Friday, December 03, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) So...Buffalo was supposed to be able to handle this kind of snowfall. I've heard tales of five and six feet in a day. What happened?
2) You could, I suppose, make 'em an offer they can't refuse...
3) You know, quietly, the Republican party is falling apart at the seams. For all the boisterous rowdifying of the Teabaggers, an awful lot of respected Republicans are taking stances anathema to the radical fringe.
4) Sadly, Ron Santo, an icon of 60s baseball, has died. RIP and godspeed, Ron. I liked him, only because my Mets shut him up in 1969. Wait 'til Bill Buckner bites the big one, and see how magnanimous I'll be.
5) The difference, and difficulty, of this recent economic collapse is it tended to affect older white male workers disproportionately to past collapses. While there's an element of schadenfreude in that (and as a former chronically unemployed white collar worker, a lot of empathy), it still does not bode well for the next decade's economy.
6) WikiLeaks: The Sequel continues in theatres near you. I anticipate a deal worked out by Monday for Assange to submit to questioning. I still think it's a terrible misuse of the international justice system.
7) By the way, Meat Loaf? Shut up. When you put out a good album, then maybe you can talk. Maybe. Three out of three IS bad.
8) A day late, but....HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EPA!
9) Ooooooooooooooooooooookay! Only in Idahooooooooooooooooooo!
10) Finally, the kind of art exhibit only a Teabagger could love...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Fuckin' A!

And Old Lace

Well, NASA sure does have the capacity to surprise us all....

I'll just note that one of the people in charge of keeping the secret, Ginger Pinholster of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has observed that some of the reports out there are "comically erroneous." It's a safe bet that the research being published in the journal Science is not about the discovery of extraterrestrial life itself. Not even Pinholster could keep that secret under wraps.

It's also a safe bet that the research has to do with biochemistry that involves arsenic, which is toxic to life as we know it. That's because one of the featured speakers at the NASA news conference is Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a research at the U.S. Geological Survey who has spent years studying organisms in California's arsenic-rich Mono Lake. Numerous reports have said her research relates to "life as we don't know it."  The big question is just how far down that road Wolfe-Simon and her colleagues have gone.

Sarah, Palin & Fall

Like her or not, it's hard to ignore the monstrosity that has become "Sarahpalin". She's transcended being a politician to becoming a symbol open to interpretation.
For my part, I don't hate her. I hate Dick Cheney, because I think he knows he's evil and yet does nothing to better himself. Sarah is just a fucking loon. It's hard to hate an idiot.
Now, I hate her politics and the smarmy condescending way she talks down at her "constituents" as well as her opponents, as if she is some paragon of virtue and justice when in point of fact she is and has always been a loser who skated by on looks and luck. Unintelligible to the Nth degree, what people hear is what they want to hear, and since she doesn't form complete thoughts or even factual thoughts, people have to read an awful lot into them.
Normally, this would immediately disqualify her from any office higher than dogcatcher, but apparently Alaskans and rightwingers like teh stoopid.
There's a double-barrel backlash rising up against her, however. She might want to take a breath, because we have all seen how thin her skin is, and I suspect it's only going to get worse for her.
First, Ed Rollins, rightwinger and former Reagan administration capo di capi:

You're a media star and a great curiosity. You were plucked out of political obscurity because of the whim of presidential contender John McCain, who didn't know you and made you into an overnight sensation. You performed well for three weeks in the campaign, did better than expected against Joe Biden in the debate and then you self-destructed.

You clearly weren't ready for prime time, but neither was your running mate. After the election, you quit your day job as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in the term and went out and made a fortune making speeches and selling a book.

[...] Right now, polls indicate you wouldn't carry your home state of Alaska.

The last Presidential candidate to not even carry his home state was Al Gore.

He goes on to bash her comparisons to Reagan and Rollins is right: she certainly is no Reagan, who at least had accomplishments before her was forty. Even Obama, whom many saw as a cypher, had all those law school honors and community organizer functions on his CV.

Her closest analog would probably be Dan Quayle: a mindless bumbling buffoon who couldn't rub two words together to create a dialectical fire, yet somehow managed on the strength of his charm and his daddy's name (something Palin distinctly does NOT have) to parlay a minor political career.

People probably think that my greatest frustration is the lies that are told in the tabloids and on hateful blogs full of anonymous sources about my family … and there are constant everyday lies that we have to read that are out there in the public. But my family and I…thick skin…we can take it, you know…we can take what the haters say despite the fact that there’s injustice in the situation.

I mean, look at the other day. Willow, finally, my 16 year old, she had had it up to here with somebody saying very, very hateful things about the family and saying mean things about her little brother Trig, and Willow finally responded and she used a bad word when she responded in defense of her family. And her response became national news, even hard news copy it turned into, so that’s ridiculous and I had to explain to her, “Willow, there is no justice here but you have to just zip your lip and let’s move forward.”

The "bad word" in question is "faggot". Not "shit", or "fuck", or "douche", but an ad hominem of the very worst kind, striking at a group that is already on America's shitlist.

One wonders what it would take for Sarah Palin to take umbrage at a word? *koffkoff*retard*koffkoff*

Oh. Right. It would take ANY word directed at her or her family, despite the fact that her "family" is about as dysfunctional as the Gosselins. Odd thing about her comment on Hannity, not once was Trig mentioned!

Her life is a train wreck, to be certain, and her public image is only held together by the spit and duct tape that her moronic mesmerized supporters patch together, forming a wagontrain-like circle around her. Except the wagons lack fabric. Or wood. Or wheels. It really is just the human shields she's cajooled into protecting her, including her children.

Todd seems to be the only sane one, and that's more because he's basically said "Good luck with that!" and gone off snowmobiling until the cameras are turned on.

Of course, the kids might be sane. It's hard to tell since she treats them like props.

And yet, for all that, Palin could be a minor danger on the political scene, and a major threat to the United States if her luck holds out. To-wit:

In her brilliant new book Reality Bites Back, Jennifer Pozner argues that Americans prefer the scripted "reality" of reality TV to the messy complexity of our lives because these shows "both play to and reinforce deeply ingrained societal biases about women and men, love and beauty, race and class, consumption and happiness in America." And Palin is the perfect reality-show star: more ruthless, more eloquent, more audaciously dishonest, more single-mindedly ambitious, more likable and eminently more electable than Hillary Clinton in 2008. She is a pencil skirt–wearing marathoner who operates without a shred of shame or self-doubt. There is something remarkable and frightening about the depth of her belief in her narrative. Every criticism, every defeat, every attack is just evidence of the virtue of her chosen path. Her show replaces the tough tradeoffs of a politically complicated and economically insecure world with a fiery self-assurance born of the hard, bright blindness of righteousness. In uncertain times, this unassailable certainty, set in the compelling aesthetic of the American frontier and packaged with pitch-perfect editing, proves magnetic even for those who disagree with her.

Pozner reminds us that media are "as much a dissemination mechanism for ideological persuasion as...a means of entertainment;" they are "our most common agent of socialization, shaping and informing our collective ideas about people, politics and public policy." Media, especially reality TV, encourage us to think less and buy more. They capture our emotions and silence our inner critic. They send us in search of products to fulfill our deepest desires. Palin may just be the political embodiment of our contemporary cultural moment; a presidential candidate born from TV's easy emotional draw and limited analytic capacity, a candidate who needs only 140 characters to explain policy, a candidate who attracts us even when she repulses us. As with reality TV, to underestimate Palin is to invite her to reach ever deeper into the American consciousness.

Indeed, Sarah Palin may be the embodiment of the American Idiot: someone whose attention span lasts up to the next Tweet.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Taking A Leak

Al Capone committed all sorts of nefarious and dastardly crimes during his reign in Chicago. He was nailed on tax evasion.
Any number of criminals have been arrested and jailed on minor charges from littering to jaywalking, nuisance infractions that are enforced only in the most extreme circumstances, or when they really need to hold someone, but have no real charges to post.
This, however, smacks of illegality:

PARIS — Interpol has placed Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing organization, on a so-called red notice wanted list following allegations of sexual misbehavior by a Swedish prosecutor, according to the police organization’s Web site on Wednesday.

The notice said Mr. Assange, 39, was wanted for “sex crimes” on an arrest warrant brought by the international public prosecution office in Gothenburg, Sweden. Interpol is based in Lyon, France. Mr. Assange’s whereabouts were not immediately known.

Now, I don't really want to get into the merits of the charge--and if you feel strongly about them, comments are open-- although that does play a part in my analysis.

You may recall that over the summer (on August 20) an investigation was opened in Sweden, accusing him with one rape and another case of sexual harassment. The rape charge was dropped almost immediately, then re-instated a week later. Assange admits to having sex twice during the period in question, alluding to the possibility that it was with both women. He also says it was consensual, if unprotected (which might under Swedish law be an issue).

In other words, this really becomes a "he said, she said" matter (although I'm sure there must be some physical evidence tying him to the events), and consequently the purview of local authorities. A criminal investigation was handed up in November, and an arrest warrant handed down. This has ballooned into the current Interpol order.

There seems, however, to be some conflicting details about Assange's cooperation. His lawyer claims he's offered to meet on neutral territory (including a Swedish embassy), but the Swedish prosecutor has insisted he return to Sweden to face the charges. Of course, the prosecutor denies this.

Now, a Red Notice is Napoleonic in nature. The fugitive has to prove his innocence before it's lifted, and he is presumed guilty of the charges until he's tried and exonerated. There are actually two Red Notices: one is an arrest warrant, the other is for a fugitive who has been tried, convicted, and sentenced. Interpol claims that there is no arrest warrant on Assange, meaning he's wanted for fleeing a sentence.

Um, excuse me? He hasn't even been tried yet. Effectively, he's being chased down across the globe to be arrested, but yet, there's no international arrest warrant other than the Swedes own BOLO.

This disturbs me. Here we have two events that involve no physical evidence of a crime being committed, only evidence that the events happened. Yet, Assange is being equated to Osama bin Laden in criminality.

That's simply not right. Whatever you think of the leaks (the Libertarian in me thinks he did signal service, but the American in me wishes he had been a little more cautious in what he leaked), for a state, or group of states, to hunt down a person internationally on the word of two women, neither of whom has to come forward to reveal their identities is a New World Order writ small.

The timing of all this is a little suspect, as well. Who has ever heard of an international probe launched for sexual misbehavior within months of the event? It's not like Assange killed women he slept with and would be an imminent danger to be around. In July of this year, Assange released the Afghan war documents, internal Pentagon documents that detail secret conversations and discussions of the war in Afghanistan. In August, he's accused of rape. By December, he's on what amounts to an international terror watch and presumably could be assassinated by a trigger-happy cop in whatever country he lands in.

All because he spoke the truth.

Like it or not, support him or not, this has to send a chill down your spine.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Suck It In, Folks

There are times I part company with both my leftist friends and my union buddies. This is one of them:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers as he sought to address concerns over high annual deficits and appealed to Republicans to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health.

...The move would save $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 and $5 billion by the end of two fiscal years. Over 10 years, it would save $60 billion, according to Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer.

Now, I get the objections. Federal workers are, compared to the private sector, substantially underpaid already and they have not been exempt from some of the economic crisis.
There is one thing they ARE exempt from, and that has to be acknowledged by our side: federal employees are much much harder to fire or layoff.
And it doesn't save much, and so why are federal workers, mostly working and middle class family people, being forced to shoulder the burden of a wage freeze?
Again, in the private sector, jobs are being cut, so are wages and benefits, and hiring is seeing very slow progress. We have chronically unemployed people whose benefits run out in a few days. None of this is really affecting the federal bureaucracy.
Obama makes a symbolic gesture to Republicans. Since the lame-duck Congress has kicked deficit reduction forward, Obama took a step that was calculated to deflate a Republican negotiating chip, one that is very popular with the base.
Remember, these are innumerian idiots who think that 19% of them are in the top 1% of wage earners, among other really insane and wacky mathematics. Somehow, they think that $60 billion will balance the budget painlessly.
Fareed Zakaria points out the underlying problem, the one that Republicans will have to settle with their base:
Americans have an appetite for government benefits that greatly exceeds their appetite for taxes. For more than a generation, we have squared this dishonest circle by borrowing vast amounts of money. As more people age, this gap between what we want the government to provide and what we are willing to pay for is going to widen to an unsustainable level. Over the next 75 years, benefits under entitlement programs will exceed government revenue by $40 trillion. The federal budget deficit, if unattended, will reach 24% of GDP in 2040 —well beyond Greek and Irish territory. At that point, the measures it would take to close the gap are so punitive — we're talking tax hikes of 70% or spending cuts of 50% — that it is inconceivable that we will make them. If by some chance we were to make them, they would put the economy in a death spiral.
In many ways, the GOP winning the House is a great thing for the nation as a whole. Now, they have no choice but to roll up their sleeves and get involved, as opposed to sitting back and criticising everything Pelosi and Reid did, and by retaining the Senate, Obama has political cover to avoid vetoes (altho you have to know he's itching to stamp a bill or two hard for all the shit he's been taking).
If the Republicans take this seriously, and that's a big-- no, huge grey area, then this next Congress could conceivably get much of the necessary heavy lifting done. If the Republicans decide to risk the House by trying to capture the Senate thru obstructionism and deferral of these issues, the Democrats will rightly point out that they had skin in the game, and did nothing, whereas the past Congress got more done for Americans than any Congress since LBJ.
And we'll be back to one-party rule for the forseeable future. The Republicans are on the clock too, now. Their base has become more rabid, and won't put up with much compromise, and yet, it will have to be compromise to get anything done. By taking a chip off the table, Obama has given them one less accomplishment to tout to these whining mewling babies.
This is why the Party of Children is such a fascinating topic to watch.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Budget Holes And A Shovel

I spent a bit of time thinking this weekend about ways to fill the deficit, and I wanted to float a trial balloon.
As tax reform seems to be on the table and as the vast majority of our resources are now being spent to prop up business in this country, I thought it might be fun to drop a tax increase into the mix: five percent, off the top, on all revenues. Call it an emergency surcharge to protect American jobs.
Oh, right. I guess I should preface this tax increase. The President will announce a policy that any company that off-shores jobs or moves to a post office box or a physical building in another country will no longer enjoy American protection, including defense forces and/or copyright and patent protection, and that any country-- from Bermuda to Abu Dhabi to China-- will suffer a concomittant reduction in foreign aid to the tune of the lost tax revenue from the companies that move there.
What say you?