
 
(Long time readers of my blog may recall I bothered to write a little ditty a few years back on the topic. Feel free to read it again.)
 
It's this last quote from Bill O'Reilly (the model for my novela) that got my attention.
 
Bill-O, really...have you forgotten Matthew 21?
12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

 13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

(emphases added)
 
Bill-O, you old Ferengi! "A good lie is easier to believe than the truth," indeed! That was Westbury, NY, right? ;-)
 
Christmas, in my eyes, has become nothing more than an excuse to exploit and manipulate the feelings of people, to watch those feelings manifest themselves in a spending spree.
 
Now, on the face of it, there's nothing wrong with that: people ought to acknowledge the folks around them who have supported and otherwise stuck by them throughout the year and the end of the years is as good a time as any to do so. By codifying the recognition of this relationship, we don't find ourselves in the embarassing circumstance of "forgetting" to get a present. It's hard to forget Christmas.
 
Or Hannukah. Or Kwanzaa. Or Festivus. Or the Solstice.
 
See where I'm going with this, Bill-O? Does it really fucking matter to Wal-Mart or Target which holiday gets celebrated?
 
Does it even matter to you? My suspicion based on your wholly Unchristian attitude towards people is the next time you set foot in a church, it will be feet first in a pine box.
 
I, for one, was glad this year that we had better things to focus on than the rantings of the O'Reillys and The John Gibsons of the world regarding the lack of piety in our secular world surrounding the birth of Our Lord (no offense, atheists, Ceiling Catists, or FSM believers, much less Jews or Muslims or Hindus and Buddhists). If this article is any indication, this is a meme that has outlasted its fifteen minutes.
 
It is Christmas Eve. We're told it is a time to gather round your family and celebrate another year older (and deeper in debt). I like to think differently.
 
To me, Christmas is a time to look back on your year, your life, and ask if you could have done it better. Jews have a week-long celebration of their religious new year: the time from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Indeed, the entire last month, Elul, is a time of reflection, to ask and to wish to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
 
What a marvelous concept! If only certain faux-Christian commentators would have that much humility!
 
Christmas is my Father's reminder of His great gift to the world: His Son, a gift I accepted a long time ago. We may disagree about this idea, but it comforts me, and gives me strength when the world around me seems darkest. He is my candle in the night. He reminds me there is a larger world out there, one that is filled with people who have earned just as much respect for their beliefs and knowledge as I do.
 
After all, we're all still here. That alone is enough.
 
My problems, my concerns, are important to me, but in the larger picture, mean nothing. And if I had a soapbox as big as Bill-O's, I'd find something more important to talk about than a petty insignificant created crisis like The War On Christmas.
 
It is to mock the waste of resource that is Bill O'Reilly. Long may he stumble over his own two feet, telling me about the speck in my eye, while ignoring the log in his own.
 
 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

Pretenders - 2000 Miles

This always reminds me of someone special.

Under the Radar News

Hey, kids! Here are a few items you may find interesting:
This dude took his finals and then went and saved part of the planet.

Then, there's this guy. He made a deal with the devil and died.
In a plane crash.
Hopefully, democracy didn't die with him, but we'll see............

You can find more info about this at freepress.org
and at bradblog.com and at atlargely.com and at velvetrevolution.us

Echoes Down The Corridor

The first of many disconstitutional dismantlings is now coming back to haunt us:

The Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, issued eight years ago this month, was widely understood to work like that tape recorder in "Mission: Impossible." It was meant to produce a president and then self-destruct.

"Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances," the majority famously said, "for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."

That sentence, translated from high legal jargon into English, was often taken to mean this: The decision was a ticket for one ride only. It was not a precedent. It was a ruling, yes, but it was not law.

But now, as the petitioner leaves the national stage, Bush v. Gore is turning out to have lasting value after all. "You're starting to see courts invoke it," said Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University, "and you're starting to see briefs cite it."

Indeed, rumblings of the damage the Bush administration has so gleefully inflicted on the Constitution echo everywhere. That sound you here is the foundation of the nation quivering. And just as it was unlikely that a major Supreme Court obstruction of justice eight years ago would not now be used by candidates great and small, Democratic and Republican, so is it unlikely that the massive gaping holes in due process and the law will go long ignored.

We elected Barack Obama with the understanding that he would likely close some of these holes, and perhaps ignore others, but asking a President to completely ignore convenient precedents is like asking a man to not use his left arm for four or eight years. It's simply not going to happen so long as they are available.
 
And assuming that Barack Obama is as much a mensch as we might hope he is, there's no guarantee that a president down the road would not reopen these old wounds. After all, even as great a man as Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. But then, so did as wretchedly pitiful and miserably twisted a man as George W Bush.
 
Our freedoms, such as they are, are at stake here. This is more important than any controversy over any pastor or proposition might be, for what is, say, gay marriage or the right to an abortion when there is no freedom to speak of? Nothing but a gaudy bauble glued to the ratty carpet of America.  
 
If I had the means, I would do this: When Barack Obama gets to the bit at his inauguration that says "preserve, protect and defend the Constituion of the United States of America," I would ask Chief Justice Roberts to pause, and say "We are holding you to this, Mr President."
 
A reminder that a free people is only as free as the government allows them to be, and until we the people control the government again, we the people rely on those in power to share our vision of freedom.
 
It pains me to think that in the past fifty years I've been on this planet, I've seen freedom dwindle, rather than flourish. Freedom should be an unprunable bush, one that you can nip a little here or there, but never be able to cut back to its roots. Freedom should be spreading, not contracting.
 
Even as we've made strides to insure freedom to all people in the nation-- black, white, male, female, gay, straight--  we've simultaneously watched our freedom winnow and starve as a whole. This must stop. This must reverse. The center cannot hold for long.
 
The impetus in this country has long been towards safety. I'm not sure specifically when that occured, my guess would be during the Great Depression. Government does solve problems, but those solutions need to be put away unless necessary as soon as the problem begins to resolve itself.
 
Similarly, a confluence of morality, religion, and fear has created an atmosphere that makes security take precedence over liberty. Scary gay men might ruin our marriages! Scary Latina women might do work that American women will not! Jesus is coming and he's carrying an M-16 rifle!
 
We must, as a nation, grow up a little. Coddled by our ministrations and administrations for too long, we must stand on our own two feet and work our own way through the world. Only then will we understand that it is through liberty, through freedom from oppression not only of our government, but of the majorities and minorities around us, that we can achieve security and safety. Respect is a two-way street, not a dumpster in a blind alley that we might duck behind when we need protection.
 
Freedom, Mr. President-Elect, is what got you where you are. Please keep that in mind when you take your oath next month. We've missed it for so long here in America.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Twelve Days Of Christmas Music Blogging

Andy Williams - The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Recovery

Paul Krugman won his Nobel honestly, to say the least. Today, he puts forth the following proposition:
A few months ago a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion, on point as always, offered one possible answer: “Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In.” Something new could come along to fuel private demand, perhaps by generating a boom in business investment.

But this boom would have to be enormous, raising business investment to a historically unprecedented percentage of G.D.P., to fill the hole left by the consumer and housing pullback. While that could happen, it doesn’t seem like something to count on.

A more plausible route to sustained recovery would be a drastic reduction in the U.S. trade deficit, which soared at the same time the housing bubble was inflating. By selling more to other countries and spending more of our own income on U.S.-produced goods, we could get to full employment without a boom in either consumption or investment spending.
I agree. I think the largest concern for the American economy over the past decade or so has been the transnationalization of our debt.

Think about it: the Chinese, British, and Saudis (as well as other nations swimming in new-found cash) basically have funded not only our national debt, but in turn, our personal indebtedness, including our mortgages.

Our foreign policy has followed suit, you might have noticed. The Iraq invasion was as much a pretext for getting money from the House of Saud as it was for "protecting America from terrorism".

Too, once these foreign governments found themselves swimming in American paper, the more risk-tolerant governments began buying up American private instruments: corporate bonds, securitized mortgages, credit and auto loans, things like that. Better return
for only slightly higher risk.

I'd got so far as to make the observation that the change in bankruptucy laws that made it nearly impossible for Americans to walk away from debt was less about the banking lobby and more about not knifing our allies in the back.

Once this house of cards began to topple (and this really is only the beginning), much effort was put not into prevention, as in financing Americans directly, but in staving off the collapse of the mediators: the banks and brokerages.

You see, we're stuck paying these bastards off for stuffing our mailboxes full of solicitations, egged on by a president who's idea of sacrifice is to take our credit cards out and spend, spend, spend! Financing us just brings the problems the institutions have to a head.

What we as a nation need to do, therefore, is to repatriate our owings, if we are to reclaim a recovery of any length and note. You'll notice the last time we had a truly healthy recovery, we were paying down our budget deficits and even making inroads into what was now-laughably called a crisis national debt of $3.8 trillion (it is now over $10 trillion and climbing fast).

The trouble, of course, is that other nations may not take kindly to this domestication of resources and money. China, for example, lives by our imports of their goods. It would be a bit irritating if we suddenly opened factories all across America, and paid people a living wage to make goods that China can produce far cheaper than we can.

Which brings me to some linkage, something that Barack Obama had already proposed on the campaign trail for other purposes, but which can make us a manufacturing powerhouse again without really upsetting our trade with China among others.

To put it in a phrase: green energy.

Right now, we have a nascent renewable resources manufacturing industry. We have the innovative American mind, the entreprenurial spirit with which to create, and the structure to manage and distribute this kind of knowledge around the nation.

More important, we have the idle capacities in terms of both plants and labor. There's not much reason not to insitute this program of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, weaning ourselves off the notion of "brand, spanking, new", and weaning ourselves of the notion that this kind of work, manufacturing and fabrication, is somehow a dead art in America, that Americans find this work beneath them somehow.

Ultimately, this technology would become an export, and a lion-sized one to boot. We'd be able to balance our trade and budget deficits, and make some paydowns of our national debt, probably just in time for the next recession.

Sunday, December 21, 2008