Thursday, April 05, 2012

Today's Sex Scandal

LA Sheriff's Captain takes inmate to grassy field in exchange for hand job
Sort of.

Reasons To Believe

I've long theorized, and I'm not alone, that politics in the United States is a long Foucault pendulum, and that momentum shifts slowly. You have to pay attention to small stories in order to see where things are headed.

A proposal to abolish capital punishment in Connecticut has cleared a major hurdle with approval from the state Senate.     

The bill passed early Thursday by a vote of 20-16 would make life imprisonment the maximum punishment for future cases.     

Connecticut would become the fifth state in five years to abolish the death penalty.

My long-time readers know I stand foursquare against the death penalty. I don't think it's smart to give the state the right to kill citizens, for one thing, for another it prevents nothing that life in prison can't prevent. And of course, there's the whole Jesus-forgiveness thing.

Like with gay marriage, overturning the death penalty is a slow, long slog to try to enact, and must be done state-by-state. A critical mass is needed, as with so many things in politics and governance.

Once we've gotten rid of the barbarism that is the death penalty, I'd love it if America turned its attention to the unnecessary use of our prisons as centers of economic activity for depressed rural communities. It's sick that we put people away for minor offenses, just so we can prop up communities where farms were gobbled up by our greed, and where people don't pay attention because there's nothing else to pay attention to.

Opening Day

There are so many reasons to be discouraged on this, the most hopeful day of the year: Major League Baseball officially opens the 2012 campaign.
See, I'm a Mets fan.
As a DISH Network subscriber, access to even the SNY network, the home of the Mets, is unavailable. Now, I could look at the positives to this, not least of which is it forces me to go sit in a bar to watch the ballgames, but as I'm currently trying to correct dietary deficiencies, this is suboptimal.
It also helps me be in denial about just how bad this team will be this year. After all, if I can't see it, it can't frustrate me and make me ache to my bones.
How bad is this team? Let me put it this way: based on my performance last year in a softball league-- slow pitch, no less-- I entertained a half-baked fantasy of trying out. At age 54. With all the accumulated injuries that entails.
I suspect I would have been a plus for the side.
This is a team that has a starting pitcher who's arm was sewn back on, a la a rag doll, a third baseman playing out his contract, a left-fielder who can't even hit his weight (and isn't even morbidly obese), a right fielder so monstrously large that he has a phobia about running, a shortstop who could arguably make more errors than assists this season (plus he's replacing one of the best players in the game)...
...And an owner group so inept, they actually managed to make money with Bernie Madoff!
How are the fans reacting to all this? Well, for the first time in the 50 year history of the team, Opening Day at home is not sold out. Indeed, the Mets are actually discounting tickets. The 15, read that correctly, 15,000 fans who buy the remaining seats for today's game will get free passes to either Friday or Saturday's game, too.
This is all very discouraging.
When, in the handful of times the Mets have been legitimate contenders over their storied 50 year history-- for a team with a really shitty record, they have some pretty remarkable achievements to their credit-- it's been fun to be a fan.
In 1969, when the team literally went from worst to first over the course of three seasons, the city had an electricity that put Mets baseball front and center in a national spotlight, it was that powerful.
In 1973, when the team went from worst to first in eight weeks, and took the vaunted dynasty of Oakland to seven games (that the Mets really should have won, but that's a different story), the addition of the legendary Willie Mays at the end of the regular season seemed like an after-thought, an unnecessary distraction.
And in 1986, when the Mets swaggered through the rest of the season only to receive a wake-up call in the World Series, the team reflected the city: arising from the shambles and debris of a lost decade, soaring like Icarus, only to be reminded that we too are mortal, saved from crashing only by the bats of Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, Ray Knight and of course, Mookie Wilson (the one possession I have that I know I will never auction or sell, no matter how dire my woes, is a ball autographed by Wilson and Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner at the same time: one of only a half-dozen or so such known balls.)
Those were all fun, exciting times.
This year is, well, remember the old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times"?
This year is interesting. But it's also a great time to be a wonk-fan, because it gives you the opportunity to observe the mettle of a team in dire straits: with no money, and no prospects of getting money anytime soon (five years, I figure, before the Madoff stuff settles out) how will this team even try to compete in a division where all four other teams maked marked improvements, and contains two perennial playoff contenders?
You can mark time, and play it for laughs the way the Original Mets did in the early Sixties, but there's too much money at stake now. You can hunker down and cut costs, trade players and hope for a miracle. That was the way of the late 1970s Mets, who shed arguably the greatest pitcher of my lifetime along with some really solid ballplayers, and got the least possible return for them.
Those were dark days, the days of de Roulet.
Or, you can grit your teeth and double down on the effort. The pressure's off, because no one, and I mean NO ONE, has expectations for this team. Winning half their ballgames would be a miracle, and would require a collapse on the part of at least one other team ranked ahead of them, and some pretty sloppy play by the others.
I'd like to see that. I'd like to see David Wright get his uniform gritty and dirty (he's playing out a contract, so at least he has incentive.) I'd like to see Johann Santana yell at a pitching coach for trying to take him out of a nothing game (he could be playing for a trade to a contender.) I'd like to see Jason Bay be cagey and get hit by a few pitches to get a baserunner or start a brawl (he has nothing to play for. It shows.)
What I don't want to see is a team metaphorically looking at their calendars and working out tee times for October. I mean, they'll need them to be sure, but focus on the game in front of you, is what I'm saying.
Put in that kind of effort, and the fans will come. I know I've sat at Mets games where there were more umpires on the field than fans, where the ushers offered us field level box seats just for walking in, where the vendors would stand and chat with fans for innings because its not like they were going to make money anyway.
Those were dark days, the days of de Roulet.
The players owe this to the people who work at the stadium, to make that effort to bring the fans in: the vendors, the ticket sellers, the ushers. These folks make next to nothing, and it would be nice to save some jobs even at that level of compensation.
And if someone at the Mets is reading this, please settle the deal with DISH. At this point, you need every rooter you can get your hands on. You're cutting your nose to spite your face.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Enjoy The Pink Drawers, Joe!

Say buh-bye to your cushy job of spic-and-spanning Maricopa County, shitheel! There's a new sheriff in town.

Yea, That's A Way Of Reducing Campus Tensions

Y'know, it would have been better to just cancel the meeting and hold it someplace else, if you needed so much secrecy and privacy.
What's that? Public's right to know? Then the public has a right to speak out and protest, dumbshits!

How Soon Before Rick Perry Comes Begging?


Do Ya Feel Plucky, Lunk?

Rick? It's over:
MARS, Pa. — Imagine a footrace, but only one runner is on the track.

That essentially is the situation for Rick Santorum. He is all suited up and ready to go. “The clock starts tonight,” he told supporters here Tuesday night, hoping to start fresh after losses in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

But as far as Mitt Romney, his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is concerned, that clock has run out.

If you look at the results from Wisconsin last night, if Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich had dropped out of the race...hell, if just GINGRICH left the race, then Santorum probably takes Wisconsin. This would have made Santorum an actual credible threat to Romney despite the slack in delegates.

Indeed, if Gingrich and Paul dropped out and gave all their delegates to Santorum, he'd still be seventy short right now, and looking at a yawning four hundred delegate gap by May 1. Not insurmountable, to be sure, but that's only if Gingrich and Paul drop out. Right now, his deficit is insurmountable.


See, Santorum and Romney have this odd dynamic working: If the evangelical Christian vote is over 50%, Santorum wins. If it's under 50, Romney wins. Wisconsin would have been the first state to flip that (Iowa came close).

Santorum is running into a roadblock in April: the only primaries from here on out are in the Northeast, prime Romney territory.

Indeed, Romney can embarass the hell out of Santorum by taking Pennsylvania. This means two things:

1) It will be the second straight statewide election in his home state that Santorum loses and

B) It takes Santorum out of consideration for the Veep nom. After all, do you want someone on your ticket who can't even guarantee his home state?

And now that brings the illogic of a continuing Santorum campaign into sharp focus. If you presume that Santorum is taking this to a floor fight-- his best case scenario is that Romney enters the convention with only 1122 committed delegates and 22 short of the magic number, but this excludes super- and uncommitted delegates-- then the logical conclusion is Santorum is running for reasons other than the nomination. The logical alternative is to show he's a capable fighter even against long odds (which the GOP faces in spades this year) and an almost automatic VP nominee.

Losing Pennsylvania negates that logic, and makes Santorum's campaign futile. Santorum holds a lead in Pennsylvania, but the momentum is with Romney. Seven points, down from double digits just two weeks ago.
Romney swipes Pennsylvania and it's over. Santorum keeps Pennsylvania, and there's still hope for cutting a deal at the convention.
This is because once May hits, the field suddenly turns uphill for Romney: Oregon, California and New Jersey are the only non-Bible Belt states to be contested after this month end. And even there, Romney looks to clear 1,130 delegates even if he wins those three states and misses out on every delegate in every single other one.
Meanwhile, Santorum would still have Gingrich and Paul to weigh him down. It's basically a no-win proposition without them: it's a disaster with them.
Which leaves the rationale of a Santorum campaign murky at best. It's conceivable he's running the way Mike Huckabee ran in 2008, to provide a voice for the religious right thru as much of the campaign as possible.
And then cash in with a cushy FOX News gig. Given Sarah Palin's new contract with The Today Show-- not that a formal contract has been announced, but she appeared in several capacities on the show including the "panel of experts" on cultural stories-- FOX will likely cut ties with her shortly, and they've already lost Glenn Beck, They're running short of what I'll euphemistically call "talent."
However, Santorum also risks an awful lot of backlash that Huckabee did not receive. See, Huckabee's quixotic quest was masked by the fact that a) he beat McCain in states McCain expected to win, and b) he had cover from Romney himself, who had little problem spending himself into oblivion to pursue the nomination four years ago.
Santorum, as presumed second place finisher, has no such shadow to duck into. Should it be perceived that the primary campaign exhausted Romney's funds to spend on the general (Obama has a war chest of hundreds of millions and growing), then Santorum will be blamed.
In essence, Santorum will walk into Tampa asking Romney "Did I fire five bullets or six?"

Monday, April 02, 2012

Seriously? This Matters Now?

Hungarian President resigns twenty years after plagiarising a paper.
The guy's been serving two years already in what is essentially a monarchal figurehead role.

Burma Shave

So it turns out that the Burmese people actually like democracy...altho only 45 seats were up for grabs, the Aung Sun Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy swept nearly all the available seats, 43.
And while this is a small fraction of the available power (in total, the legislature in both houses numbers over 500, with the military junta apportioned about 1/3 to hand-pick legislators), it's a signal of the dynamic of the population.

Freedumb Fighters

In all the hoopla over the ACA arguments in the Supreme Court last week was lost a tactical blunder that liberals and Democrats could have...should have...been making all along: defining freedom:
Behind the challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being heard at the Supreme Court this week is the idea that Barack Obama wants to take away your freedoms (as Mitt Romney himself asserted today). I’ve long since stopped counting the number of ridiculous things said about Obama, but this might be the ridiculousest of them all. At least the Kenyan rumors have some basis in reality, however threadbare it is, since his father was indeed Kenyan and he does have a funny name, for an American president. But this "freedom" business is simply paranoid and delusional. I defy anyone to name for me a specific and precise freedom that Obama has taken away from the American people. You can’t.[...]
The classic definition of freedom, or liberty, is still John Stuart Mill’s. His sentence that goes, “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign,” can be quoted out of context to imply that a person shouldn’t have to buy health insurance. But context shows that a few sentences earlier, Mill discussed the harm principle. A person can act with complete freedom so long as his actions don’t harm others. Well, pal, if you’re healthy and 35 and you don’t buy insurance and you get hit by a bus and you need $10,000 in medical care and you can’t and don’t pay for it, that harms me, because I’m an insured taxpayer and I’m helping to pick up your tab. That is freedom: not just the right to be left alone, but also the obligation to take responsibility for the consequences of one’s own actions on the freedom of other members of society. By that definition, the ACA is enhancing freedom, and personal responsibility—which is why conservatives were for the mandate in the first place. [Ed: emphasis added]

And here we have it, right there in black and white: the harm principle. The harm principle can be summed up as, "I shouldn't have to clean up your mess."

It is the underlying foundation of any legitimate freedom, from the First through the Twenty-Seventh.

Most important, any conservative worth his salt ought to be acknowledging the truth of it, and any liberal ought to be shouting it from the highest of heaven.

We liberals have ceded too much freedom from harm that we sort of deserve the calumny and disrespect we receive from the right. Take "Stand Your Ground."

Here, on the face of things, is a bill that defends your freedom from harm, but if you look closely on it, it misses Mill's larger point: while preventing harm to others is a societal good, it's the object of government and it is assumed the individual will not always act in the best interests of others.

Think about that for a moment: in "Stand Your Ground," we have a bill that completely abandons societal and common justice to leave the decision about whether harming another person is a good thing or a bad thing in the hands of someone in a situation of heightened emotion and shaky judgement.

Put it another way: we train cops to examine suspects carefully and to default away from irreparable harm to a suspect, even if that means endangering themselves further. You think someone like George Zimmerman was going to think that one step further?

Likewise, as Michael Tomasky points out, by enforcing and insisting on an individual mandate as part of affordable healthcare, we hit a double: we cover the uninsured and we lower our own healthcare costs.

After all, that representative $10,000 in medical bills is $10,000 unavailable for my own needs.

Indeed, going back to first principles, harming oneself in a car accident is harming society (in addition to the hospital bills-- whether insured or not-- the car has to  be removed and road cleaned up, which costs the community money,) so enforcing an individual mandate benefits society as a whole, since I'm now free not to clean up all of your mess.