Friday, December 11, 2009

Nobody Asked Me But....

1) The most accurate assessment of the whole Climategate nonsense. The Miami Herald is quite clear: the entire contretemps is made up out of whole cloth. This ought to be required reading for any nutcase who denies global warming based on a few confusing emails.

2) Oh, that Bush administration! Their screw-ups will be with us for decades...

3) This is the kind of aggressive thinking we need in America.

4) I guess the bailouts worked for the most part. We seem to be getting repaid pretty promptly.

5) Russian missile?

6) Poor AT&T. It never stood a chance with the iPhone onslaught. Call a whaaaaaambulance.

7) Speaking of bandwidth, are you on a "data diet"?

8) A hedgehog with a personal trainer. Apparently, someone in England has wayyyyyy too much money.

9) Example of your conservative-appeasing media: Seven Foods You Should Never Eat. Cheetos nowhere on the list.

10) Just what we need: a beer mug, with an optional bayonet attachment. You know, for those barfights when a cue stick just doesn't seem sufficient.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Awkward Moments

So how does one accept an award for peace while waging war?

With aplomb and humility, apparently:
OSLO — President Obama, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize here on Thursday, acknowledged the age-old tensions between war and peace but argued that his recent decision to escalate the conflict in Afghanistan was justified to protect the world from terrorism and extremism.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth,” Mr. Obama said. “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

[...]“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage,” Mr. Obama said. “Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight.”

This was your basic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" moment: Obama could not possibly have said anything that would have satisfied his critics.

From the left:
"Obama refused to renounce war for his nation or under his leadership, saying defiantly that 'I face the world as it is' and that he is obliged to protect and defend the United States,"

From the insane asylum right:
"They wounded two doves with one stone. No matter how much you like Obama and his foreign policy, it is patently ridiculous that a man who's served less than nine months as President should earn a prize that eluded even Mahatma Gandhi."

Nevermind, shithead, that non-northern hemisphereans were ROUTINELY denied the Peace Prize by your forefathers in feigned enlightenment! No! But a black man wins in America and suddenly you find the cojones to stand up for Gandhi, someone you've probably mocked as wearing a really bad toga.

My take on it is this:
Matt. 10:13: "And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you."

We are human. Barack Obama is human, but he stands for more to the rest of the world as well as to this great nation. His symbolism is profound. His election is a demonstration that, despite the hatred from the bigots and ignorant of the right, the country is healing from the terrible shame of slavery and discrimination. We have far to go, and so we cannot make it to Dr. King's Promised Land in one stride, but we must continue to take the steps, small and large, halting and fluid, until we do get there.

Likewise, the Promised Land of Peace beckons us on. Some would criticize this award as undue, as a down payment on a promise.

So? IF ONLY FOR THE HEALING HIS ELECTION BROUGHT TO THE SHAME OF AMERICAN HISTORY, he has earned the prize. He accepts it on behalf of us all, black and white, who voted for him and against him, for bringing the United States finally into the latter 20th Century. And if there is more to come, if indeed he can make inroads in the Middle East conundrum, or calm the waters in Pakistan and Afghanistan, if he can persuade Iran and North Korea to use atoms for peace, if he only brings China into the fold of fighting global warming, he will have accomplished more for peace than the sum total of every President up to this point.

Of course, there's no rule that says he can't win a second one...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Other Shoe

You may recall that President Obama had asked for about $1.5 trillion in stimulus spending early in the year, but was only given half.

President Obama outlined a response to the nation's intensifying job crisis Tuesday that encourages businesses to hire new workers by easing the flow of credit and implementing a series of tax cuts, but leaves important details -- including the cost of the plan -- to be hashed out by Congress.

Obama's job-creation ideas build largely on elements of the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed this year, including tax cuts for small businesses, incentives to hire new workers and a fresh round of infrastructure spending.

The president also recommended that Congress pass a "cash for caulkers" plan that would offer financial incentives for home weatherization. Senior administration officials said the program, based on the popular "cash for clunkers" automobile rebate program, would leverage hiring in construction and manufacturing -- sectors especially hard hit by the recession -- while promoting energy efficiency, resulting in long-term savings for homeowners.

Obama, who has been under pressure to lay out a specific jobs strategy, also called on Congress to extend unemployment insurance, emergency aid to cash-starved states and cities, aid to senior citizens, and health-care help for the jobless -- aid he called essential as his administration grapples with ways to reduce the nation's highest unemployment rate in more than a quarter-century.

Of course, once the naysayers in Congress and the morons on the right get a hold of this plan, it's more likely to be halved yet again, rather than take the needed steps to revitalize this economy.
I can understand some of the concern, more if the opposition was less stridently partisan, because it's clear much of the opposition is taking a page out of Rush Limbaugh's book of wishing evil on an America that repudiated and rejected their shopworn and aged tax-and-spend policies.
It's a bit disconcerting to hear that we need yet another 3/4 of a trillion dollars, especially in light of the promising economic developments I've highlighted over the past few weeks.
There's a realpolitik aspect of this that cannot be ignored: Obama needs to AED the economy, get its heart pumping right now, if he wants to hold onto the Senate in 2010. Small moves will not work. He needs a big item to point to. In a perfect world, he could sit back in the rocking chair and let things move on their own pace, occasionally adjusting the unemployment benefit, knowing that the economy is building a slow momentum.
Democracy is not a perfect world, and a nation that holds elections every two to six years must see results on its timetable.
Take Jimmy Carter. Here's a man who had some innovative ideas in governing: zero-based budgeting (meaning each department has to justify every dollar it spends each year, with no money taken for granted) and deregulation (hey, you think those airfare dropped because of Reagan? You think mortgages are hovering in the single digits because of Bush? Thank Carter.) being at the top of the list.
Yet, the fruits of his efforts were seen long after he was ejected at the end of one term, a mistake Obama clearly learned from.
This is also, in part, why the Senate withdrew the public option...sort of...from its version of healthcare reform.
A side note: first, this bill will go to the Conference Committee, where the House will almost certainly lobby for its reinsertion. This vote therefore seems to be "cover your ass" stuff. Second, a careful reading of the counterproposal, a quasi-public option overseen by a governmentall controlled non-profit (think Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), is as good as a public option.
But I digress.
There's real political issues to look after this late in the Congressional calendar, and I applaud Barack Obama for seeing to that. Now let's see how this re-stimulus plays out. My suspicion is, he's hitting the right grace notes at the right moment: home upkeep and repair, small business targeted, infrastructure particularly.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I'm Only Sleeping

It's hard to believe it's been 29 years since the death of John Lennon. Ironically, this complex man of peace who had a temper as large as all outdoors was shot to death by someone he barely knew.
Michael Jackson's death earlier this year throws this anniversary into stark detail. While Jackson arguably had as much influence over music, particularly American music, as John Lennon and the Beatles had, Lennon outclasses Jackson by a wide margin in his influence over American culture, American politics, and America's image. From the worst, Lennon's persecution at the hands of the Nixon administration, to the best, his ultimate inclusion as the ultimate insider in America, Lennon became a totem for the burgeoning liberal anti-war movement.
And a hero. I confess, my favorite Beatle as a Beatle is Paul McCartney-- he's just do darned cute!-- but my favorite Beatle as a human being and world citizen is John Lennon.
I look around me at the world today, and wonder what John might think? Would he say that we as a people, we as Americans, have backslid? Would we have slid had he been around to be in our faces on the news or on these egregious "talk shows" that pass for open debate? Would he have become so disgusted at Ronald Reagan and the forces of evil that crept across this land over the past thirty years that he would have thrown up his hands and moved to his farm in Delaware County to raise cows (been there, by the way)?
If we could wake him now, what would he say about September 11 and the aftermath? I have a pretty good idea what his opinion would be of George W. Bush and the Iraq war, but would he have been more forgiving on Afghanistan?
What would he say about the current healthcare debate? Would he point out that England has had national health for decades and seem quite happy with it? Would he point out that Jesus would have wept to see the resources of a government used to destroy the lives of its citizens, not heal them?
What would he say about a black American President, besides "it's about bloody time"?
What would he say about the internet, besides it's obvious distortion into a giant shopping mall? Would he approve of the fact that it's bringing billions of people closer together, despite the fact that it's also exposing the inherent hatred of those who fear change? Or would he take note that it still has a long way to go?
Would he have, as a Beatle, used the internet to its fullest ideal, to broadcast a message that billions could respond to in real time, to come together over him and reach out to each other? To see that we share as much in common with the farmer in Katmandu as we do the shopkeeper in Kankakee?
What would he say about technology?
What would he say about global warming? "We are all water from different rivers"?
Imagine if we gave peace a chance...

Monday, December 07, 2009

I See What You Do Here

As President Obama heads to Copenhagen next week for global warming talks, there's one simple step Americans back home can take to help out: Stop "going green." Just stop it. No more compact fluorescent light bulbs. No more green wedding planning. No more organic toothpicks for holiday hors d'oeuvres.

December should be national Green-Free Month.

My first reaction is, "Mike Tidwell must have had a stroke or something," because he's been pretty much at the forefront of the battle over Louisiana wetlands preservation since I can remember. \
Plus, and worse, I see that Ann Althouse has linked to this piece, which means that there's a whole shitbag full of ignorance about to pop out of the right-wing blogosphere.
Uh oh, says I...another environmental expert has been gotten to, and paid off. This can't be good.
Imagine my relief, then, when I read on...
Instead of continuing our faddish and counterproductive emphasis on small, voluntary actions, we should follow the example of Americans during past moral crises and work toward large-scale change. The country's last real moral and social revolution was set in motion by the civil rights movement. And in the 1960s, civil rights activists didn't ask bigoted Southern governors and sheriffs to consider "10 Ways to Go Integrated" at their convenience. [...]

For eight years, George W. Bush promoted voluntary action as the nation's primary response to global warming -- and for eight years, aggregate greenhouse gas emissions remained unchanged. Even today, only 10 percent of our household light bulbs are compact fluorescents. Hybrids account for only 2.5 percent of U.S. auto sales. One can almost imagine the big energy companies secretly applauding each time we distract ourselves from the big picture with a hectoring list of "5 Easy Ways to Green Your Office."

As America joins the rest of the world in finally fighting global warming, we need to bring our battle plan up to scale. If you believe that astronauts have been to the moon and that the world is not flat, then you probably believe the satellite photos showing the Greenland ice sheet in full-on meltdown. Much of Manhattan and the Eastern Shore of Maryland may join the Atlantic Ocean in our lifetimes. Entire Pacific island nations will disappear. Hurricanes will bring untold destruction. Rising sea levels and crippling droughts will decimate crops and cause widespread famine. People will go hungry, and people will die.

*WHEW* THAT'S the Mike Tidwell I've read and learned to respect!
And he's right. The problem is big, way too big, to be solved by people making individual choices.
They help, to be sure, but unless you're like me and have made an absolute commitment to minimizing your carbon footprint, the sum total will only be large drops in the bucket.
And keep in mind, I'm as left as they come without a hammer-and-sickle shoulder patch! And there's still plenty of "carbon fat" that I need to whittle away at in my life.
The evidence with respect to climate change is undeniable, despite the last-gasp efforts of the right wing to take what amounts to a first reading of a play as evidence of a conspiracy on the part of climatologists to deny the truth.
Tidwell's point about civil rights is even dated and almost obsolete. Hell, we've had government intervention in making a mass exodus to a new technology this. fucking. year. already! No one on the right breathed word one about conspiracies and interventions there, threatening to have the FCC chairmen jailed.
If we can do this because the frikkin' broadcast airwaves were effectively polluted and overheated, then we cannot deny, cannot ignore, and cannot delay, government intervention on our own lives. Period. End of discussion.