Friday, September 25, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) While she should win her re-election handily, Angela Merkel is in deep trouble creating a ruling coalition. She had been running the government with the backing of the center-left Social Democrats, but tried to run her election in tandem with the more conservative Christian Social Union. Voters aren't buying that tax cuts at this time are a good thing, so they are drifting leftward.

Which means trouble for her, in that she's run her campaign criticizing the very coalition a) she created and b) she'll be forced back into.

2) So now Iran is again accused of making fissible material for bombs. The sense I get is they are doing this, but El Baradei has been put in the unenviable position of having to play diplomat-pawn for the Russians and Chinese.

If you read between the lines, you'll also get a sense as to why Barack Obama has pulled our missiles out of eastern Europe. The linkage between that event and the bold statement by the US, UK, and France this morning speaks loudly.

3) The economic power of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) has been realized: the G-20 is now the new G-8. Russia already was in the G-8 as the economic entity succeeding the Soviet Union, but now it is joined by the three other fastest growing economies.

4) While she's not the first Mansonite to die, Susan Atkins played a far more central role in the serial killings of the family. Many people, myself included, point to this abomination, the Tate-La Bianca killings as the true end of the Sixties and the end of the Hippie movement. If you are unfamiliar, or not that familiar with the story, let me put it in persepctive for you: I oppose the death penalty on all grounds and in all cases. This is the one case I may have made an exception. Read up on the murders. Ed Sanders, formerly of The Fugs, has some inside baseball that will creep you out.

5) It is interesting to me that Arab terrorists are targeting us with more vigor now than during the Bush administration. I don't think the Bushies did that good a job of keeping us safe. More, I think it's an attempt to probe for weaknesses, and it's nice to see that President Obama has focused on solving cases, not blowing up mosques.

6) By the way, on that note, it's nice to see Tom Ridge give a thumbs down to many of the things the Bushies did, of course, but dude, where were you when you could have made a difference????

7) Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Yet.

8) It was twenty years ago today, Pam Anderson brought her boobs to the Bay...

9) I didn't realize "tent revivals" included Viagra? Gimme that ol' time religion! Hallelujah!

10) Hm, think my boss would mind if I took an extended coffee break?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Condoms As Metaphors

It's taken thirty years, countless dead and infected, and a worldwide push, but it looks as though the very tricky and difficult HIV virus may be giving up its secrets to science:
Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- An experimental vaccine prevented HIV infections for the first time, a breakthrough that has eluded scientists for a quarter century.

A U.S.-funded study involving more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand found that a combination of ALVAC, made by Paris- based Sanofi-Aventis SA, and AIDSVAX, from VaxGen Inc., of South San Francisco, cut infections by 31.2 percent in the people who received it compared with those on a placebo, scientists said today in Bangkok. Neither vaccine had stopped the virus that causes AIDS when tested separately in previous studies.

The finding represents a revival in a campaign that appeared to stall just two years ago when use of Merck & Co.’s experimental Ad5 vaccine boosted some people’s chances of infection in a study. The latest result will transform future research, said Mitchell Warren, director of the New York-based AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.

31.2% is something, certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it means there's clues in there for a truly preventative vaccine or combination of vaccines.

I'm old enough to remember when sex could be had without any ill effects except maybe guilt. Syphillis, gonnorhea both seemed to be curable and AIDS and herpes were on a distant horizon.

I've often wondered if the spread of AIDS, HIV and even herpes was responsible, in part, for the rise of conservatism in this country. After all, when we could ball freely, we tended to be a little more open to new ideas as well as new experiences.

Once sex was clamped down upon, it seemed like everyone's rectums got a little more retentive, a little more conservative. Wearing a condom became a metaphor as well as a reality, forcing people to think back inside the box (um, pun not intended. Mostly.) because outside, alone, naked, was scary and a little dangerous.

Freedom became something negotiable, to an extent. You could be free, but you had to be ultravigilant, and once you had to be ultravigilant, that required an effort and efforts mean people will look for easy ways out.

Like the fox and the grapes, people began to look at sex as if it wasn't important, that sex was OK if it was readily accessible but to actually go out and pursue it became a matter of work. And who wants to work at sex?

So we saw a rise in monogamous relationships, but we also saw a rise in values that hearkened back to the Fifties, to a time when, yes, people had sex, lots of it, but no one talked about it, so everyone assumed no one else was getting any.

I dunno...just a thought.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Strategy Shift

You know, ever since the healthcare debate heated up this summer, I wondered why no one noticed the elephant in the room: mandatory insurance. I believed the whole "hands off my Medicare!" and "no public option" arguments were weak, and that perhaps there was an unfolding strategy to buy time for the GOP.

On Tuesday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) described the health care legislation being considered by the Senate Finance Committee as a "stunning assault on liberty" due to a provision that would require individuals to buy insurance.

Earlier in the week, the individual mandate also came under attack when Tim Phillips, who heads Americans for Prosperity, described it as an assault on individual liberty.

"When you have health care, that's a choice that impacts yourself," Phillips told MSNBC's Hardball. "Drivers' insurance impacts other drivers you may have accidents with."

Utter bullshit, that last. Obviously, Phillips doesn't understand how insurance works: even car insurance, your insurance company pays YOU, and then recaptures the money from the other driver's company.
Sort of like how medical insurances are forced to raise rates because hospitals and doctors have to charge more for un- and underinsured individuals seeking medical coverage, usually for catastrophic and very expensive emergency or urgent care!
But it's no surprise to me that the Fright Wing of this nation would suddenly, after eight years of putting up with phone taps and email sifts and surveillance tactics...because it's OK if you're a Republican...suddenly find their balls with respect to individual liberty.
But this isn't about individual liberty. This is about my liberty not to have to worry that my health insurance company has to pay for a bunch of morons who aren't smart enough to buy their own insurance to cover their catastropic healthcare needs, much less any taking any preventative steps to ensure they don't impact me or the rest of the country economically OR medically.
In other words, what my neighbor does, or more, doesn't do impacts me directly, and affects my well-being.
Hm. Maybe this is more a sign that the Fright Wing is fighting a rear-guard action, and that they're previous tropes have proven so ineffective that they've decided to gamble on painting in primary colours now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let Me Get This Straight...

No laws are broken. No guns held to anyone's head. No quid pro quo. Just a conference call where suggestions for art topics that might be helpful to the administration to portray are discussed IN PASSING, and suddenly the right wing thinks they have a smoking gun from the Obama administration????

The NEA and the White House did encourage a handpicked, pro-Obama arts group to address politically controversial issues under contentious national debate. That fact is irrefutable.

(sic) And sick.
Wow, you mean politicians encourage like-minded people to speak up in support of their policies? Or is it anathema because those policies DON'T include killing South Asians?
Oh. Well. This IS disturbing! No administration should ever use its influence over, say, corporations or individuals to influence the national debate! It should clearly be the other way around!
Memo to conservatives: Just because you guys are thieving lying weasels with evil agendae does not mean that the rest of the country is similarly inclined and maybe you ought to consider psychotherapy for your deep, dark paranoia?
Who are these people and what country did they sneak into America from?

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Busy Week

It's going to be a busy week in NYC this week: the United Nations session starts today with a popular President making his first real appearance on the global stage (followed by a trip to Pittsburgh for the G20 summit), and the Clinton Global Initiative holds its annual conference in tandem with the UN opening, with prospects of reduced enthusiasm (read: funding). And if that ain't enough, talks for a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty are already underway here.
Obama's schedule in New York City includes a summit with the leaders of the Palestinians and Israel's prime minister for talks aimed at extending the overtures special envoy George Miller undoubtedly made last week. That the leaders have even agreed to meet is a signal that there's some reliance on Obama's strength as a reconciliator. That alone bodes well, since under Bush, the Palestinians were reluctant to do even that much, given Bush's cheerleader status for Israel.
In addition, there's Iran. The missile shield that Obama promised to dismantle in Eastern Europe may or may not have been a quid pro quo for getting Russian assistance in the Iran muddle...first the IAEA says they built a bomb, then backpedalled furiously from that, but then leaked that an "annex" to a report confirms the report...but it doesn't really matter. It was a stupid and provocative idea in the first place, and while Russia could pose a threat in the future, it's unlikely that we would have insufficient warning that we could not simply move the missiles back into Poland and the Czech Republic.
They are, after all, mobile missiles.
Not surprisingly, Obama has a meeting with Russian president Vlad... I mean, Dmitry Medvedev. Likely on the table, Iran. And Israel. And the nuke shield.
The backdrop to all these diplomatic overtures is the general economic condition globally, something the Clinton Global Intiative will deal with, no doubt. When a country hurts economically, it has two choices: work internally to fix its economy, or steal.
Essentially, the latter is the choice that George W Bush took when the economy tanked just prior to his inauguration. Remember how Iraq's oil would pay for the war?
Yea. Funny how that worked out, innit?
(By the way, Lance Mannion will be blogging the CGI on Wednesday and Friday)
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) will be scrounging this year, despite Clinton's best attempts to paint a happy picture on things. Now, you'd think the Republicans would be foursquare behind the CGI, as it encourages private contributions to assist the poor and developing nations of the world, right? You know, "thousand points of light" stuff?
You have to look hard to find them even mentioning it.
Damn, but they hate them some Clenis!
Add to this that Clinton and Obama will be making the rounds of late-night entertainment (Clinton on The Daily Show, Obama on Letterman) and you have the perfect storm of gridlock for midtown Manhattan traffic.
But it ought to be fun. I have my camera with me, just in case.