Saturday, December 15, 2007

Third Day Of Christmas Music

Love, Actually - All I Want For Christmas Is You

The Ice Is Now Broken

On at least one front, progressive politics is beginning to pay off:
In a 44-36 vote, the Democrat-run state assembly replaced the death sentence with life in prison without parole.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by Democratic Governor Jon Corzine - an opponent of the death penalty.

The move would make New Jersey the first US state to abolish capital punishment since the US Supreme Court reinstated executions in 1976.
Couple this with the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to hear challenges to lethal injections as a form of execution, as well as many governors suspending death penalty sentences because of uncertainty over cruel and unusual, and we've got the makings of overturning an hideous decision by the highest court of this land to allow the government to serve in God's stead.

New Jersey joins thirteen other states now in banning the death penalty. Thirty-six more have some form of execution on the books and, of course, execution is still a possible Federal penalty, meaning many cases that rightly should be tried in state courts are being prosecuted at the Federal level, thus unnecessarily tying up courts that have better things to do than play God.

2006 saw the lowest execution rates in the US in ten years, and this year looks like it will be even lower.

I understand the position of people who believe in the death penalty. They believe that death = justice, an eye for an eye, but I believe that only God can truly look into someone's heart and make the determination as to whether they deserve to die or to suffer eternal punishment. No one believes that someone who has raped and killed a child (one of the Jersey prisoners this affects was Jessie Timmendequas, whose hideous crime instituted Megan's Law across the land) should be let lose, but what about a case like Robert Marshall, who was accused and convicted in his wife's murder and spent 18 years on death row in New Jersey, only to be freed in 2004 when evidence exonerating him was uncovered?

How would the state have presumed "justice" there? A monetary payout to his family?

Would Marshall have been anymore "brought back" than Megan Kanka by that "justice"?

We have not the capacity to look into God's mind and discover who truly is evil and who truly is good (and for that matter, I have my doubts about God's own nature in this matter). Until we can truly do that, and uncover who really is guilty and who is not, we cannot kill. Period.

After all, if anyone deserves to die, it would be a country's leader who has killed thousands of that country's youth as a result of his deliberation and intentional lies.

But no one has put George W Bush on death row...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Second Day Of Christmas Music

A Psycho Cat Christmas

Friday Cat Kitten Blogging

Hallo mah peepz! Mess me?

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) In line with my prediction of yesterday, the CPI was announced this morning. Prices leaped 0.8% during the month of November. Not bad, until you annualize it: that's 9.6% inflation!

2) This is troubling, but not unexpected, news. Al Sadr answers to Ayatollah Al Sistani, for now. Should Iraq become an honest democracy, at some point, Al Sadr will be elected to a national office. As an Ayatollah, he could conceivably insitute an Islamist regime.

3) I'm posting a longer piece on this at The Reaction, but I have an opinion about steroids in sports: who cares?

4) Would that Bush had even this much courage, nevermind admitting to the corruption in his own time. My suspicion is, he'll confess all the dirty things he's done as he finds out he's dying, figuring that a deathbed confession will get him into heaven.

5) The US maintains a near-perfect record in terror arrests: zero wins. Hm, maybe Homeland Security should hire Roger Clemens' trainer?

6) This is kind of like closing the barn door with just the horse's tail still inside. It might be enough to prevent a catastrophe, but as I pointed out earlier this week, there's not much water coming off the mountains into the lakes.

7) Greed trumps policy. Again. If I was President, I'd cut off all Federal irrigation programs in these states until the Senators started acting like grown-ups about farm subsidies.

8) Question: wouldn't a toe have been sufficient, guys?

9) I missed this last night, sadly. The weather was atrocious.

10) I'm sorry, "w00t" isn't a word. Next year, Merriam plans to enshrine ":-)" as its word of the year, after heavy lobbying by Wal-Mart.

11) The twin healt scourges of the avian flu and Ebola seem to be settling in on Africa.

12) This round up has been pretty bleak. Let me throw in some light stuff: England bans samurai swords. I didn't realize this was a problem.

13) Basically, the Writer's Guild and the networks have a deadline: January.

14) What if George W Bush had never been born? It's A Blunderful Life! (h/t Dr. Avedon Carol at The Sideshow)

15) Finally, your moment of Zen: Mice who don't fear cats.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

First Day Of Christmas Music

Snoopy's Christmas - The Royal Guardsmen

The Ugly Times

If you're old enough to remember the Carter administration (1977-1981), then you'll remember the ugly phenomenon, unprecedented in a free-market economy, of stagflation.

Loosely defined, stagflation is when the economy is stagnant (i.e. a recession, in which economic activity slows) coupled with hyperinflation (when prices skyrocket through the roof).

The Carter stagflation hit when OPEC decided to play games with the price of oil. Since America was far and away the single largest consumer of OPEC oil, this was targeted directly at us, likely as a result of several foreign policy factors (Iran being number one among them).

Now that oil is flirting with its all-time record highs, as adjusted for inflation, as improbable as it may seem, we look likely headed down the stagflation path once again.

It's hard to describe what living in those times was like. The prime rate was up around 20%, while inflation ran at a then-unheard of (in America) rate of 15% (some studies indicate inflation may actually have reached higher levels in the past, like during the Civil War, but there's no clear measure of these incidents).

So the government was borrowing money at credit card rates, while families were seeing their incomes deteriorate at about one and a half percent a month, meaning if you made $30,000 a year, which was a really comfortable salary in 1979, by the end of that year, effectively you were making $25,000, but still paying taxes at the $30,000 rate, I should add. Further, banks stopped lending money at points in the incident, because if prime lending rates were 15%, say, but inflation was 16%, they were actually losing money in the deal.

Let's look at the current situation, tho: the housing market has cooled off and begun to drop nationwide. Housing prices have traditionally been the source of "wealth" in America, a fairly nebulous term that really means, "in a pinch, can I sell my home for more than I paid and pay down my credit cards?"

So long as the answer was "yes," people felt secure and kept on buying. Now the answer is "Eh. Not so much!"

This morning, we've seen clear signs that the economy is in serious trouble. While the Producer Price Index, the average cost to produce a good and bring it to market, shot up 3.2% on an annual basis in November, retail sales were up only 1.2%.

Which means that the entire increase in retail sales can be attributed ONLY to inflation (and the PPI doesn't include direct energy costs!), meaning the consumer economy dropped by about 2% in November. People bought 2% less in November. Period.

The consumer markets make up about 70% of the gross domestic product (the entire economic activity of a nation), so we'll call this a drop of about 1.75% in the economy.

In other words, a recession. A contraction. Not a good thing.

In current economic theory, you fight inflation by raising interest rates. This tightens available credit, forcing companies to put off infrastructure investment, and also means people like you and me pay more interest on our credit cards.

But the Fed has had to lower interest rates in response to the crippling sub-prime mortgage crisis, which has rippled now into prime mortgages. Anyone who believed this crisis was contained in the sub-prime markets is an idiot, including Ben Bernanke.

No rational borrower in his right mind is going to see offering 0% adjustable rate mortgages and not bite their banker's ass about paying 5%, even on a fixed rate loan! Hell, I bitched about paying 1.9%!

This clearly ripples through the credit markets, and is a far larger problem than we've been led to believe.

And don't think this is only an American problem. England's Northern Rock bank debacle shows that it's at least hitting the EU, and many central bank heads believe that we might see the first global stagflation in history.

You wanted to be a war president, Herr Bush? You will be, in 2008. A global stagflation will mean more poverty, more starvation, more angry young men and women in the streets of poor countries with weak tyrannical leaders.

The pieces are in place, ladies and gentlemen, for a true World War III. And we have only ourselves and our greedy overlords to thank.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

The classic "Schweaty Balls For Christmas"

How Dry I Am....

Within our lifetimes, much of the west coast will be uninhabitable desert.

Don't believe me?:
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - By 2040, climate change will have melted the glaciers of Glacier National Park in Montana and the spring snowpack in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, scientists said on Tuesday.

"People talk about a tipping point, but we've been there and done that," said Tim Barnett, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and speaker at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.[...]

Barnett studies snowpack at high altitudes in the Western United States and estimates the region's snow accumulation decreased an average of 20 percent between 1950 and 1999.[...]

About 50 percent of the fresh water consumed by people worldwide comes from mountains, so the rate at which snowpack is disappearing is worrying, said Daniel Fagre, an ecologist who works for the U.S. Geological Survey in Glacier National Park in Montana.
This "50%" includes most of Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as most of New Mexico and Arizona.

The example being shown us by Atlanta, which can trace its problems to an extended drought, pale in comparison to this situation. This same drought could dry Durham up by February.

But droughts can be cured. A good long soaking rain, a few weeks of contunual rain showers, hell, a blizzard, any of these could replenish Atlanta's and Durham's water supply fairly quickly.

This would not happen in the West. You can't replace glacier melt quickly, and rain...well, there aren't a lot of deserts out in that part of the world because it gets a lot of rain. The topography is such that the water gets drawn out of the ground and transported over the Rockies, which is Colorado has such lush valleys.

Ironically, if we had fixed our dependence on oil decades ago, as prescient President Jimmy Carter had wanted to, we'd have the perfect delivery system that could shunt water from places with abundance to places that needed it: oil and natural gas pipelines.

After all, it would have cost a lot of money to dig those up, so likely they would have been cleaned and left to rust.

Now, we'll have to figure out strategies for transporting water to places that need it because they've been impacted by global warming due to....transporting commodities, in large part.

Irony, thy name art "human".

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If We Can Put A Man On The Moon...

I'm not sure what the footdragging by the Bush administration here is about.

Bush himself has admitted that global warming is real, that it's largely manmade, and that the United States is a large contributor to the problem.

So what gives?
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Delegates at U.N. climate talks resisted U.S. pressure to delete tough 2020 guidelines for cutting greenhouse gases with the European Commission saying they were a "crucial" element in a draft text.

The U.N.-led talks have become dominated by disputes over whether a text should keep a mention of a need for rich nations to axe greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst impacts.

Any watering down or removal of the non-binding range would anger developing nations, which are demanding rich nations do more to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Washington and Tokyo want the range cut out but it was still in the latest draft on Tuesday, delegates said.
Now, I'm not mathematician, but 2020 is exactly 12 years and 20 days away.

With far fewer resources in hand, with far more primitive technology, it took the United States approximately twelve years to make it off the ground and to land men on the moon. When computers were housed in huge storage spaces, and had vacuum tubes instead of transistors and micro-processors.

Is President Bush suggesting, through this intransigence, that America is incapable of meeting this modest goal? NASA's budget for the Apollo program was $20 billion dollars, which today would be about $100 billion, give or take a $20 billion.

In other words, less than six months' downpayment on the Iraq war. Is that not worth the price? The ability to save a significant part of the global environment? The likelihood of preventing a global cataclysm that will wreak havoc (as it already is) on the United States in terms of weather, drought, storms, and tornadoes? Hell, I'd wager than $100 billion dollars ANNUALLY might still be worth the price, if it also means weaning ourselves off oil and onto renewable clean energy sources.

The need for such extensive lead time is simple: in order to set up any kind of effective mechanism that will provide a long-term solution without major impact on the world economies, measures have to be introduced in steps. These measures will affect developed nations, to be sure, but will also affect less-developed nations and there's the rub: the infrastructure necessary for, say, a carbon trading market would have to include ways of enforcing adherence to the rules of the market (you can't use a credit that you've already received money for, is the obvious example) and for contingencies (to extend my example, what if you have a national emergency that forces you to resort to a more carbon-producing energy system?).

Too, the economic and technologic benefits to the nation that accrue from our "greening" can be enormous, and quite unexpected. We've seen from the space race that everything in American society changed, from how we do mathematics to what materials we use to build televisions (and indeed, the self-same microprocessors trace their roots in part to the space race).

We wouldn't have cell phones, or satellite TV. We wouldn't have laptops. We wouldn't have Palm Pilots. We wouldn't have arthroscopic surgery. We wouldn't have hip replacements or breast implants. I wouldn't be able to scuba dive in a dry suit. You probably wouldn't have microwavable food, altho you might have your would be the size of your oven, however.

Imagine the kind of developments we would obtain from going green. For one thing, we could localize energy production to such an extent that the grid as we know it would be practically useless to the average homeowner, thus freeing up enormous capacity for business and commercial use, and if there's any one thing the history of this nation has shown us, abundance creates money.

In fact, the grid would likely become a source of income for many homeowners, who would be able to sell energy back to the grid rather than use it. Imagine trading electricity on eBay.

Cleaning technologies, probably the first step in meeting these reductions, would transfer to so many areas that it would stop being considered a nasty job. For example, what if the paint on your house could clean itself of dust and grime? This could be a direct outgrowth of advanced carbon scrubbing technologies that companies would eat up in a heartbeat in order to reduce their carbon footprints.

Imagine a house that vacuums and dusts itself, only needing a robot (or if you're old school, a push broom) for the really big messes. We're not that far away from it now, what with air handling technology in many central air conditioning systems.

And you'd think Bush would want to pump up his legacy by making this our nation's Apollo program for the 21st Century. You'd think he'd want to cement a legacy for himself that wouldn't be centered solely on the abject failure that is Iraq and the near-tragedy that Afghanistan is threatening to become.

You'd think he'd want to be known as more than a war president.

And you'd be wrong, apparently.

UPDATE: If Britain can do this, why can't we?

Monday, December 10, 2007

GORE TO RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!! (sometime. maybe)

Well, this is interesting:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former Vice President Al Gore denied again that there were any campaign plans in his immediate future, but told CNN Monday that he hadn't "ruled out getting back into the political process at some point" — and that if he did return to political life, it would be to take another shot at the White House.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, speaking from the Oslo site of Monday's awards ceremony, told CNN's Jonathan Mann that he didn't expect to ever get back in the political process, but that "if I did get back, it would be as a candidate for president."
What scenario would he entertain in order to undetake such a task?

I think I know the answer. The scenario would have to break this way:

1) Hillary Clinton would have to lose the nomination in 2008.

2) The NotHillary Democratic candidate would have to lose in 2008.

(side note: If Hillary wins the nomination in 2008, but loses the general election, she would run again in 2012, I feel.)

This would leave a wide-open field for Gore to walk in and start fundraising early and often. Many of his sources overlap Clinton (and to some degree, John Edwards), so it makes no sense for him to run if Hillary is a viable candidate. She'd need to be repudiated by the party for her to lose her viability.

Should Obama win the nomination (a long shot), look for Gore to begin ramping up for the 2012 election before the convention is over. In fact, I'd expect a major prime time address in Denver from Gore if Hilalry hasn't sewed it up.

How Hypocrisy Will Play Out

I'm going to alter a quote from the piece I'm linking to. Imagine if this was the scene yesterday on Meet The Press:
WASHINGTON - President Bill Clinton, on the hot seat Sunday for the most exhaustive grilling of his presidency, doggedly insisted that death threats against then-girlfriend Monica Lewinski prompted the FBI to launch her taxpayer-funded chauffeur services.

"These were all based upon threat assessments made by the Director of National Intelligence... of what was necessary to protect her life, my life, other people's lives," Clinton told NBC's Tim Russert. "Every single thing done here was done based upon the assessment of someone else that this was necessary."
Do I really need to say more here?

But I will!

The Daily News, amongst the premiere newspapers in America in covering local scandals, has uncovered evidence that Nathan's protection by NYPD officers pre-dates the May 2000 announcement that Giuliani made revealing the affair and his intention to divorce his then-wife.

Those of us on the ground in the city in 2000 remember well that Rudy! then tried to have Nathan move into Gracie Mansion (the mayor's residence), but an injunction filed by Donna Hanover, the cuckquean in this mess, stopped her.

Clearly, Judith Nathan was a security issue long before Rudy! revealed their affair.

One can speculate that, indeed, part of the reason Giuliani revealed the affair in the first inning of a Senate race against Hillary Clinton was that he was likely being, or about to be, blackmailed.

Think about it: he has an NYPD detachment assigned to Nathan, months before it is publicly known that she is his paramour. But what if elements of the NYC's criminal community had known about it beforehand, and made threats against her to get back at Rudy's! vigorous prosecutions of the New York mob, for example?

It's not inconceivable to imagine that there are photographs of the two of them inflagrante delicto (or close enough for the implications to be immistakeable), perhaps leaving a hotel together after going in together the night before, and that those photos were presented to Rudy! in, say, April 2000, in an attempt to short-circuit his national political career.

Now, who would have seen these photographs because of some...favors...he's owed in certain circles, I wonder.....who would have been licking his lips when Rudy! announced for President, welcoming his entry into the race because he knew Rudy's! credibility was about to be shattered? And by extension, since he was Bush's handpicked candidate for all intents and purposes, dealing a devastating blow to the moral adults running the asylum these past seven years?

Who indeed? *whistling*

You know something? I bet there's even worse out there for Rudy!...

(Transcript of Meet the Press here)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Amazingly Laughable

I wonder sometimes if these folks even know how to tie their own shoelaces:
SMYRNA, Ga., Dec. 5 — In Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign to remove illegal guns from New York City’s streets, he sued 27 out-of-state gun dealerships last year over what he said were illegal sales. Most agreed to settle, while others chose to take their chances in court.

But here, in this town of 48,000 where Julia Roberts was born, the fight has become deeply personal. Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors, one of the major gun distributors in the area and a defendant in one of the city’s lawsuits, is countersuing Mr. Bloomberg, alleging fraud, slander and libel. A well-known resident who has operated the business here for 31 years, Mr. Wallace has drummed up support with an online fund-raising campaign, a summertime rally that drew hundreds, and celebrity representation by a lawyer who is a former congressman, Bob Barr.

The Georgia courts have ruled that Mr. Wallace’s suit can proceed here, a decision Mr. Bloomberg’s lawyers have appealed in the hope of having it dismissed. Mr. Barr and his law partner, Ed Marger, said they expected some action on the matter within the next week.
(emphasis added) Well, now, Mr.. Wallace, those are some serious charges! I can't imagine, then, that they aren't true, that you didn't behave within the bounds of the law!

Um. Oops.
Mr. Bloomberg announced the first federal lawsuit, against 15 dealerships, with great fanfare and emotion at a City Hall news conference in May 2006, calling the gun shops “rogue dealers,” “the worst of the worst” and “a scourge on our society,” according to court filings. The second suit, against 12 dealerships, was announced last December. John Feinblatt, the city’s criminal justice coordinator — who is also named in Mr. Wallace’s libel suit — accused the dealerships of having “New Yorkers’ blood on their hands.”[...]

In a sting operation, the city sent teams of private investigators, usually a man and a woman, to five states. Posing as gun buyers, they went to stores whose guns had been linked to more than 500 crimes in New York City from 1994 to 2001.

Bloomberg administration officials said the investigators caught 27 dealerships allowing so-called straw purchases, in which one person submits to the required federal background check for a gun that is clearly to be used by someone else.
So, um, Jay...can I call you Jay?...what part of "not following Federal law and doing a thorough background check of the person actually buying the gun" has slandered you, son?

Jay, I don't have to say it. Let me have one of your customers say it: “You set up in business saying that you’re a responsible citizen, and part of being a responsible citizen is looking out for other citizens,” he said. “When you’re granted a license and the right to do business you have to take the good with the bad, so you have to take that responsibility to heart.”That means following the law. Period. Those laws are there to protect the innocent and punish the guilty and, guess what?, YOU'RE GUILTY! So sit down, shut up and write the nice mayor a check.

I have no real problem with guns, to be completely honest here. I think guns in an urban setting are idiotic, but as someone who knows what rural America can be like, calling a cop and waiting a half hour before a patrol car shows up, I understand the need for guns out in the sticks.

So I don't stand fore-square against guns, just so we're clear. I don't think most Americans need them, however, and the fact that there are nearly as many Americans as guns is a noxious one to me. I don't think guns deter crime anymore than a good strong lock does. And I don't think arming the citizenry is going to do even one bit of good, since it merely encourages people to actually go out and use those guns.

After all, if you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail to you.

All that said, the underlying problem here is one of greed and discompassion for one's fellow man. If you don't care who the gun gets used on, you shouldn't be in the business of selling them. Period. End of story.

So, Mr. Wallace, close up your shop. There's ample evidence beyond this sting operation that your store is about as selective as a vending machine.