Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Cat Friday Kitten Blogging

Originally uploaded by actor212
Dere's inbissible mices all round me!

If Only Politics Could Drum Up Such A Fury

As lightning rods go, Fox News has to stand out as one of the best. For some bizarre reason, it matters to us on the left how slanted this network gets.

Is it the ratings? Could be. Fox consistently surprises me with the depth of its rating strength, altho that has waned over the past two years. However, I'd wager that somewhere on the order of ten percent of their ratings is lefties watching Fox, trying to be the first to count coup on Bill-o's latest gaffe or some such nonsense.

We've never really had an effective retaliatory strike on Fox, perhaps because in our heart of hearts, we know they have no power over anything but a sliver of the population, who wouldn't listen to us anyway.

Or...we might try taking a page out of the gamer's book...
Irate gamers have flooded the page on selling Ms. Lawrence’s most recent book, “The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace With Your Inner Overachiever,” sending its user-generated rating into oblivion.

By Friday afternoon 412 of the book’s 472 user reviews were the lowest possible rating, one star. Another 48 ratings were for two stars. Only 12 of the ratings were for three stars or higher. In addition, 929 Amazon users had tagged the book with the keyword “ignorant.” Tied for second place with 744 tags were “garbage” and “hypocrisy,” while “hack” and “hypocrite” tied for fourth place with 710 votes. Gamers have also attacked the book on the Barnes & Noble Web site.

Many of the reviewers admit that they have not read Ms. Lawrence’s book.

As one Amazon user put it: “I know all about this book but have never fully read it. Why? Due to the overwhelming backlash, I have no choice but to agree with the 1 star ratings. The rumors are rampant that this book was poorly written and poorly researched. So without verifying the contents myself — I give it a 1 star. Good thing video games aren’t judged in this manner — whew!!!”
The closest reaction I've seen from the political left has been to Jonah Goldberg's book, Liberal Fascism.

But even there, that was intended more as a mocking joke than a serious protest of an idiotic opinion spewed by a man who did his research from the back of a box of Lucky Charms. In a real political movement, Jonah would have been hunted down, tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, just like the right wingers used to do down South when someone made a complete ass of himself.

Lawrence's reaction?
In an interview on Friday, Ms. Lawrence said that since the controversy over her remarks erupted she had watched someone play the game for about two and a half hours. “I recognize that I misspoke,” she said. “I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke.

“Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography,” she added. “But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”
Imagine Bill-O being forced to apologize to Jeremy Glick, for example.

I sort of feel bad for Lawrence, from one respect: she probably got a call from Fox, asking if she would come on and slam the game, because Fox had heard it was pornographic, and hey, a chance to be on a national network? I can imagine she was rather flattered.

And now, she's just flattened.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Music Blogging

'Til Tuesday - Voices carry

I would so have Aimee Mann's triplets...check out the Padawan apprentice braid! So 80s...

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) In next month's National Geographic magazine is a long investigative article about the flow of undocumented workers north. Not into the US (tho many end up here) but into Mexico. It made me wonder, seeing as I support immigration into this country: We have people who opposed the NAFTA, CAFTA and other intra-Americas trade agreements and oppose illegal immigration, and I'm having a hard time squaring this.

After all, the complaint about the NAFTA is the "giant sucking sound" of our jobs heading south. Yet, the complaint about undocumented workers is they take jobs away from Americans here.

Huh? You can't really have both.

2) When, collectively, the four largest mortgage brokers need ten, no, fifteen times the support that governments have offered, what does that say about our regulatory system? (h/t Agitprop)

Their entire capitalization, by my count, is just under $4 billion. They need fifty times that in order to stay afloat and in business. Now imagine how the banks that actually lent the money are doing...

3) Buh-bye Dennis! Oddly enough, every political views test I take has me most closely aligned with Kucinich, but he never resonated with me. And maybe that's Kucinich's problem: the people he needs to connect with, people like me who can explain his positions in terms that are palatable to the vast majority of moderate Americans, are the people he's turning off.

Meanwhile, the impression I get from scanning Blogtopia (© Skippy The Bush Kangaroo) is that the people who support Kucinich are, well, out there, as if Dennis somehow magically invests them with skin in the political game.

This is like saying that Larry Craig gives gay marriage a fighting chance for respectability, in my view.

4) This is both good news and bad news. Good news, in that it's Egypt that's closing the borders and not an incursive Israeli force. Bad news in that, the impression that I get is that people tore that wall down because they were hungry.

And this should serve as an example to the folks here who want to build a wall against immigration.

5) More biotechnology news. And it's not good. Scientists haven't cloned anything this time. No. They've built an organism from scratch.

See, the thing is, evolution has provided a platform to ruthlessly select those organisms and species that thrive. By creating life, playing God, if you will, man has now added a new element to the mix: a vested interest.

Rather than have organisms adapt to the environment, man will now provide an environment for organisms, and force out other organisms that should under other circumstances have thrived.

Nature doesn't take kindly to these kinds of insults.

6) I'm not sure being Hannah Montana is all it's cracked up to be. First you encourage a six year old to lie at her mother's behest for free tickets to a concert, and now some teenage boy wants to commit suicide by crashing a plane into one of your concerts?

Miley, take a page out of your dad's book: go away. Your fifteen minutes are wayyyyyyyyyyyy over. Perhaps you should go out with a bang. Ask Jamie Lynn Spears how that's working for her.

7) You sure get the sense that Republicans know Obama's toast. They run against Hillary as if Hillary was the incumbent.

By the way, when was the last time any of the GOPpers mentioned the sitting President?

8) A washed up actor endorses a washed up Senator.

My guess is, Stallone snuck into an advance screening of Rambo and realized, "Uh oh, I better create some heat for this turkey!"

Memo to Sly: I think you only get one shot to say goodbye to the audience. You had it with Rocky Balboa (which wasn't horrible, as a Rocky film). Please don't try to make Judge Dredd: The Execution.

9) Hillary did draw blood after all. Obama lead has dropped by seven points since the debate in which Hillary's charge regarding Obama's representation of a slumlord was revealed, and is almost within the margin of error.

This would explain why Hilalry abandoned her strategy of, well, abandoning South Carolina to Bill. I think we may be surprised by the results tomorrow.

John Edwards did pick up two points as well, but I think you can stick the fork in him.

10) Roger Federer lost. No, let me give that the drum roll it deserves. ROGER. FEDERER.


Put it this way: Roger Federer is 27 years old. He has twelve Grand Slam tournament titles (the Australian, French (altho he has never won this one), and US Opens and Wimbeldon). For the past two years, he has never failed to make the finals of a Grand Slam tournament.

Today, he lost a title he's held since 2006.

11) Finally, I'd like to salute one of the greatest hockey players of all time, Brian Leetch, whose number was retired by the New York Rangers last night, a team he played 16 seasons for.

For some reason, hockey seems to attract genuine people. There's very little showboating that goes on (possibly because retaliation is encouraged by the league...sort of self-policing behavior), and the players almost to a man seem to be self-effacing and humble. At the top of that pile stood Brian Leetch, a soft-spoken man who led his teams on ice the way you'd want a leader to lead: by examples of courage, skill, but mostly, determination.

When the Rangers needed him, he'd answer the bell, put the team on his back and make them better than they deserved to be at any given moment. Unselfish, except when he needed to be selfish, Brian Leetch did his job, and then some, and he almost always did it well.

He had grace and flair, and could skate with the best of them, but his best skills were the ones that don't show up in the boxscore or highlight reel: he knew how to position himself at all times, was rarely caught flat-footed, and could anticipate plays long before the other team thought them up.

He wasn't my favorite Ranger. That goes to a man who came down to play roller hockey with us, even at the height of his career and seasons, Rod Gilbert.

But he was, arguably, the best Ranger, and certainly the best I'd ever seen.

Thank you, Brian Leetch.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Random Rabid Rantings

Cuz, you know, I don't particularly feel like writing anything serious today...

I'm fifty. I've taken 7.5 million inhales through my nose. It's been a good nose to me, helps hold up my glasses (reading, distance AND sun!), gives me a place to put my finger when it's cold. Yes, it's big but it has character! It's been broken more times than I care to count (OK, eight, I think. I'm not counting the time I bumped it into the monkey bars). It's smelled some wonderful aromas: the scent of a tea rose, the wafting odor of hot coffee first thing on a Spring Sunday morning, a woman's passion. And it's smelled some godawful things, mostly that I made myself.

I'm going to miss however much of it I will lose in two weeks. I hope it's not much, but I know it will be some, and before it does go, I want it to know how much I appreciate it.

Someone at work suggested I could put in a nose ring when the doctor is finished. I like that idea.

I'm tired of seeing doctors. Every time I see a doctor, I get sicker! If I stopped seeing doctors, I bet everything that's wrong with me would go away.

I wonder about anti-abortionists and how they justify seeing a doctor. After all, you know, God's plan, but maybe God's plan includes us dying on His schedule...I mean, if every life is sacred to Him, every death should be, too, so when it's time to go, your life stops being so sacred. Why would you see a doctor and thwart His will? Maybe the Christian Scientists get this, after all?

I dunno.

Life is like bodysurfing. Ever bodysurf? You swim out to a wave, turn around and try to nestle in the break. If you get too low, the wave overtakes you. If you get too high, the wave slips out from under you. You have to get it just right and get your body pointed back towards shore just in the slope of the wave as it begins to break and you can ride it all the way in.

At first, you move pretty slow, trying to pick up speed. Then, suddenly, you're rocketing along, but eventually, the wave overtakes you, swallows you up, and tosses you about as it speeds on its way to crashing onshore, and dying, it's energy spent.

Life is like that. Tom Petty wrote "You never slow down, you never get old," but I'm moving as fast or perhaps even faster than when I was in my twenties, and I can *see* life passing around me. I didn't slow down, it just sped up.

I worry about what I see around me, too. People are people and for the most part, people seem to be better now about being people than when I was a kid. And then I look at how the world around them has changed, and that's what makes me worried.

The last recession, in 2001 and a pretty mild one, about 11% of the population of the country was below the poverty line. This time, heading into what will be a gale force of recession, the percentage of people who are below the poverty line is actually up.

That means that the "recovery" this country underwent in the intervening seven years was a failure: the people who were broken by the last recession didn't make it out, and indeed, they were joined by another 12 million or so Americans.

People live longer, but only to end up paying down their debts. No longer able to file bankruptcy, yet no longer able to pay off what they owe, they spend their lives in fear that the banks will throw them in jail if they miss a payment.

And why? So they could buy that one more thing that was advertised to them? That Playstation? That pair of shoes? Dinner for the family?

A man-- or more likely, woman-- goes through a divorce, or has health issues, and suddenly can't work or can't keep up with his (her) bills, and next thing you know, is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, rocketing debt about like a pinball.

What makes this worse for me is, no one running for President seems to get this. John Edwards comes close, but even there I get the sense he pays lip service to the notion of "Two Americas," because it plays well on the campaign trail. Bill Clinton got it, and showed he sincerely wanted to help people get up on their feet and fight for their dreams.

I'm lucky. I've got a bit to cushion the blow. But for the grace of God, that could have been my life story. I know people struggling right now, living in places that I never could have imagined them living. Some are in group homes, practically permanently, because they can't take the stress of living in a society that's passing them by, despite the fact they are talented, intelligent people.

And I have friends who had it all and lost it, and are trying to make something of their lives that erases some of the disgrace they feel.

Me, I just hate my job. I'm lucky, in that respect, because I have one to hate and I have a place to go home to, and while I wish I had a life, I can rest assured that I will when the time is right.

I can, however, remember what it was like to sleep in my car, and sneak into a gym to take a shower and try to make my clothes seem not-too-shabby so I could go to a low-paying job with a little respect and dignity. Even then, I was lucky to have a car to sleep in.

I wish the world was different. I bet we all do. It's not. And that's the tragedy of it all. And the wave is catching us, all of us, and tossing us around as if it was a washing machine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Our New Currency

A Peace Of My Mind

This absolutely ridiculous bickering between the Clinton and Obama camps must stop. Now.

Don't try to get the last word in, Barack. Hillary, just let it go.

Why, you ask? It's simple. It's getting to the point where the "winner" will lose the general election.

I base this on a poll released yesterday:
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll asked voters who has the personality and leadership qualities to be president. Republican John McCain had 60 percent, Democrat Barack Obama had 59 percent and Democrat Hillary Clinton had 55 percent.

"The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge," Paul Starr, co-editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine, wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday. "If Democrats don't stay smart, tough-minded and realistic, we could blow it yet again."
It's bad enough that Hillary already has trouble convincing people that another term of the Clinton-Bush nexus is a good thing. It's bad enough that Barack Obama has enough skeletons in his closet to drape an entire couture collection off. People are tired, and scared, and scaring them more is not a good thing.

September 11 did change a lot of things, but one thing it should have changed was the politics of fear, but Republicans managed to find a way to go to the well one more time-- wolves at the door, Swiftboating, "flip flopping" their way to the White House with an incumbent who is an insult to the title "President."

They'll go to the well once more, make no mistake about it. Despite Obama's admirative utterances, the Republicans are bereft of ideas and the substantive ones they've managed to bleat out are tired and ineffectual.

Since John McCain appears to be the nominee (it's still early, of course), they'll run a platform of steady stable command with experience, and paint the Dems as the Not Ready For Prime Time players (particularly if Obama wins).

This catfight has to stop. It's distracting the candidates from the one truth: we need a plan to recover from the first eight years of this millennium.

Frankly, I'm surprised more at Obama than Clinton in this respect: Obama's message of hope was resonating with the electorate, and as soon as he was attacked, he exposed an extremely thin skin, as well as the "politics as usual" knife-fighting tactics he's been railing against.

It's almost as if two consummate politicians had him by the strings and were dangling him for their amusement, it's worked that well. Truly, which sounds worse to you: sitting on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, the biggest company in your "home" state, or representing a slumlord that you are still accepting donations from? Keep in mind that the majority of Democrats live near a Wal-Mart, shop there, and have friends who work for the company.

When I watched that exchange during the debate (I saw a tape last night), I realized Hillary set Barack up. Yes, there was a reaction when Obama mentioned Clinton's position, but the reaction of the audience when Clinton had the chance to mention "Obama" and "slumlord" in the same sentence made me think that perhaps she was premature in leaving South Carolina.

If one can find any gold in this pile of dung, it's that by levelling these charges now, both candidates have inoculated themselves against those charges being a surprise in the general election. If you recall, in 2004 no one challenged Kerry's patriotism. No one called Al Gore a liar in 2000.

Maybe they should have. The thing is, Hillary's dark points are already known, already out there. I suspect that because Obama is such an unknown quantity, these e-mails about him being a Islamist, and swearing his oath on a Koran, and turning his back to the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance have resonated so well on the right wing.

Obama's electability numbers predate this wave of revelation, and the "slumlord" one is going to stick, big time, in states like California and New York and Georgia, with large urban minority populations.

Hell, Hillary did extremely well in Las Vegas in the Nevada caucuses, which should have been heavily tilted towards Obama.

Hillary has less to gain but more important, a lot less to lose, in a spitting contest with Obama. This would be a good time for both camps to send out feelers for a truce.

You've both drawn blood. Let it go. By the way, Barack? You might want to pull that finger back in, as well, or didn't you learn the Lazio lesson?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What Was Left On The Cutting Room Floor

(hat tip Karyn Mannix)

I'm struggling with how to characterize the jitters of the market and the surprising (if feeble) news out of the Federal Reserve this morning.

On the one hand, I can't recall a moment in history when the US had this much warning of a total meltdown in what many of the uninformed take to be the economy: the New York (and other) Stock Exchange. Stock exchanges tend to be lagging indicators of the economy, tho, so the steep drops we've been experiencing are echoes of what's really going on in the commercial sector of the country.

On the other, I can't recall such a feeble response: a stimulus package that actually might harm the economy longer term, as well as a pissant rate cut of a three-quarters* of a percent in the prime rate.

The tax cut and rebate package on the face of things sounds like a pretty good deal: put money immediately back in the hands of taxpayers, while giving businesses a break on their earnings.

The administration doesn't seem to get it. This is not a temporary economic correction, this is a full-blown recession that's teetering (if not already fallen) on the brink of depression.

If we take Paulson's words at face value, and assume he's just talking things up to avoid panic, well, a) he's not succeeding too well, based on the futures market as of 9:15 this morning, and b) we'd like to think that behind the scenes, there's some furious activity to fix things quickly.

There's some evidence of that, but it's easy to infer there are some major obstacles to creating an effective response.

Rumours on the European markets are that the Federal Reserve cut is the first of a series of central bank rate cuts, primarily in Europe, to be announced. Could be. As I said, I can't recall any emergency rate cuts in my lifetime. It would be indicative of a collaborative effort to announce the US rate cut before the others are announced.

The problem for Europe, however, is they've actually been raising their central bank rates in order to stem inflationary pressures. A cut now would send a very mixed message to their markets.

The Fed's quarter point three-quarter point* rate cut serves only to aggravate the markets here. They will open down about 300 points, and investors were expecting (funny how yesterday, there wasn't even the merest hint of a rumour of a rate cut, and now suddenly, they were "expecting"?) a half a point cut.

Not that any of this will really make a difference, of course. While credit markets are tight, it's not because interest rates are high, it's because the markets are terrified of the outcome of the mortgage default crisis. You could lower the discount rate to zero (a prime rate of 3%), and banks still wouldn't lend.

Asia is in total meltdown already, which means that China is experiencing its first market crash. There's no way of telling what response Beijing will make. This side note is a way of saying, "Gee, I sure hope they don't start calling in their chits on the American economy!"

The Bush legacy seems to be even further in the hole. His Hail Mary pass of a Middle East settlement is in disarray, and his one hope for any positive news was four years of relative economic strength. Not Clintonian, but Bush would have been able to point to positive growth, especially if you look at the last five years of his administration only.

Alas, even that slim margin of growth has been squandered, along with several hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and trillions domestically. Had we not had tax cuts of the severity that Bush insisted and the Republican Congress lapped at like Tommy Lee on Pamela Anderson, we might have some programs in place already to deal with the problems ahead.

Instead, we squandered like a drunk sailor on shore leave with a stolen credit card. Hey, the rich sure as hell won't ever have to pay these bills back, why should they care?

* The Fed sent out a press release correcting the initial announcement.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Please Be Aware

The stock markets tomorrow are going to tank, big time.

That is all.

The Race So Far

It's been an interesting month in both the Democratic and Republican primary season, one filled with surprises and not-surprises-that-sort-of-looked-like surprises. I figure this is as good a time as any to assess where things seem to be headed.

First, the Republicans:

It seems pretty clear after Saturday's South Carolina win by John McCain that he has the momentum, and that the only serious challenger to his nomination is Mitt Romney, who could outfinance John McCain and still have enough left over for a downpayment on a Caribbean island like, say, Guadeloupe. If he can win Florida, Romney might be able to save enough of his fortune to buy Jamaica.

Rudy Giuliani, who has been all but anointed by the White House (if you scan back across the Bush administration and see how many times Rudy's name pops up in connection with appointees, you'll see what I mean), has lost any mojo he had as the presumed nominee of 2007. TOo bad for Rudy, the election is THIS year. In your next life, maybe you'll treat your wives with a bit more respect.

John McCain's strength in the primaries will be his name recognition. Second only to Giuliani, John McCain's name is one of those quirky things that voters who really could give a rat's ass who faces Hillary the Democratic nominee in November will remember when they pull the lever. That alone could give him a substantial leg up over Romney, but keep in mind that the South has barely had a chance to ratify Mormonism, and there is an awful lot of anxiety over Romney's religion in the deep Christian south.

It's been fun to watch this race, not so much for the main event, but for the sideshow: watching right wing pundits fall all over themselves to find a "true conservative in the mold of George W. Bush" (I can't imagine anyone saying that with a straight face), and failing miserably as each of their Chosen Ones has withered away like old roses: Hunter, Tancredo, now Thompson.

So much for the might of the Blogosphere, not that Blogtopia (© Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) has fared much better.

Prediction: John McCain delivers a severe blow to Romney in Florida, who had hopes of swiping Giuliani's thunder. He then racks up enough delegates on SuperDuper Tuesday to guarantee at least a seat at the table for any brokered convention.

Which of course means it's time to revive this old Googlebomb:

There was an odd pol, John McCain:
John McCain ate the Punditry's brain:
John McCain's silly "straight talk"
Made Tweety joyfully squawk --
And out of his Hardballs, he came.

Now, the Democrats

To be honest, I was deeply troubled by the Iowa results. While I never expected Hillary to win that state's caucuses, I expected Edwards and Obama to split the caucus more evenly, leaving Hillary a far better showing than ten points off the lead. It made me wonder if we were seeing a brand new historic moment to go along with all the others: the realization that Americans have an attention span and remember Edwards' miserable campaign at the Vice Presidential nominee in 2004.

That may well still be a valid observation-- it never pays to be in the number two slot on a losing ticket-- but as the polls suggested an huge Obama win in New Hampshire, you finally saw Hillary wake up. I think she took the loss in Iowa for granted, and only when she realized how much ground she had to make up did she wake up and start campaigning in earnest.

I don't mean working the crowds or anything like that. That has about as much to do with winning elections as sending an e-mail to a Congresscritter has to do with passing legislation. I mean, getting her ground game in business, and leaning on the people who were doing the fundraising, the networking, and the grunt work of shoring up the mechanical aspects of campaigning: making sure people vote. The Clinton strength has been the organization that elected Bill twice. I'm not sure why she delayed getting that into high gear. Perhaps she believed her own press.

Obama lost this election in the final debate before New Hampshire, and he knows what he did that caused it: his petulant attitude towards someone who deserved more respect than he was willing to give her. You'll notice that after Hillary stomped a mudhole in Obama in New Hampshire, Barack was quick to change the tone of discourse towards Hillary.

You know what they say about a woman scorned.

Obama's best hope, perhaps his only one, is to hang around long enough for Hillary to be lulled back into the "inevitability" thing again and start making mistakes. This weekend's Nevada caucuses tell me she's not likely to do that again. Say what you will about the Clinton machine: apart from sex scandals, they learn fast.

I think Obama knows he's about to get the fork stuck in. When you start picking fights with the spouse of your opponent, you're making a big mistake, and he's done that twice in four days now. As I've said before, Barack, your fight isn't with Bill Clinton and loony comments like praising Ronald Reagan ahead of him is just going to tie you up when you most need to be campaigning. He's good, he's very good, at antagonizing his opponents. Don't mess with The Big Dog until you've got some scalps in your pouch already.

Obama's worst enemy is John Edwards. Despite the appearance of being in agreement, these two men really should be at each other's throats, and I'm not sure that's not a dynamic based on some "between the lines" reading I've been doing.

For instance, while Edwards has "me, too'ed" a lot of Obama's comments towards Hillary's problems, that mere bobbleheaded agreement has caused Obama headaches as Edwards was more than willing to take things one step forward with his comments.

For example, while Obama was careful not to comment on Hillary's moment of emotionality in New Hampshire, Edwards questioned Hillary's strength.

Since he had played hitman in the last debate before this show of emotion to Obama's mob boss portrayal, both of them suffered badly for that misstatement by Edwards, and directly attacking Obama's message of unity. That couldn't have played well in the Obama camp.

I can understand Edwards being pissed as all get out at Obama. After all, only ONE one term Senator should run for President on a platform of change at a time, and Edwards was there first!

Prediction: Hillary loses in South Carolina to Obama, who steals near-native-son Edwards' lunch. Hillary however goes onto Florida, wins there, and then takes California, New York, and Connecticut on SuperDuper Tuesday, all but guaranteeing her nomination with those contests, based on the selected delegates as well as the super delegate counts.

It pays to be in the Senate for more than two years, you see, because you get to meet the superdelegates: elected representatives to whom you can dole out pork. Hillary started the season over 100 delegates more than Obama had.

So it's shaping up as a John McCain/Hillary Clinton showdown in November, unless something brutally outside of the foreseeable happens.