Sunday, December 30, 2007

History Book

Wide kittyYou know you are getting old when your military service is described in Chapter 8 of 22 chapters in a history book. Sigh.

My sister sent me this book for Christmas. My first reaction was, “Omigod, this is awesome.” Further investigation reveals it is beyond awesome. The story it tells is awesome, the way it tells it is truely remarkable. I've missed parts of several football games with this book in my lap, mentally breathing in the stench of diesel, chlorine and locker room and hearing the hammer of massive engines charging batteries.

My service in “the boats” was more than forty years ago and yet it is as much a part of who I am today as it was then. It branded me permanently in a manner which is by no means unique to submariners, but which is certainly common to us. What was it about? What was it that marked us so, that stamped those silver dolphins so indelibly on our souls?

Part of it was the service itself. We walked the decks in the footsteps of giants. The submarine service was only 3% of the U.S. Navy in World War Two, but those gallant ships sank more Japanese shipping than all other causes combined. No other service suffered losses nearly as high, but there was never a shortage of volunteers and submarines were always fully manned. Twenty years later we always felt the presence of Wahoo and Growler and all the other ships and men eternally on patrol.
USS Gato
A lot is made of patriotism today, and in the military “serving one’s country” but I don’t think that was really a big part of it. My dad was a career Air Force officer and an intense patriot but patriotism was always rather assumed, sort of a background to life. I always knew that I would serve in the military, but I don’t really recall having a real sense of any kind of noble purpose about it. I was just doing a job.

It wasn’t an adventure, I can tell you that. I never saw a foreign port. We left our home port, went to a part of the world where we were highly unwelcome, spied or performed other seriously hostile activities, and then returned to our home port. There was a war on; a cold one, but a war nonetheless and for the boats it was not all that cold. Submarines didn’t do the “showing the flag” thing. We trained against antisubmarine groups and we trespassed in enemy waters for nefarious purposes. It was mostly just long periods of boredom punctuated by brief periods of sheer terror. I guess it depends on how you define adventure.

I think mostly it was the satisfaction of taking on perhaps the toughest job known to man and doing it. Overcoming fear. Doing something that most men simply cannot do. Not only going down to the sea in ships, but going under the sea, and in really old ships; living in an environment which is entirely hostile to man’s presence.

I’m still not sure what it’s all about, but I know that forty years later the pictures in this book can bring tears to my eyes. This book is a treasure.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Food Blogging Friday

Okay, I’ll take a quick break and share one of my favorite “skillet meals,” which I can post pretty quickly. This one is actually pretty healthy if you use salt-free tomatoes and tomato sauce. You’ll need a fairly large and deep skillet. Mine is, of course, cast iron. Enjoy.

Bill’s Spicy Chicken

1# skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 lg onion (for about 1 cup chopped)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
pinch of ground cloves (or a bit more)
1 lg Bell pepper (red or green), cut to 1” chunks
1-1/2 tsp (or more) fresh ginger, minced fine
1 tsp garlic, crushed or minced fine
1 can diced tomatoes (15.5oz )
1 can tomato sauce ( 8 oz )
1 tbsp brown sugar (or a bit more, see below)

Cut the the chicken into bite-sized pieces and saute it with the onion, stirring frequently, until the opion is just transparent and the chicken is no longer pink.

Add the bell pepper just before chicken is cooked through, along with the cumin, paprika, cloves, ginger and garlic. Stir fairly often, but you don’t need to stir constantly.

When chicken is cooked through add tomatoes with all the juice, tomato sauce and brown sugar. Stir well, bring to a boil then turn heat down and simmer for a few minutes. Serve over rice or, preferably, pasta.

The amount of ground cloves is tricky. Cloves is what makes it really yummy, and I use a bit more than a pinch – something close to ½ a teaspoon. But too much really overwhelms – yikes.

I use quite a bit of ginger, probably 1 tbsp or so, and I go heavier on the brown sugar, more like 2-3 tbsp. Be guided by your own taste.

Posting Lull

Posting will be light for a week, or a bit more. I have a client who is doing yeoman service as a slave driver. I know that all three of you who regularly read my work will miss me, but I'll be back as soon as I either satisfy or kill my client.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Wish

Jill, at Brilliant at Breakfast says it far more beautifully than I could:

And if I stand very still and listen to the quiet, I can visualize a young couple in a makeshift shelter, surrounded by well wishers from afar, with a newborn whose arrival they don't quite understand but that they know promises great things for mankind. They're a little bit frightened, but also awed at the huge responsibility they face in caring for this tiny child and nurturing him into the man whom some will believe is a god. As this couple looks up at the same sky I do, they also feel insignificant, and inadequate to the task they face -- not much different from what all new parents must feel. Tonight, millions of people think about this tableau that even I can see. And for a brief time, it reminds them of what they've often forgotten during the shopping frenzy of the last four weeks; of what they celebrate tonight and tomorrow.

For those who believe, I wish you all a joyous Christmas filled with love and wonder.

Thank you, Jill.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

After weeks of speculation, it’s finally official: Karl Rove’s memoirs will be published by Threshold Editions, the conservative-minded imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books overseen by GOP strategist Mary Matalin.

Rove got a $1 Million advance, reportedly, for his book after shopping it to publishers for months and hoping for tens of millions.

Ted Kennedy got $8 million for a book about Chappaquiddick last month…

So Ted Kennedy gets eight times the advance for his book about drowning a hooker while driving drunk, than Rove got for his book about the total destruction of an entire political party (and a couple of countries and a million people or so).

Merry Christmas, Karl.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Healthcare Reform

I wish that people who talk about healthcare reform would quit equating "universal health insurance" with "universal healthcare." They are not the same thing at all.

Did you know that of all the people who went bankrupt due to medical expenses last year, one-third had health insurance?

Does the term “reasonable and usual” mean anything to you? Or “preapproval req'd” (but not obtained), or “pre-existing condition”? These are terms that insurance companies use to avoid paying for medical treatment. Having insurance does not mean having full access to healthcare.

Three years ago I underwent some severe health problems and, even with an excellent and very costly health insurance policy provided by my wife’s employer and deducted in part from her pay, the cost out of pocket for the year was more than $10,000 for medical expenses not paid by insurance.

And what are all of the Democratic presidential candidates offering as healthcare reform? Universal health insurance. While each plan has ways to help people pay for the insurance, not one of those plans will prevent those health insurance corporations from finding ways to deny payment for medical treatment needed by the insured.

These reforms do not assure universal healthcare. What they do assure is increased profits for the corporations who are a major part of the problem in our healthcare system today, increased profits for the corporations who are major financial contributors to the Democratic presidential candidates.

Business as usual in Washington, DC.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Minor Observation

Birds on the chimney cap will drive a calico cat pretty much bonkers.

Media Hostility...

Glenn Greenwald is at it again. If you care about the political and constitutional status of this nation and do not have his commentary site bookmarked, you should do so now. I know of no one who writes more powerfully about the status of our country than he does. His commentary can be found at (a site which I also recommend).

Yesterday his post was a critique both of our media and of the way our country is governed, titled Media hostility toward anti-establishment candidates. Read the whole thing, but he says in part (emphasis mine),

Edwards, Paul and Huckabee are obviously disparate in significant ways -- ideologically, temperamentally, and otherwise. But there is a vital attribute common to those three campaigns that explains the media's scorn: they are all, in their own ways, anti-establishment candidates, meaning they are outside and critical of the system of which national journalists are a critical part, the system which employs and rewards our journalists and forms the base of their identity and outlook. Any candidate who criticizes and opposes that system -- not in piecemeal ways but fundamentally -- will be, first, ignored and, then, treated as losers by the press.

It is very striking how little Edwards' substantive critique of our political system has penetrated into the national discourse. That's because the centerpiece of his campaign is a critique that is a full frontal assault on our political establishment. His argument is not merely that the political system needs reform, but that it is corrupt at its core -- "rigged" in favor of large corporate interests and their lobbyists, who literally write our laws and control the Congress. Anyone paying even casual attention to the extraordinary bipartisan effort on behalf of telecom immunity, and so many other issues driven almost exclusively by lobbyists, cannot reasonably dispute this critique.

Yet because that argument indicts the same Beltway culture of which our political journalists are an integral part, and further attacks the system's power brokers who are the friends, sources, and peers of those journalists, they instinctively react with confusion, scorn and hostility towards Edwards' campaign. They condescendingly dismiss it as manipulative populist swill, or cynically assume that it's just a ploy to distinguish himself by "moving left." In the eyes of our Beltway press, the idea that our political system is "rigged" or corrupt must be anything other than true or sincerely held.

I still have hope for Edwards. If he gets elected it will be despite the media’s best efforts to defeat him, but I think he presents the best hope for real change, for a return of government for the people of this country. We have been without it for too long.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cool Critters

Wide kittyShe is a classy enough critter, but she’s just a bit of a wide load. The vet said that anything over 7 lbs could be considered overweight and she weighs in at 8 lbs 12 oz now.

That would be the equivalent of me hitting the scale at about 290 or so. My doctor would frown on that; he's somewhat less than ecstatic about my present 235.

Im ignoring you
“You have not been truly ignored until you have been ignored by a cat.”

I don’t know what we did to offend her when this was taken, and I’m not sure we knew at the time, but Molly has mastered the art of ignoring her people. Notice the ears.

Wide kitty

This is not a critter, but it is very cool. It was given to me by my “North Carolina Family” and is hand made by a craftsman in Asheville. In addition to looking really neat, it grinds pepper better than anything I’ve ever had.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Exhibiting Leadership

In the movie “Glory” the penultimate scene is of the African-American Battalion advancing on the Confederate fortress that was their downfall, marching along a beach into the teeth of a relentless gunfire of artillery and rifles, steadfast in the face of almost certain death. Their colonel marches
at the front of his troops, saber in hand, leading his men into battle.

Leadership, in those days, was a risky business; but one taken seriously.

Not so much any more. It seems leadership means asking people to give you lots of money so that you can give lots of speeches and make lots of promises that you won’t keep after you are elected. Most of the promises are for things that are beyond the scope of the office you are campaigning for, but today’s leadership says that you promise them anyway.

Leadership means promising what you will do if elected to a higher office while you are failing to fulfill the responsibilities of the office you currently hold; the office to which you already have been elected.

Chris Dodd is in Washington today, campaign put aside while he fights for the rights of the American people as he promised to do when elected to the Senate; fights to preserve the constitution.

Chris Dodd is in Washington today being a leader.

Other presidential candidates are saying they support his effort, but they are not actually supporting it. They are campaigning for their own ends, more interested in their own personal pursuit of power than in the preservation of the constitution of this great country that they want to lead. They have shown that they are full of high-sounding talk about supporting the people of this nation, but when it comes to crunch time they will place their own interests first. They are more concerned with gaining power than with exercising responsibility and serving constituents.

They are as sounding brass; filled with noise and fury, signifying nothing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Predatory Lending 2

A few days ago I commented that the government’s bailout of people who bought homes they could not afford by taking out mortgages on which they would not be able to make the payments was a bad idea. I said that I did not favor the government rewarding bad judgement and financial irresponsibility.

The response has been comments saying that Loan Company A was publishing memos to it’s salesmen saying that they should promote the high rate loans, and that Loan Company B is settling a lawsuit and making refunds because they illegally concealed in the documents that the payments would increase. The implication is that the bad loans are all the fault of these heinous companies that were out in the market place ripping off poor innocent victims.

To defend the government’s program with these arguments is like saying that there are some innocent people in jails in this country. That is a bad thing and the juries that wrongly convicted those people were, I don’t know, corrupt or maybe racist or something. Therefor we should open the doors of the prisons and let everybody go free. Everybody, innocent or not.

I did not suggest in my post that loan companies which violated the law should not be punished and their victims be made whole. What portion of the mortgage crisis does that constitute? I do not have the answer to that question, but I know for sure that it is not the entirety of it. I am reasonably sure that it is actually a fairly small portion.

As to the loan company advising its agents to “push” the high-interest loans, of course they do that. Just because someone is suggesting that I buy something does not mean that I have to do so. Before I commit myself to the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars, fiscal responsibility demands that I do my own due diligence rather than simply signing whatever has been placed in front of me.

How many buyers were sitting at that loan officer’s desk, looking at the “non-conventional” loan because they had already been turned down by a conventional lender? This is another question to which I don’t have the answer, but reading news articles suggests to me that the portion is not exactly miniscule.

Who is the victim when one who cannot qualify for a legitimate loan turns to a “loan shark” instead? Certainly that does not legitimize the loan shark, but does it justify rescuing the borrower? Maybe if the loan was required to save a life, but…

How many borrowers knew full well that a safer loan was available to them but accepted the risky loan because it would “enhance their lifestyle” and thought they could refinance out of it before the risk caught up with them? Right, I don’t know the answer to that one either, but I know full well that it is a significant portion of this crisis. And the government’s plan rescues these borrowers in greater numbers than it does those who actually are victims.

Proponents of the government rescue plan point out that without it the flood of foreclosure will cause home values to fall and that will damage those who own homes. I own a home in Southern California, bought before the home values skyrocketed, and I cannot say that I really want to see it be devalued. Still, perhaps I am not as important as the well-being of the society in which I live. Perhaps the greater good of the greater number should prevail.

Do I really want to live in a society where only the very wealthy can own a home, even if I’m one of those who does?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tortured Confession 2

Keith Olbermann again referred to the Kiriakou “confession” in not one but two of his segments on Countdown last night. In so doing he rather decided to have his cake and eat it too, as in one segment he quoted Kiriakou in evidence that the White House was aware of the torturing, and in the other he exposed the assertion that Kiriakou made as to the effectiveness of that torture as being unlikely in the extreme (as did my post yesterday).

Olbermann is guilty of some rather bad journalism, here; using a source to prove a point in one story and then totally discrediting that same source in another story. Wtf?

Watching Kiriakou on the various shows on which he has appeared, the man comes across as not only a liar, but not even a particularly skillful liar. I see no reason to believe one single word that this man says.

He admits he was not present at the torture session and then goes on to describe it in loving and meticulous detail. His descriptions of the permission needed for each step of the process and how that permission was obtained is damning indeed, but it is also utterly ridiculous.

“You may slap him one time in the face with an open hand and then call me back and I'll tell you what you may do next.” Yeah, right.

The White House may have been involved in the decision to commit these atrocities, and probably was. But the statements of a blatant, obviously lying non-witness to events is not the way to prove it.

Other sources contradict Kiriakou’s claim that the subject he is talking about provided valuable information that deterred “dozens of attacks.” Those sources, who did participate in the interrogation admit that the subject was insane and provided nonsense for the purpose of making the pain stop. Which we know to be the usual result of torture.

Yesterday I seemed to be alone in suspecting this guy’s story was phony. Today I have quite a lot of company.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tortured Confession

The confession of John Kiriakou regarding the CIA use of torture, aired yesterday by ABC news, has the media and blogosphere all atwitter about what a black eye the revelation is to the Bush Administration. Even Keith Olbermann was breathlessly reporting about it on Countdown last night. Me, I’m not sure that this guy is all that real, as a few things he’s saying strike me as a bit “off.”

First, he says that the torture he witnessed was 35 seconds of waterboarding and that as a result the subject not only gave in, but he did so permanently. According to his description the subject actually became an ally and freely gave information without a trace of coercion from then on. After 35 seconds of mistreatment.

Now, I am certainly no expert, and maybe I would cave after 5 seconds. But I have seen films of our soldiers who have been tortured for months and years and some of them did sign documents and make statements, but they certainly did not become allies of their torturers. Is our present enemy one of so little character that a small dose of torture is enough to make them spill their guts for the rest of time? If so, why are we so afraid of them? It’s a minor point, but his description sounds like something out of a dime novel.

Kiriakou is quoted in the news report as saying that the torture he witnessed “prevented dozens of attacks.” Does nobody other than me hear an echo of Bush Administration propaganda in that statement? Why do I have the feeling that this guy is more interested in convincing us that torture is effective, which almost no one believes, than in revealing that our government has been doing it, which everybody knew anyway?

This is a key suspicion for me. He repeats over and over in his dissertation that it was necessary at the time and that it was effective, that it “saved lives.” It seemed to me that this, in fact, was the real gist of what he wanted to convey.

When Gibson asked Brain Ross why Kiriakou was coming out with the story now, Ross’ answer made no sense to me at all. Ross reported that Kiriakou was angry that the torture sessions had been taped and even more furious that the tapes had been destroyed. According to Ross, Kiriakou thought the tapes should have been preserved as a “historical record.”

What? He’s angry that the tapes were made, but since they were made they should have been kept? In what world is that logical?

When a storyteller provides illogical reasons for telling the story, I have to seriously doubt not only the reason for telling it but the facts as well.

I do not really doubt that the CIA has been fouling this country’s honor by torturing, but I do seriously doubt the effectiveness of that practice as reported by one John Kiriakou.

And the effectiveness or otherwise begs the point. The practice is wrong regardless of its outcome. It is a disgrace to this country and dishonors those who have fought and died to secure its freedom. Kiriakou and others may try, but torture cannot ever be justified.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Predatory Lending"

An editorial in today’s New York Times by Paul Krugman today listed three concerns about the current mortgage crisis. The third one was this,

Finally, there’s injustice: the subprime boom involved predatory lending — high-interest loans foisted on borrowers who qualified for lower rates — on an epic scale. The Wall Street Journal found that more than 55 percent of subprime loans made at the height of the housing bubble “went to people with credit scores high enough to often qualify for conventional loans with far better terms.”

He calls it “predatory lending” but I submit that, in most cases, that term is far from accurate. It would be more accurately called, “serving the borrower’s greed.”

Why did those borrowers not take out the “conventional loans with far better terms?” Clue number one is that many of them replaced just such loans with the subprime ones. Doing so gave them a lower house payment for a year, or a few years, and allowed them to live a more affluent lifestyle. Their assumption was that before the reset occurred “something would happen” to prevent it. They took a gamble for the sake of immediate gratification and, inevitably, many of them lost.

Paul Krugman regards that as injustice and thinks we should bail them out.

My nephew bought a house for his young family in the San Diego area some time ago and last year I rather casually asked him what kind of mortgage he had on it. He looked at me like I had lost my mind and said that “of course” he had a thirty-year-fixed, and added some remarks about not being stupid enough to go for any of those “crazy loans.”

He is a young man, very much enthusiastic about life and adventure, full of plans and upwardly mobile. And he lives within his means. He doesn’t have to have what he cannot afford. How strange. Downright un-American. How dare he display the flag?

I do agree with Krugman that the Bush/Paulson plan is a bad one, but not for the same reason. He thinks it doesn’t rescue enough borrowers. I think it rescues too many.

The victims of this crisis are portrayed as the people who are losing their homes, but they are preponderantly victims not of predatory lenders but of their own greed and/or financial mismanagement. The main victims of the lack of regulation are the investors who purchased those “innovative instruments” which were preordained to become worthless.

Unregulated capitalism becomes predatory.

You either believe in the “free market” system or you do not. (I do not.)
This bunch, including Krugman, wants to have it both ways. They'd like the market to be free to create the kind of “innovate market instruments” that created the mortgage crisis, but when that inevitably turns to destructive chaos they want to be able to step in and make whole those who were burned in the flames.

And, of course, they want to do that without taking away the riches from those who profited in the process of creating the destruction.

No one in the government or business communities is even talking about any plans for making whole the people and institutions who bought the instruments that have turned to junk. And probably no one should be. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. These investors failed to look past the lipstick and bought the pig.

Caveat emptor, baby, caveat emptor.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Football

Chargers are favored at Tennessee by a half point this morning. Seems a bit odd, since the latter are a bit better statistically and are the home team. I've been flipping a coin all morning and it has come up heads half the time and tails the other half. Drove the cat crazy.

For the second game we here in sunny (well, cloudy at the moment) San Diego get to watch a titanic battle between two teams with losing records. Our local CBS affiliate has decided that a far more exciting game between the Patriots and Steelers is not in our best interest because the KC/Denver game is in our division and if KC wins that game the Chargers will clinch our division. The Chargers are going to win the division simply by being the least crappy team: I'd rather watch a game with some excitement in it and where it mattered who won.

An interesting weather tidbit: the jet stream is actually dipping to the south of us today. (That's the northern jet stream. There's also a southern one that is almost always south of us.) That's not freakishly unusual, but it is uncommon and the forecast is that it will dip even farther down the Baja Penninsula tomorrow. In addition to being interesting to weather freaks such as myself, it also means that we have to get our snuggies out of storage.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Words to Congress

No doubt the latest scandal, having to do this time with destroyed tapes, will result in our members in Congress fulminating at great length and investigating endlessly one more time about who knew what and just exactly when they knew it. The real scandal is, of course, that the CIA used tapes, for God’s sake, instead of DVD’s but…

May I suggest, ladies and gentlemen of the legislative branch, that you just spare us all the bull feathers? Unless you are actually going to do something about this administration, unless you are actually going to bring someone to justice, just shut the hell up. You are making yourselves sound like morons.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Religious Testing

I used to have a fairly neutral view of Mormons, since I knew very little about them. After listening to Mitt Romney's speech, and assuming the he is representative of the religion, I now have an extreme and highly negative view of them. They should all be confined to an encampment and a chain link, razor wire fence built around it to confine them.

Our constitution says that no religious test shall be applied for any office. Romney says that not only must you be religious to hold office, you must be religious to be a free member of this society. Smug bigotous bastard.

Is The System Working?

Andrew Sullivan had a piece at his blog The Daily Dish the other day titled The System is Working. I would love to be able to say that I agree with his piece in it’s entirety, and I can say that I don’t entirely disagree with it. But I don’t think that the final chapter in this saga has been written yet.

The Democrats may not have stopped the war, but they helped shift its course. That, in turn, saved the war in Iraq from becoming a complete disaster. Now it's merely a rescuable disaster.

I’m not sure in what way the Democrats helped shift the course of the war and to say at this point that it is rescuable is certainly hopeful but is, I think, far from certain at this point. We may safely say that it may be rescuable and that absolutely is a turn for the better, but Sullivan doesn’t say precisely how the Democrats helped get us to that point and he has very little company in his certainty on the rescuability issue. As much as I would like to be, I am not in that company.

But my roster of those who helped get us back toward a rational war-policy would put Bob Gates and David Petraeus at the top of the list.

Bob Gates certainly. David Petraeus has always been a Bush mouthpiece and it is far too early to tell whether his current strategies, such as enlisting and arming former enemies, will prove successful in the long run. Certainly his first two assignments in Iraq were short term successes and long term disasters, and we can only hope at this point that his third one will turn out any better than the first two did.

Mukasey has a chance to do the same kind of thing at Justice.

But will he? The fact that he has a chance to do so is not evidence, to me, that the system is working. In fact, he went to very nearly the same lengths to cover Bush’s backside in his confirmation hearings that Gonzales did in his hearings, so I’m somewhat less than sanguine.

The system that looked rather fragile for a couple of years has begun to assert itself again. It works.

Congressional oversight is, so far, little more than a farce. I take that back: it is nothing more than a farce. Hearing after hearing with not one person held to account, removed from office or convicted of wrongdoing. Just enough to serve the political purposes of the party in power without triggering revenge from the party which is currently in the minority.

The Democratic Congress has made no attempt to restore any of the civil liberties abrogated by this administration, or to restore any of its own power usurped by this president.

And if the president is wise, he'll allow all this to shift, and take some of the credit.

You just have to laugh at that pipe dream. The one thing this president has never been accused of is wisdom. He has always been and will always be an ideologue and will pursue his personal goals monomaniacally.

And if the country is wise, they'll pick a successor who can unite the country around a prudent path forward.

Has Sullivan read or listened to any part of the presidential primaries? Uniting the country is the very last thing on the mind of any of the major candidates, and prudent paths forward have not been proposed by any one of them. They are without exception fearmongering in the mold of the current president and preaching about leaving “no options off the table” in the name of keeping us safe from something that has not harmed us in the last six years.

Statements beginning "if the president is wise","if the country is wise" and "Mukasey has a chance" are not probative of one's cause in writing an article titled The System is Working. They are nothing more or less than wishful thinking.

The system may yet work and, yes, there are a few signs that it is beginning to stir into life. I want it to do so, and I certainly have hope that it will. But this administration still has a full year left in office, and this Congress is still behaving in a manner more self serving than constructive.

The lawyers have finished, and the jury is still out.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Profoundly Stupid

There's beginning to be some thinking that she might not be our next president, but this kind of pronouncement tends to make me think that Hillary Clinton is a fitting successor to the current one.

Defending her vote on the Kyl-Liebermann amendment, she claimed that declaring the Iranian Republican Guard as a terrorist group has already changed their behavior by causing them to quit attacking American troops and sending weapons to Iraq.

1. The amendment did not declare them a terrorist group, it merely suggested that the president do so. Which he did not.

2. There is no actual evidence that they have been attacking American troops and arming Iraq, other than the unsupported word of, um, George Bush, whom even she claims is a serial liar.

3. What evidence can she provide that it was that vote of the Senate that led to the Republican Guard ceasing to do that of which there was no proof that they were doing to begin with?

Okay, I will admit that #3 was not very clearly worded, but neither was Senator Clinton's position.

Update: as it occurs to me

With respect to #1: you think the preznit is ever going to do anything that the Senate "suggests" to him? Get real.

Decision Making for Dummies

Here’s a part of the latest NIE that stands out to me:

Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.

I wonder if a similar section of another government’s NIE regarding the U.S might read something like:

Our assessment that the U.S. instigated its war in Iraq regardless of international pressure and has been similarly pressing for war in Iran under equally false pretenses indicates Washington’s decisions are not guided by a cost-benefit approach but rather consist of a rush to war irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.

The latest NIE does not surprise me in the least, but its publication and the reaction to it by all and sundry, particularly by George Bush, saddens me to the core. To have our highest elected official not only revealed as a gross and serial liar, but as a completely unabashed and smugly unrepentant one, is a serious blow to a once proud nation.

And there is still a full year to go. God help us all.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Football Observations

Updated below

An observation about Chicago Bears fans. In most stadiums (stadia?), when the home team is down by 17 points with 8 minutes left in the game the stands will begin emptying in droves. That would be especially true if the home team offense had been playing flat for the entire second half. It looked to me like not one single fan had left the house when the Bears tied the game, and then won in overtime. Those are some kind of loyal fans.

Again, the local writers are losing sight of just who the Chargers beat last week, and are suggesting we will win in a walk today against a team that held the Colts to 13 points two weeks ago. I no longer make predictions on the Chargers, but I’m not quite as sanguine as our local pundits. Depends on which team got on the plane.

I am so sick of the grandstanding of one Shawne Merriman, who treats us to his “Lights Out” sack dance and literally pounds himself on the chest after making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. “Um, Merriman, no one even attempted to block you on that play. Pretty much anyone in the NFL can tackle someone who is standing still when no one tries to prevent them from doing so.” There are many in the NFL who are as good or better at playing football as this egotistic jerk, and there are hundreds who are far better men.

I am a big fan of Philip Rivers, have been since he was drafted, but someone needs to take him in hand. Even in a winning cause last week he was unimpressive. Nick Canepa asked “…would you rather have an excitable quarterback, or one who comes off the field hanging his head?” Well, Nick, those are not the only two choices. I’d actually rather have a professional.

If you watch Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, every single pass is precisely on target. Quarterbacks like these either throw the ball away or they hit their receiver precisely where they mean to do so. Rivers hits the receiver in full stride part of the time, but too many of his completions are made because the receiver made an athletic grab of a pass that was just a bit off-target. You cannot throw with deadly accuracy when you are excited; that kind of throwing comes from being professionally calm and in control. Rivers doesn’t seem to be growing in that direction.

Chargers are playing at Arrowhead Stadium today. Buckle up.

Update: Tuesday 9PM

Finally, a deserved win. Still some problems with the aerial part of the offense, but look what happens when you (a) keep attacking them with the best running back in The League and (b) turn the dogs loose on defense. Rivers needs to graduate from grade school, though.

Tomorrow I will comment on the total lack of sanity in Washington.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

No bad deed...

The administration is now finalizing a plan to rescue people who are in danger of losing their homes due to the resetting of interest rates on loans that were taken out with low initial, “teaser” interest rates. The plan is that the loans will be frozen at the lower rate for several years.

I’m no economist, so I don’t know what effect this plan will have on the economy of the country, nor do I know what the effect would be of letting those loans be foreclosed. What I do know is this.

For years I have been receiving advertising importuning me to refinance my home and take out money to finance a “better lifestyle,” telling me how much money I could save with lower payments. Knowing that there is no such thing as a free lunch, I ignored those ads and stayed with my 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. I felt that doing otherwise was financially reckless.

If nothing else, people who took out loans they could not afford were guilty of bad judgement in that they accepted advice on a major financial decision from someone who was a total stranger to them.

My reward is that people who took out those bad loans, either through greed or ignorance, are now paying a lower interest rate than I am, thanks to a government that rewards greed and punishes thrift and financial conservatism.

So this plan not only rewards bad behavior, it punishes those who decided not to engage in that bad behavior. Which brings me to the title of this piece, the credo of our present government:

No bad deed goes unrewarded.