Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

King Missile - Detachable Penis

Show me a man who cannot relate to this song and I'll show you a man who hasn't woken up still drunk.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) So he now has 50 cents?

2) In all seriousness, while Ron Paul appeals to me in a sort of renegade way, I don't trust him, and since he's running as a Republican, I think I have good reason not to. I get a sense out in Blogtopia (© Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo) that there are a number of lefties who would consider him, but they could also be cleverly concealed right wingers.


4) And heyyyyyyyyyyyy here on Actor212 Radio W-A-S-S, we have a special shoutout to Miss Cellania...seriously, lest you think Oxycontin is a problem only for overweight bloviating right wing "talk" show hosts who are afraid to face anyone with a responsible opposing opinion, not so much.

5) Finally, a pepper sauce hot enough for my tastes!

6) Possibly the saddest sports related story of the year. Not for the victim or what happened to her, but for the country at large. Role models are harder to come by these days.

7) I got a suggestion, Big Dog: Keep a low profile, and rebuild that bridge to the 21st Century.

8) The clock is ticking. You've been warned. Might amount to nothing, but it might be tragic.

9) It's only a game, folks! But this is obscene from a cultural standpoint.

10) This is just wrong. JUST. WRONG! I expected better from Will Smith.

11) It's getting so philanderers everywhere will have to stop giving expensive gifts to get laid.

12) Say it with me, everyone: Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore. The only thing sweeter would be to add "former President" to that title.

13) I wonder if there's an orangutan Christian Coalition, and do they know about this?

14) It is nice to know that orangutans and I have something in common, tho.

15) She must have some big-ass tits.

16) OK, I apologize. I should have said hooters.

17) Say goodbye to Fred Thompson:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Convergence In The Force

One of the Democrats see-saw battles internally has been over free trade/fair trade. On the one hand, middle-to-middle-left Democrats see free trade as a good thing, an almost Republican position if you believe the smears.

On the other hand, more left-of-center Democrats believe free trade is a mask to cover predatory capitalism's exploitation of poorer nations and people, including poorer Americans, and that fair trade or barriers to trade are needed.

Both, sadly, are correct positions, which is what makes trade an issue that is not easily resolved at the grass-roots level, and has given the Republicans an economic and foreign policy plank in their platform, not to mention reinforced their arguments regarding tax cuts.

Until now.:
WASHINGTON -- By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.

The sign of broadening resistance to globalization came in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll that showed a fraying of Republican Party orthodoxy on the economy. While 60% of respondents said they want the next president and Congress to continue cutting taxes, 32% said it's time for some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to reduce the budget deficit and pay for health care.

Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush's calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.
Note the slightly subtle undercurrent in general Republican opinion, apart from the trade issue: tax hikes on the wealthiest, and protections for poor working Americans.

All this comes on the heels of seven years of "unfettered economic improvement" (I'll get back to that in a moment), a rising if faltering stock market, and a President who goes out of his way to remind people of how his tax cuts put a lot of money in their pockets.

Um. Yea. Not so much...

If you take a look around the current economic landscape, you see the ghosts of our past fiscal party draped over the furniture: easy credit, rocketing house values, low interest rates, predatory lending.

None of which has anything to do with tax cuts. Where tax cuts could have and should have helped middle class Americans, putting more money in their pockets through reduced tax bites and, more important, higher wages, never happened. Wage growth was actually down for the first term of Bush's administration and it wasn't until 2006 that the average caught up and surpassed the average wage in 2000, adjusted for inflation.

In point of fact, the last seven years' spending is probably the result of one unintended impact of Bush's tax cut and one other factor that had nothing to do with taxes whatsoever.

When Bush cut taxes, three times, the logic should have flowed like this: tax cut equals increased spending by businesses and the public equals higher interest rates as credit tightens (companies leveraging their new-found money into capital purchases, people buying bigger homes).

What happened instead was something a little different: tax cut equals increased dividends and capital gains recognition equals lower economic activity equals a further lowering of interest rates to avoid recession.

That extra money, in other words, flowed to wealthier people who didn't need to spend it, instead investing it where they could get a great return. That would normally be a good thing for America, but here's the unintended consequence and why this happened: the rest of the world's economy was starting to ramp up and catch up to the American economy.

Those extra dollars weren't invested here, but in Europe and Asia, particularly China and India, which explains how, while our economy is basically stagnant at the consumer level, our corporations are still making money hand over fist on their overseas activity and the stock markets, never a good economic indicator except in retrospect, are breaking records.

The other factor? The psychology of September 11 and the fear that the administration has made certain to simmer since.

You get panicked and you need to be comforted. In America, that leaves one thing to do: shop. Bush's speech on this point was unnecessary. People weren't in economic hardship, so they weren't about to stash money in their mattresses, waiting for the rabid Islamist horde to come ravage their daughters and raid their banks.

Material acquisition, for reasons I'm not qualified to truly explore, seem to comfort us. Perhaps it's the whole "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality we've been inculcated with, or perhaps it's merely the feel that, in some bizarre way, we've "conquered" something and gained wealth.

It's the wealth angle that strikes me about the past seven years. The rising housing prices, the increased equity people gain in their homes with each mortgage payment, the ability to trade up, quickly turning a $250,000 investment into a $500,000 one by selling the $250K house for $300K, then buying the $500K house with the proceeds, minus the vig for yourself, and a bigger mortgage, feeds right into this acquisitive mentality.

And now we're seeing the bitter fruit of the leftover market. Sure, some people made a ton of money, early on, in the boom, but now you're seeing house prices slipping, and interest rates creeping up, which means house prices will slip further. Now, add to that the baby boomers downsizing their houses as the kids move on, and you've got a really chance of a shrinkage in wealth not seen since the Great Depression.

And people have less and less money to spend. And now, the job market is starting to catch up.

This is not going to be pretty, but the good news is the other half of the country is starting to wake up and realize how bad things really will be. It's a Pyrrhic victory we financial wonks on the left are celebrating, to be sure, but it bodes well for recovering from this horrible tragedy to come.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My Day Today I'm brainstorming at lunch with an editor from the New York Times, trying to figure out a way to cover poverty and race relations in the country that's comprehensive and would make some good reading...

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Effin Funny Stand-up - Jimmy Dore

Posted Jul 08, 2007

On today's theme of being scared by our own government, George Bush loves to scare the crap out of you.

The Most Laughable Story You'll Read This Week

This is a joke, right?:
MIAMI (Reuters) - Seven men plotted to bring down the U.S. government by poisoning saltshakers and bombing landmark buildings, a prosecutor told Miami jurors as their terrorism conspiracy trial opened on Tuesday.

The "Liberty City Seven" aimed to create chaos as part of a holy war to pave the way for al Qaeda-affiliated guerrillas to take over the United States, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie said in the prosecution's opening statement.

"We need to make the people go crazy in the streets," Gregorie quoted alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste as saying. "Allah is going to take over through us."

OK, some background on this: About fifteen months ago, a huge breaking story that ran across the front pages of newspapers all across the country went something like this: "Terror Plot To Blow Sears Tower Busted."

Note the timing: nearly one year after the 7/7/05 terror bombings in London, and just ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

Homegrown terrorists, ties to Al Qaeda, massive bombing plot...soopersecret stuff, right? Probably busted wide open by an undercover FBI mole who, as his patriotic duty insisted, turned on his friends and narced.

Eh. Not so much:
Rather than trained terrorists for whom stealth and secrecy is the golden rule, these guys seem to have strutted around a poor African-American neighborhood in Miami wearing military-style garb (sometimes also turbans), standing guard and doing exercise drills. You know, like the S1Ws in the old Public Enemy hip-hop shows. And just like the S1Ws, seems like these guys didn’t have any real weapons either. The indictment against them is pretty hilarious, because it makes clear that the only contact these guys had with “al-Qaeda” was through a U.S. government undercover agent posing as a Qaeda operative. So the indictment says they swore oaths to al-Qaeda and sought its assistance in waging a ground war (yes, a ground war!) against the “devils” on U.S. soil. But, of course, any such “oaths” were administered not by al-Qaeda, but by a U.S. government agent posing as al-Qaeda. (I’m sure the lawyers are going to have fun with this one!)
Sure enough, they will:
Defense lawyers said the charges were "nonsense" scripted by the government and orchestrated by paid FBI informants they called Conman No. 1 and Conman No. 2.

They said the defendants, one of whom was devoted mainly to smoking marijuana, had no weapons or intent to do violence and that it was the informants who suggested poisoning restaurant saltshakers and blowing up buildings.
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know too many stoners who would even get up off the couch to blow up a balloon (except for a shotgun hit for someone else) much less a building.

But come on! Think about the implications of this preposterous story: seven men, and only seven men, would poison enough salt shakers and blow up enough buildings to foment panic in the streets sufficient for wave upon wave of Al Qaeda fighters to invade our homeland and overthrow the US government?

Yeeeeeeeeea. Someone's been watching Red Dawn and smoking mesc...

However, it provides a neat segue into something I was thinking about this morning: fear.

I was reading a column by Jeffrey Kluger in Time magazine. He made the following observation:
It's impossible to resist comparing the America of 1957 with the America of 2007-- and finding the modern version wanting. There was a clear-eyed quality to the U.S. commitment to space and a frank understanding of what it would take to get there. This wasn't an effort built on tax credits for willing industries or bipartisan earmarking. It wasn't a program financed by cooked books or off-budget accounting. Most important, it was sustained by appealing not to what scared us but rather to what elevated us. There's no need to invoke WMD when you've got MIT.

In a nativist time like ours, it's hard to imagine a national effort so peopled by foreigners--German expat Wernher von Braun building our rockets, New Zealand immigrant William Pickering heading our unmanned program. In a time of flash-paper attention spans, it's similarly hard to picture any agency surviving the setbacks NASA did. Ranger 7 was the first unmanned U.S. ship to land on the moon--following the sequential failures of Rangers 1 through 6. Think that program would make it as far as Ranger 4 today?

Most remarkable, though, was the odd humility that marked our space enterprise. Yes, in the historical mirror, some of it seems overdone: the astronauts in silver space suits (when military green would have served just as well), shedding names like Virgil and Donald and Gordon for Gus and Deke and Gordo. But that was done with a cultural wink, one that belied the workmanlike ethos beneath the effort.

In that most American of plays, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, father of two layabout sons, is stunned to find that his neighbor's boy is arguing a case before the Supreme Court and hasn't mentioned it. "He don't have to," his neighbor answers. "He's gonna do it." A coda to that idea is offered in the elegiac new documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. One of the scenes shows the men of Mission Control lighting cigars after the 1969 splashdown of Apollo 11. Behind them, on a control room viewing screen, two words are projected: TASK ACCOMPLISHED. That may be a less triumphal phrasing than "mission," but whatever you call it, Americans knew enough not to boast about a thing until we had done it.
Indeed. The unspoken coda to this article is this photo:

What are our leaders-- and through their reactions and calculated efforts, us-- so afraid of?

What do we have to fear from a terror attack? The best Al Qaeda could do in ten plus years of planning was find a small flaw in our civil defenses and exploit it.

Rather than wasting our energy and more important, squandering our justifiable concern over real terrorist actions over idiotic scams like this Miami plot, we ought to be focusing on finding the people who really want to hurt us and stopping them.

And not making up boogeymen so we can burnish our credentials falsely. During the Clinton administration, the Federal government managed to foil 16 terrorist plots, including the famous plot by Ramsi Yussef to blow up seven transPacific airliners, the precursor to the 9/11 hijackings themselves.

No one talked much about it (mostly because Republicans and the media were focused on a different missile), and things were handled. We need to get back to that, to the attitude that it's not talked about, it's just done.

Breaking News!

Another massive Chinese toy recall is underway...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The "So Be It" Barack

Much has been made about the mantle of inevitability of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, if not her Presidency. I tend to agree with this sentiment, and while I have my reservations about Hillary's abilities to lead this country, from a purely political standpoint, I think she's done a fine job of campaigning for the past six years.

The only other candidate, it seems, with the staying power to compete with Hillary as well as the platform that might topples this juggernaut (including Republicans) is Barack Obama.

Now, I like Obama, too, and should the choice come down to these two at the end of the trail, I'd be hard pressed to choose between them.

On one hand, we have the inevitability factor, as well as far more experience than Obama. On the other, we have the certainty of youth and the creativity of an outsider.

Tough choice. Obama is trying to attack Hillary's experience, tho, and I think that's a really dumb mistake:
"He's basically going to lay out a comprehensive case for why his original opposition to the war demonstrates why he has the kind of strength and experience to lead this country," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Citing aides to Obama, The New York Times reported he will also propose setting a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world, saying the United States should greatly reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism.
If this is the major theme he's going to attack Clinton on, Obama has some questions to answer, not least of which is why his voting record on the war and war funding since he was elected is nearly identical to Clinton's.

For a strident war opponent, one who nags both Clinton and John Edwards constantly about their vote to authorize, the sense I get from his subsequent votes is that he would have fallen in line right alongside everyone else. I suspect I'm not alone in that impression.

We're Democrats, not Republicans. We can read.

But to go on...:
Obama has tried to turn the tables on Clinton in recent days by saying he has the equivalent experience that her husband, Bill Clinton, had when running for the White House in 1992.

"I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president," Obama said in New Hampshire on Saturday. "He said, 'The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.'

"Well that candidate was Bill Clinton. And I think he was absolutely right," Obama said.
Yea, he said a two-term governor of Arkansas, with experience running a bureaucracy, balancing a budget and being directly responsible for administering a government.

Barack, you've got two election wins under your belt, the bigger one based solely on a terrific speech you gave at the national convention, running against a guy who couldn't have beaten OJ Simpson. That's all. To be comparing yourself to Bill (Greatest. President. Ever) Clinton is a little...cocky, to put it mildly.

A better, and perhaps more valid comparison to make is Hillary with George Bush: a family member of a former President being thrust into contention based almost solely on name recognition, with the opposition party lying in the bushes (er, no pun intended), waiting to pounce.

And then hope no one bothers to read up on her Senate record. They might not, because this line of reasoning at least rings true for people.

Look, people out here want change. Even I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it's highly likely that, for 36 years, we could have either a Bush or Clinton in the White House (going back to Bush the Mature as Reagan's VP). Dynasties are supposed to be missed in a democracy.

Whether we still have one is in question and is the subject of a different post. To the point at hand, experience matters, to be sure, when a country is as unsteady as this one is, but change matters, too.

For Barack Obama to come from behind and win this thing is going to require a ground-up rethinking of his campaign, starting with, from all accounts, his stump speech, which I'm told is about as mechanical as John Kerry without any of the glamourous war stories. He's a more vibrant speaker than his stump speech let's him be. He needs to connect with people.

John Edwards is challenging in the one must-win state for both Obama and Edwards, despite being handicapped in fund raising, because Edwards can touch people. He has some of Bill Clinton's sympatico and common man feel, despite the haircuts and fancy suits.

Too, Obama's tone-deafness in Iowa can't be helping. Iowa is an old state, with a high percentage of over 50 voters. To slough off an AARP debate is practically suicide, even if you believe your staff that the under 30 vote is being wildly undercounted.

When a 50 year old says they're going to vote, they're going to vote. When a 20 year old says it, you'd better damned well hope the St. Louis Rams aren't in the playoffs or it's not finals week.

By all accounts Obama's fund raising strength plus the broad base of small contributors he's built is formidable, but much of that is from people who just hate Hillary and can't take Edwards seriously added to people who genuinely admire Obama and believe he can win.

It also skews very young, which again doesn't bode well for the commitment to Obama they've made.

He has the stuff to survive Iowa and New Hampshire and perhaps to make a game of it in South Carolina, but he has to start running as opposed to just showing up.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Do As I Promise, Not As I Do

Leave it to New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg to put things in perspective:
Bloomberg earlier gave a speech to the opposition Conservative Party's annual conference in Blackpool and took aim at conservative American politicians who ran up budget deficits.

"It seems to me that the Conservative Party in the UK is much more fiscally conservative than many American politicians who call themselves conservative," he said.

"Too many of them want to run up enormous deficits and hope that some way, somehow -- someone else will pay for it. That's not conservatism, that's alchemy, or if you like, lunacy."
Or, create a problem, then pray it goes away.

But Mayor Mike's comments got me to thinking: why is it that Republicans and particularly conservatives, can't keep their peckers in their pants when it comes to running up a bar tab the size of Montana (or a national debt the size of, literally, China)?

After all, conservatives are supposed to be all about fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and restraint (of the unfun kind), and yet the last three conservative Presidents have run up massive Federal deficits.

There's a school of thought that says by running up these deficits, conservatives can choke off the money for discretionary spending programs, like Medicaid or welfare or mass transit grants, and to a degree, there's some truth: we probably would have had smaller budget surpluses under Bill Clinton (Greatest. President. Ever.) if we hadn't reformed welfare and cut some of the bloat out of that bureaucracy.

But Clinton's presidency also points out the folly of that plan: unless you can persuade the vast majority...not the majority, the vast majority...of the uselessness of a particular entitlement, all that will happen is a) the entitlement will get funded through deficit spending or b) you're going to have people agreeing to a tax hike to pay for it.

No one objected to Clinton's tax hikes after the fact, because Clinton's tax hikes were directly linked (perhaps justifiably, perhaps not) to the booming economy of the 90s, where Reagan and both Bush's have tax cuts that led nearly directly to recession and even economic depression.

Despite increased Federal spending, something that should mitigate economic slowdowns. Thus you have ballooning deficits, since economic slowdowns produce even less tax revenue than anticipated.

One possible reason, exogenous to any economic or political theory we might examine this issue of conservatives and ballooning deficits, is a psychological one: there are very few fiscally conservative Republicans who had to "come up through the ranks," so to speak, who actually had to scrape from paycheck to paycheck to pay off a mortgage.

And who's businesses always had a bail out at the dead end of the street.

Let that last thought sink in for a moment.

And now let me emphasize this next point:
Don't you think it's odd that the men who have made the most of the American dream, the Bloombergs, the Buffetts, the Gates', the ones who started from the ground up with a business, and struggled and perservered without a hand out, without Daddybucks behind them, are fairly liberal people?
And then there's George W. Bush: a man who has failed at each and every business he's ever run, a man who's had to have handout after handout from the bin Laden family, from the people of the state of Texas, from James R. Bath, from his daddy.

Are we seeing a pattern here? An entirely paternalistic concept-- to let your boy run a business into the ground, then pay off his mistakes-- has become national policy for an entire party.

And we're Daddybigbucks, backing these assholes.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Newt Kapewt

Well, not that this was a huge surprise, but:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ending months of speculation, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday he would not run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, citing campaign finance law restrictions.

Gingrich, who previously said he was considering joining the race, told Fox News the McCain-Feingold campaign law would have forced him to leave his American Solutions political organization if he declared his candidacy.

"I wasn't prepared to abandon American Solutions, even to explore whether a campaign was realistic," he said.
Damned ehtical Republicans and their damned ethical campaign finance laws that can be circumvented by a twelve year-old with a tin can and ball of twine.

C'mon, Newt, who you kidding? You couldn't have caused even the barest splash in the fountain with your entrance. Look what happened when "Mr. Law And Order" Thompson jumped in.

Nothing. Not even the hint of momentum towards a rolling up of the Giuliani juggernaut. Even Mitt yawned, and it takes a lot to make Mitt publicly bored.

And yet, Thompson was the closest thing you have to a Reagan Republican running, which means even most Republicans realize the failed policies of that era, including the ill-starred coup to take over Congress, was a bad idea who's time should never have come.

Face it, Newt, you and your ilk ruined this country and may even have destroyed the entire planet with your self-righteous greed and hatred. "Anything for a buck" should have been the subtitle to the Contract On With America. The best thing you can do, Newt, to periphrase William Wallace in Braveheart is to "Lower your flags and march straight back to the Confederation of Southern States, stopping at every home to beg forgiveness for a dozen years of theft, rape, and murder."

We are on the brink of a great progressive evolution in this country. You can sense it in the desperation on the right to battle any perceived foible or alleged miscue of the left, yet try to scrape off the dog crap of a thousand worse insults. Each time they criticize Democrats or the left, they find themselves with four fingers pointing right back at themselves.

And not all the money in the world will reverse the tide. The people, long silenced by those who felt their positions gave them power over people, will no longer consent to be ruled rather than governed, as power truly rests with the people.

It's merely on loan because we don't have the time to live our lives and govern ourselves. The Democrats ought to remember that as well.

So Newt? Don't let the door hit you on the way out. And I'll be waiting for my apology.