Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trivial Debate

Last debate? I hope so. This was even more lame than its predecessors.

When a “debate” is reduced to one of the participants sarcastically complaining about getting the first question and offering her opponent a pillow…

That was more easily tolerated than the utterly absurd “gotcha” questions asked by Russert. “If Al Queda established a base would you reinvade…” I’m surprised he did not ask “Have you yet stopped beating your wife?”

The thing I found most offensive came from Senator Clinton, who decries the sexism card being played by others. Obviously Senator Obama cannot say “If I am elected I will be the first Black president so I can change the things that get done and who gets to do them.” But she can say that about being the first woman president.

She’s certainly not one to seek a level playing field. And I do rather wish she would be more specific about what it is that she is going to let women do after she is elected. As a man, I find her promise a little bit frightening. My wife is a charter member of the National Organization of Women, so I'm used to that sort of thing to a degree, but coming from the White House...

And… Did she just promise an all-female administration?

Back to Russert's atrocity. I extracted the following from a letter posted at Eric Alterman's Media Matters blog.
But plenty of time for a three-rail shot about Obama, his pastor, and Farrakhan, whose name I swear I have not heard twice in the past decade. (Marty Peretz hears it through the fillings in his teeth, but that's another matter.) That stuff was truly rank. What in the name of god does the relationship of Obama's pastor to Louis Farrakhan have to do with being president of the United States? (...) The only reason to bring up Farrakhan was to play the Scary Negro card. At this point the lines between hackery and shillery form a perfect right angle and stretch on to infinity. And, by the way, it would help MSNBC's campaign to become the Scourge Of Public Bigots if it didn't keep putting Pat Buchanan on my TV screen every 11 seconds.

And all of this was coming from an alleged tough-guy who admitted to Bill Moyers that he got suckered on Iraq because NOBODY CALLED HIM. A guy who anyway said under oath that, if a government official calls him, he presumes the conversation is off the record. A guy of whom the vice-president's aide said under oath that his show was the administration's best platform for launching bullsh*t into the media stratosphere.


Tim took his cue from Richard Cohen in the Washington Post column:
Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrakhan.

Except, Tim got the facts wrong on top of it. Wright didn't say Farrakhan epitomized greatness, that was a part of the Trumpet Magazine award to Farrakhan. Wright is the CEO of the magazine, but his daughter Jeri is the publisher. While those ties might be relevant, it's very different from Jeremiah Wright saying that. And, in fact, the magazine split off from the congregation in September of 2005.

So. Obama has to anyone's knowledge never said a kind or complimentary word about Farrakhan. A magazine which was formerly part of Obama's church, but no longer is, gave an award to Farrakhan and part of the award citation says that the recipient "truly epitomized greatness." Somehow that translates in Tim Russert's little brain to an assumption, which must be three times denounced by Obama, that Obama believes that Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

No wonder Bush & Co. rely on Russert to disseminate bullfeathers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fear of Failure

The greatest fear is not that we will be inadequate.
The greatest fear is that within us lies greatness,
and that we will not live up to it.

Health Care Plans

Well, last night I listened to one more endless lengthy long, drawn out argument discussion on the relative merits of the health care plans being touted by the two Democratic candidates for president. I’m not sure why these two feel the need to argue so passionately over plans which differ in such minor ways and which offer so little benefit to the people of this country. These plans consist of putting two slightly different shades of lipstick on a very ugly pig.

Deductibles. Copays. “Reasonable and customary.” Pre-existing.

If you don’t know what any of these terms mean it’s because you live in a country where health care is provided, rather than one where health insurance is the norm. The two terms get used interchangeably these days, but they are by no means the same thing and, in fact, they are in many ways in opposition.

Health care is the prevention and treatment of illness and injury.

Health insurance is where you pay money while you are not sick to not get health care when you are sick. Because you had to first pay the deductible, and you were without funds at the moment. Because the copay was more than you could afford right now. Because the specialist you needed to see charged more than the “reasonable and customary rate” as determined by the insurance company.

Health insurance is where you enter into a contract with a corporation that you will pay a monthly premium and they will then pay for the health care that you need. You keep your end of the contract and they frequently do not. Instead of demanding that they treat you as the customer that you are when that happens, you beg and plead with them to grant you some sort of largesse.

No country in the world spends more on the treatment of illness and injury and gets less for their money, and the reason is health insurance.

My father used to say, “Don’t piss in my ear and tell me it’s raining.”

Well right now we have Obama pissing in our one ear and Clinton in our other ear and they are chanting in unison, “Whoo hoo, it’s raining and I have a better umbrella.”

Both candidates say their plans offer universal health care and both candidates are lying because both plans address universal health insurance and not universal health care. Under both plans it will remain true that in this country you will not get health care unless you can pay for it, either in cash or by means of an insurance policy. An insurance policy, please note, which you were able to pay for so either way money rules.

Both plans offer subsidies to help pay for the cost of health insurance, but that money comes from the pockets of the taxpayers so I fail to see how that is helping the taxpayers. Both plans claim to have measures to reduce the cost of insurance, but the specifics are unclear and enforcement of market controls by government has always been suspect at best.

Neither plan makes the slightest attempt to reduce the actual cost of providing health care and, in fact, both plans increase that cost by increasing the degree of regulation with a resulting increase in administrative overhead at the medical provider level.

Both plans provide enormous reward to the insurance industry: more insurance plans sold, more health care denied, more profit.

Both plans are, at best, incremental changes to a failing system.

When Hyman G. Rickover was proposing to power submarines with nuclear reactors he ran into serious opposition from conventional thinkers. He called them “oxcart planners” because he said that if they had prevailed throughout history we would still be fighting land battles with armor-plated oxcarts instead of tanks. He didn’t just change the way the submarine service was powered, though, he changed its fundamental nature.

Diesel-electric submarines were not true submarines at all, but merely ships that could submerge for limited periods. A program known as GUPPY in the 60's and 70's extended underwater periods for small percentages at a huge expense, but they were still merely ships that could submerge for limited periods. Not until Rickover rammed the nuclear power plant down the throats of the "armored oxcart" crowd did we have a true submarine - a ship that was in its element submerged.

Incremental change yields, at best, small improvement at large cost. For fundamental difference one needs to implement fundamental change.

The way health care is managed in this country needs a Hyman Rickover. We need to rid ourselves of “oxcart planners” and engage in fundamental change. We need to eliminate health insurance from health care planning in America, and start taking care of our citizens instead of rewarding our corporations.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Broken Election System

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was on MSNBC yesterday in support of Hillary Clinton, defending the distribution of a picture of Barak Obama wearing African dress. She did not directly admit that Clinton's campaign, which she referred to repeatedly as "we," released the picture, but said that the Clinton Campaign was quite okay with him being seen "wearing his native clothing" and "the clothing of his country, that's his birth nation."

No, he was born in the United States, otherwise he could not be running for president. His "native clothing" is probably, I don't know, blue jeans.

This woman illustrates just how broken our election system is, as she has actually been elected to office. With the intelligence of a carrot, and a mind the width of a 4H pencil mark, she actually won an election somewhere.

Abuse of Power

The story about McCain and the lobbyist is, so far, not quite dying down. It should not. The part about sex should, but not the part about the influence of lobbying. There is one fact that stands out in this story. It appears to be a fact, since it has been confirmed by several sources and admitted by McCain himself.

John McCain wrote three letters to the FCC on behalf of the clients of this lobbyist, clients who were also contributing cash to him. One of those letters even contained a threat to "restructure" the agency.

He did this many years after barely escaping with his political career from the "Keating Five" scandal, a scandal which involved politicians contacting a federal regulating agency on behalf of a person who was making cash contributions to those politicians.

If nothing else, McCain should be disqualified from serving as president because he is simply too stupid to learn from his mistakes.

But he does not admit to having made a mistake. He regards these more recent contacts merely as normal "Beltway Business." He insists that he has done nothing wrong, and that he was merely doing a favor for a friend. Even without the exchange of cash, such contact "on behalf of a friend" by a politician is grossly improper at best.

Without the exchange of cash it appears that he simply enjoys throwing his weight around. He has power and enjoys letting people know it and making them dance to his tune. Add the element of the exchange of cash, the campaign contributions, and it appears that he is doing favors for money; otherwise known as taking bribes.

So the best that can be said of McCain is that he abuses power.

Monday, February 25, 2008

San Diego Weather

sunny daysNo, I mean we're having San Diego weather. This is our version of winter.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Find Waldo

The paragraph below is from an editorial in today’s New York Times and is about the blessings of free trade, and about how stupid the Democratic candidates are being when they criticize the present administration’s policies. It which has no byline, which means we don’t know who wrote it. Yeah, if I wrote this I wouldn’t want to let anyone know it was me.
In a review in 2003, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that Nafta had slightly increased growth in the United States and that any disruptive effects on employment were small. Trade opens foreign markets for American producers and gives consumers more choices, while competition spurs productivity growth at home.

Let’s count the times this paragraph fails the sanity test. Find Waldo.

Waldo #1: Quoting a review that is five years old seems a bit less than realistic. How many of you folks who are looking for work in 2008 give a flying crap about what Congress thought in 2003? Yeah, I thought so.

Waldo #2: It quotes an Office of Congress which, at that time, was controlled by business interests George Bush the Republican Party.
No one would ever think for a moment that such an august body would,
oh I don’t know, lie?

Waldo #3: …disruptive effects on employment were small. These long unemployment lines do not disrupt employment, you fool. They disrupt government; but employment, while reduced, is hardly disrupted at all. Labor unions disrupt employment (with strikes, you know), which is why government is against them.

Waldo #4: Trade opens foreign markets for American producers… It certainly does, but it also allows those foreign markets to subsidize its products and manipulate currency exchange rates to keep the American producers priced out of the international market.

Waldo #5: …gives consumers more choices… Yes, indeed, it certainly does increase the degree to which our nation becomes a consumer economy, with results that are now becoming painfully apparent.

Waldo #6: …competition spurs productivity growth at home. This is enough to gag a maggot. If the “opening foreign markets” part of this fairy tale were true in any part, there would be no “competitive spur.” Productivity growth is a whole different issue which I will address in a future post, but this Waldo consists of telling the manufacturer “I’m going to help you by making your life harder.”

Six Waldos in a mere two sentences.    Never argue with idiots...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Sunday Thought

Sunday's thought for the day. I know, it's Saturday, but I'm saving myself time tomorrow. Not that I'm doing anything special tomorrow, but...

Never argue with idiots.
They will drag you down to their level,
and beat you with experience.

Food Blogging

When my wife called home to ask what we were having for dinner and I told her “old clothes” she was singularly unimpressed. She has changed her mind, and now wants to know when I’m going to make it again.

The name of this dish is Spanish for “old clothes” and comes from the appearance of the meat after it has been shredded. I got the recipe from the San Diego Union-Tribune, and have modified it only slightly. I hope you have a crock pot.

For my Progressive friend in Chicago, this one has no ginger.

Ropa Vieja

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
½ cup water
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp ground Cumin
½ tsp leaf Oregano
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 medium onion
2 lbs skirt steak or flank steak
1 large red Bell pepper
1 large green Bell pepper
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

Put the first nine ingredients in the crock pot and stir to combine. Peel the onion, quarter it, and then slice it thin and add it to the pot. Add the beef to the pot: no need to brown it or anything, just plunk it in there.

Rinse the peppers, core them, quarter them lengthwise, slice them into pieces about the size of a nickel and dump them on top of the beef.

Put the canned tomatoes in a bowl, add another teaspoon of garlic (I know, that makes three teaspoons of garlic, but trust me), and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Stir to blend and dump that on top of the peppers in the pot.

Put the cover on the pot and set it on low and go to work. Let that puppy simmer on low for 8-10 hours.

To serve, first go fishing for the meat and put it in large serving bowl (by itself) and use a couple of forks to pull it into shreds. Spoon the rest of the contents of the pot into the bowl and mix it up nicely.

Beautiful. Serve with rice.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Clinton's Moment

It will not come as a big surprise to most of my readers to know that I was on the debate team in high school. I actually captained it my senior year (blush). I was also a starting linebacker on the football team. That was a pretty unusual combination in those days and nobody knew quite what to make of it, least of all me.

Anyway, the debate “resolution” was picked by a set of judges and whether you were assigned to argue in support of that resolution or against it was not your choice, so not infrequently you found yourself defending positions that you did not really support personally. That did not mean that you did not defend them with all of your resources, since you did have a personal desire to win the debate. I always liked it better when I got assigned the “side” of a debate resolution that agreed with my personal convictions, but I enjoyed the debate regardless.

Once in a while my opponent would really nail me with an argument. Those moments were always a kick for me. Yes, I’d lost my point, but I still felt a fierce joy that I had just witnessed something really cool. In a way it was a bigger kick than making a winning argument myself. I expected winning arguments from myself. They were in my notes and I had planned them, led up to them and knew they were coming. When they came from my opponent they were like revelations. I could never help smiling at him/her.

Last night there were moments when it seemed to me that Senator Clinton was carrying out an assignment. She was told to hit Senator Obama on the plagiarism thing, but it looked to me like that was just sort of her “assigned side” of that issue. (The audience wasn’t too thrilled with that one either.)

At one point she went after him on the “empty words” thing and he turned it around to say that in effect she was not insulting him with that accusation, but rather was saying that all the millions of people supporting him were too stupid to see beyond the empty rhetoric. It was a really good comeback, and I saw something in Clinton’s face at that moment that I could relate to.

She loved it. Did you notice? She lit up and laughed out loud. She had watched herself get hoist on her own petard by her debate opponent and she was delighted for him. Many are oohing and aahing about her closing statement, but for me this was her best moment. She was respectful of the art of debate for its own sake, and I have never seen her in a more human moment.

A Pox On All Their Houses

On one issue all of the Washington circle of elite seem to have come to agreement; there needs to be a plan to "rescue" people who have taken out loans that are now larger than the value of the homes that they own. Details differ, but Bush, McCain, Obama and Clinton all agree. The plans all have one thing in common: they all involve using TPM.

TaxPayer's Money

TPM is my money. I didn't make a stupid gamble with my money. I didn't succumb to greed with my money. I didn't engage in dishonesty with my money. I don't want my money to be used to rescue those who did. I don't want the government to take money away from me and give it to people who have lied and cheated and acted with greed and stupidity. I don't want government forcing me to lose so that liars and thieves and idiots gain.

Those who encourage such a bailout play the game by placing a poor elderly widow in front of the camera who refinanced to pay her dying husband's medical bills and was so legally blind that she could not read the contract. Fine, rescue her.

But she is one small part of a vast and hugely dishonest market. Do not claim that she is typical and use her as an excuse to "rescue" charlatans and by so doing steal from me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Use of Power

I can’t tell you how many recovering alcoholics I’ve heard say that each time they drank they did so with the belief that “This time I’m not going to get drunk.” That’s always rather bemused me, because I never had that thought in my drinking days. I always knew that I was going to get drunk; why else would I drink? My thought was that, while I was indeed going to get drunk, I was not going to do anything stupid. I sort of missed the point that getting drunk is, itself, pretty stupid; especially when one does it on a regular (i.e. daily) basis. Plus, of course, I pretty much always did something stupid in addition to getting drunk.

Politicians are, I think, much the same with the use of power. They always think, “This time I’m not going to use my power stupidly.” They fail to realize that using power at all is stupid. It doesn’t matter how one uses it or what one does with it, the use of it at all is just plain dumb and self-destructive. Power is one of those things that one needs to have and never, ever actively make use of.

In the 1980’s John McCain was great pals with a slime named Charles Keating. Keating was his patron and showered him with campaign funds, rides on his private jet, parties at his mansion… Keating owned a Savings and Loan which, as was the fashion then, was thoroughly corrupt in its management practices. The Fed, which in those days actually did regulate, was closing in on Keating so Keating asked five of his powerful political allies to contact the Fed and tell them to back off, which they did.

One of the “Keating Five” was John McCain and, for reasons I have never understood, he got off with a minor slap on the wrist. But there is no question that he did contact a federal regulatory agency on behalf of a person who had been providing him with cash donations. Whether or not McCain made argument in favor of that person does not matter: any such contact is hugely improper regardless of the nature of that contact.

McCain claimed then that he had learned his lesson and certainly would never do anything like that again. Except, as we learned in the New York Times yesterday he not only did, but did more than once.

Whether or not he had sex with this lobbyist matters to Cindy McCain; it certainly does not matter to me. The contacts he had with a federal regulatory agency on behalf of a person who had been providing him with cash donations at her behest matter to me quite a lot because they speak to his qualification to serve in this nation’s highest office.

This issue is not trivial and should not be put to rest with his brush-off.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Men With Banjos...

...who know how to use them. This is the Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

And Steve Martin can do more than comedy.

If you are having lag time issues, click on the "YouTube logo and it will take you directly to the clip. Note that YouTube will be down for maintenance on Wednesday starting at 5:00PM Pacific Time.

Weather Blogging

wet weatherThe La Nina condition means drought for San Diego, right? Oh sure.

What if...

It is looking more and more unlikely, but what if Senator Clinton were to win the nomination? Her whole shick is that "I'm tested, I'm vetted, I'm ready, I have the experience. I am the only one with the experience to be this nation's Commander-In-Chief." All that good stuff. She has, by her claim, thirty-five years of experience.

Her opponent will be Senator John McCain who has, oh, somewhere around two hundred years experience.

Suddenly her pitch would have to become something like, "You need to have experience, but not too much experience. She would also have to claim that actually serving in the military is... Oh well.

Update 1:15 PM

Bruce, in the comment says And speaking of "vetting and tested" - Mr. McCain has them all beat there...

And what the hell has John McCain ever "managed" or run. To the best of my knowledge he was never even a squadron commander in the Navy, so the most he ever "managed" was a single airplane, and apparently he was something of a hotdogger at doing that.

They are all, of course, full of it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Unforgivable Behavior

The torture debate not only continues, it continues to grow more and more heinous every day. The New York Times revealed in an op-ed Sunday that there is a connection between the torture that we have been inflicting and the decision to seek the death penalty for six of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Morris Davis, an Air Force colonel who was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2005 to 2007 writes, in part,
My policy as the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo was that evidence derived through waterboarding was off limits. That should still be our policy. To do otherwise is not only an affront to American justice, it will potentially put prosecutors at risk for using illegally obtained evidence.

Unfortunately, I was overruled on the question, and I resigned my position to call attention to the issue — efforts that were hampered by my being placed under a gag rule and ordered not to testify at a Senate hearing. While some high-level military and civilian officials have rightly expressed indignation on the issue, the current state can be described generally as indifference and inaction.

I am stunned and unutterably saddened that my nation, the nation whose uniform I once wore with pride, not only tortures but uses evidence obtained by torture in an effort to put men to death.

To prosecute those who have committed crimes against this nation is fitting and proper. The death penalty is arguable. To use in support of the death penalty evidence obtained by means of torture is unforgivable and unacceptable under any circumstances.

This is not the behavior of a civilized nation. This is the behavior of a nation governed by thugs and criminals. This is the behavior of a nation governed by an Idi Amin, not by a successor to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

This. Must. Not. Stand.

We have accepted much from this thug who presently occupies and disgraces our nation’s highest office. We must not accept this. I have written my Representative in Congress and both of the Senators from my state, urging in the strongest possible civil terms that they put a stop to this atrocity, and I beg you to do likewise.

Colonel Davis deserves our utmost respect for his dedication to human decency and for resigning his command so that, freed from the quicksand of military disciplinary restraint, he could speak out against this national disgrace. We owe it to him, to ourselves, and to every man and woman who has given a life in the service of this nation to join him in demanding that this outrage be prevented.

This is the point at which we must demand, “Enough. No more.”

Light Hits

A post at Daily Kos yesterday, entitled Calm Before the Storm begins with the following,
It has now been 2 hours, 54 minutes and 56.85 seconds since FISA ceased to exist and I'm looking out my window now, not exactly sure where the terrorists plan to strike. Even scarier is the fact the defeatocrats set the bill to expire on Nova Scotia time, like a cruel joke before the end comes. Still, I remain firm and resolved to survive the upcoming assaults. No doubt the terrorists are sending flurries of emails to each other even now, organizing to strike the heart of our nation, but come what I may I will be ready.

I've purchased several carts of bottled water, duct tape, and frozen food, along with a large supply of discounted valentine chocolate from the store.

Good stuff, worth the read.

I am reminded of a guy who used to live in our complex in 1999 named Earl C. He was all freaked out about the impending Y2K crisis; had a countdown clock on the front of his house until the HOA made him remove it. He would harangue the board about how we should hire someone who could grow crops on our land, replacing the lawns, and should fortify the gate at the entrance to our complex, which is built in a canyon.

I wonder what Earl is doing now that "FISA has expired."

And John Cole at Balloon Juice in his Sunday Open Thread closes with,
PS- I didn’t use any periods in this post because I don’t want TalkLeft to acccuse me of being sexist

My understanding is that it's the "I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches..." that TalkLeft feels makes Obama's remark sexist.
In the infamous words of a former president, "Give me a break."

I also read a post (can't find it now) that reminded me of George Bush referring to 9/11 as the "worst attack on our soil in America's history."
Um, George, the British once burned your house.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bach on Banjo

Thanks to Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast.

Notice the audience; they aren't even breathing. And there is a passage at about 3:11 that pretty much takes my breath away.

A Process Corrupted

The following, excerpted from an AP story here, illustrates just how corrupt our electoral process is.
Ickes explained that his different position essentially is due to the different hats he wears as both a DNC member and a Clinton adviser in charge of delegate counting. Clinton won the primary vote in Michigan and Florida, and now she wants those votes to count.

Harold Ickes is both a functioning member of the Democratic National Committee which establishes and oversees the rules for selecting a nominee, and a member of the staff of one of the persons seeking the nomination. Specifically, his function on Senator Clinton’s staff is counting the votes of delegates.

He voted to remove the Michigan and Florida delegates from the process and, now that Clinton “won” those two states, he is arguing that those delegates should be reinstated.

Of course I do not want to see Clinton as the nominee, and part of my argument here is the distaste with which I view her and her staff’s willingness to use duplicity in a winning at all costs approach. She intends to march to the sea, and if she leaves a wasteland behind her that will not bother her at all.

But in a much larger argument, it is the process itself that I would condemn for permitting this situation to exist. It would be like playing the most recent Super Bowl with one of the officials being a paid employee of the New England Patriots. (Okay, NFL fans, I’ll admit that was a cheap shot.)

Does the DNC not vet its employees? Or do they not care? Or did they establish a cadre with the intention of “stacking the deck” for their chosen nominee? Or was Clinton so firmly entrenched in her entitlement to the nomination that they simply didn’t think it mattered?

The prevailing consensus is that all of the political ills of the nation will be cured if we just put a Democrat in the White House. I have written several times why I believe that to be overly optimistic, and here is further evidence. Put a Democrat there by means of a corrupted process and in precisely what way are we better served? Clinton's argument to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations is being portrayed as a relatively minor political ploy, but I don't see it that way at all. I see it as far from minor and seriously corrupt. Is an elected official who was willing to take advantage of a corrupt process to secure nomination going to maintain purity of governmental process after they are elected?

No one who uses corruption to gain power can claim himself to be honest.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Geography Quiz

Where do you suppose this beautiful snow-capped mountain is?mountainClick on it to find out (read the url). It will surprise you.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Not Molly, but...

Hey Mom!This is, of course, not Molly but it sure looks like something she would do.

If you are not familiar with the website I Can Has Cheez Burger, you probably should bookmark it.

Junk Journalism

The blogosphere has a habit of complaining about how slanted, corrupt and biased the traditional media is; how they print stories that pursue an agenda but which have no real content; how they provide things as if they were facts but provide no real evidence.

The blogosphere would never, of course, do such a thing.

Well, read the Huffington Post once in a while, and articles like The Serpent in the Land of Lincoln.
This source was someone I know to have informational tentacles into the darkest reaches of the state's power apparatus, down numerous levels of venality into the basest depths of the state's smoke-filled rooms where the most brazen public-till fleecing schemes and scams are hatched and executed, where no-bid pockets are lined, favors granted for favors, revenge plotted and…

Anyway, I digress. In other words, he was great source.

Now that we have so accurately documented the bona fides of the source,
Put it this way: Antoin "Tony" Rezko will make MacDougal look like what he was, a small-town criminal chump. And Barak Obama's problems with this man could make Whitewater look like what it was, a low-level scam puffed up for right-wing prosecutorial purposes.
Given how business is conducted in Springpatch, and given the recent-ness of our Democratic front-runner's residence down there, and his clear and provable links to one of Illinois' latest indictment-worthy political rogues -- including involving the financing of his own house (oh yikes!) and even -- according to this source -- some distant connection to Michelle Obama's hospital work…

That’s it, folks. You now have it straight from the blog that not only should we not elect Barak Obama, we should see to it that he is thrown in jail. Thank heaven we don’t have to rely on the traditional media to do all this in-depth investigative research to protect America.

I’ll grant you that, while it occasionally provides a good article, the Huffington Post with all of its flashing yellow backgrounds can hardly be considered a serious blog site, but still…

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Congressional Line (in the Sand)

Nancy Pelosi today, explaining why the House will recess for ten days without considering the Senate version of the FISA bill (which includes immunity for the telecoms),
Yesterday, an overwhelming majority of House Democrats voted to extend the law for 3 weeks so that we would have time to reach agreements with the Senate on the FISA bill. The President and House Republicans refused to support the extension and, therefore, I think should bear the responsibility of any adverse national security consequences. I don't think that will happen. The President knows full well that he has all the authority he needs to protect the American people.

The underlying FISA bill gives him much of that authority. And on top of that, the orders that he has issued under the Protect America Act extend for 1 year. So the President has all of the advantage of the underlying FISA law and all of the advantage of modernization that the Protect America Act brought forth....

Franklin Roosevelt, as you know, something that every school child in America knows, said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. And President Bush tells the American people that he has nothing to offer but fear, and I'm afraid that his fear mongering of this bill is not constructive.

Now this is why we elected a Democratic majority.

I particularly admire the last paragraph.

Presidential & Campaign Lines

"Somewhere in the world terrorists are planning to attack our country today. Their goal is to produce death and devastation that will make 9/11 seem pale by comparison."

I think he probably meant "...terrorists are planning today to attack our country." But maybe he meant to say what he said, as it might be more fear-inducing to anyone who believed the import of it.
Clinton is running her first negative ad against Obama. It castigates him for not being willing to debate her on television in Wisconsin (with the WI primary pending). Meanwhile, she is campaigning in Texas while he is also campaigning, in Wisconsin.

Negative campaigns work, of course, but I'm not sure this one is well timed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Bill Kristol was on A Daily Show last night. Remember how it was predicted that the Iraquis would shower our troops with flowers? Kristol says they are doing that now. Um, Bill: news flash. Flowers don’t explode.
Clinton criticizes Obama for voting “present” in the Illinois legislature. At least he was present. There were 99 senators on the floor doing business regarding the privacy of American citizens and immunization of lawbreaking corporations yesterday. I won’t name names, but the one that was missing has the initials HRC, and was campaigning in Texas.

Do we really want to elect to higher office someone who does not consider it important to fulfill the duties of her present office? An office to which she has already been elected and which she swore an oath to “faithfully execute”? She cannot possibly claim that this was not an important vote.
Congress is investigating steroids in baseball, with subpoenas being enforced and threats of imprisonment. They are also investigating whether or not one football team was spying on another. Marion Jones used steroids and went to jail. Congress starts to investigate the political firing of attorneys general; the White House tells them “no” and they drop it. The White House says they will not investigate the use of torture and Congress says okay. It is demonstrated that the White House and several large corporations broke the law and Congress passes laws legalizing the actions and immunizing past actions.

This Congress will not tolerate cheating at sports, but defecating on the constitution is quite okay. This, you will note, is a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party.
The plan for economic recovery is to put a relatively small amount of money into the hands of people who will spend it and, by some as yet undefined ledgedermain, to keep people in those homes that they still cannot afford without allowing the value of those homes to drop.

But the booming economy has been debt-based, and this stimulus plan uses money borrowed from future generations.

If the well runs dry you can obtain more water by digging the well deeper. But when the aquifer runs dry no amount of digging will prevent you from dying of thirst. We’ve dug the well deeper and deeper. Is the aquifer dry?
Blue Cross of California has been sending letters to doctors to obtain the doctors’ help in dropping people from their health insurance coverage plan. All very illegal and the doctors are outraged.

But the solution to our healthcare crisis is to make sure that every one has health insurance. Not health care, health insurance.
Has anyone noticed just how many countries and places in the world are torn apart by war and strife these days? Iraq, of course, tops the list but there’s also Somalia, East Timor, Java, Darfur, Kenya, Palestine, Israel, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Nepal, Lebanon…

There are certainly more that I’ve missed.
Stock car racing (NASCAR) designed a new type of car about two years ago for safer and, supposedly, more competitive racing. It was to be phased in over a two-year period and was called the “Car of Tomorrow.” That period has passed and the car is being used in all of the races this year, but it’s still being called the “Car of Tomorrow.” The races in which it has appeared have not been noticeably competitive.

It is also being called the “Crap of Today” and some other names which are even less complimentary.
"The world is populated entirely by idiots except for me and you my dear
  friend, and sometimes I'm not too sure about you."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Economic Policy

An editorial in the New York Times really got my blood boiling yesterday. You think you’ve seen me become outraged in these posts in the past, but you have seen nothing yet. That was just a warm up. We’ll get to that editorial in a minute, but first some background.

The working class in this country (yes, this has become a country of social and economic classes) is not doing well. Here are a few facts that illustrate just how unwell the working class is doing:
1. After correcting for inflation, weekly wages were just 1.9% higher in 2007 than in 2001.

2. Seven million more people were without health insurance in 2006 than in 2001.

3. After correcting for inflation, median household income in 2006 was down 2.0% from its 2000 level, and down 8.0% for black families.

4. U.S. inequality reached levels not seen since the 1920s as from 2001 to 2005 the average real (inflation-adjusted) income rose 34.8% for the richest 1% of households, rose just 0.8% for the middle fifth of the population, and fell by 3.0% for the poorest fifth.

5. And corporate profits skyrocketed 12.8% per year during the past five years.

This came about, in no small part, as a result of George W. Bush’s “ownership society,” which was a scam of monumental proportions. His plan was to make everyone believe that they were part of the “owning class” of this country so that they would not balk at the policies which moved wealth away from massive portions of the population and into the hands of the wealthiest 1%, his cronies and financial supporters.

If you own stock then you are part of the “ownership society” and you are not going to object to policies which enhance the value of that stock. Bush, then, can blind you to the fact that he is not enhancing your wages, that he is increasing your debt burden and the debt burden of your nation, and that he is vastly enriching himself and his cronies. He can do this by chanting his mantra of “ownership society” and reminding you that he is enhancing the value of your two shares of Disney.

He also conned you into buying a house that you cannot afford so, in addition to your two shares of increasingly-valuable Disney, you also own a $400,000 home which carries a $600,000 mortgage on which you can no longer meet the payments. But don’t worry, son, because you are part of the “ownership society.”

And part of the reason you can’t meet your house payments is that your income has only gone up by 0.8% in the last six years while the banker who handled the loan has enjoyed a 34.8% increase, and his bank has enjoyed a whopping 80% increase in profit. The financial broker who sold you the loan has enjoyed a several-hundred percent increase in income and pays income tax at something like half the marginal rate that you do..

But it’s all good says the Federal Reserve in an op-ed yesterday printed in the New York Times. Inequality isn’t as bad as it looks because, while the upper class may be making 100 times as much income as you are, they are spending a mere 4 times as much as you are.

Wealth isn’t measured by how much money you shovel into the bank, it’s measured by how many effing dvd players you buy.

Read this excerpt and weep (or gnash your teeth),
The bottom fifth earned just $9,974, but spent nearly twice that — an average of $18,153 a year. How is that possible? A look at the far right-hand column of the consumption chart, labeled “financial flows,” shows why: those lower-income families have access to various sources of spending money that doesn’t fall under taxable income. These sources include portions of sales of property like homes and cars and securities that are not subject to capital gains taxes, insurance policies redeemed, or the drawing down of bank accounts. While some of these families are mired in poverty, many (the exact proportion is unclear) are headed by retirees and those temporarily between jobs, and thus their low income total doesn’t accurately reflect their long-term financial status.

So if you are selling your car to feed your family, it’s all good.

Phhht, phhht, *#@#!#&**#^$&*#*^%$*, phhhht.    #!

Unless, of course, you’re part of that “unclear exact proportion” of those whose “low income total doesn’t accurately reflect their long-term financial status.”

I remember the days (happily long past) when, after I got fired from one job and before I managed to find a new one, I referred to myself as being “temporarily between jobs.” It’s also known as being unemployed. These days that condition can last for many months, is often by no means voluntary, and obtaining “access to spending money” by “drawing down bank accounts” is a considerably more pernicious method of dealing with that condition than the Fed suggests it is.

The Fed is supposed to be non-political. Nobody has ever really believed that, of course, but there was always a sort of civilized pretense maintained to that effect. Now even that has been stripped away by this administration. Read this op-ed piece and you can realize just how transparently this administration is using the Fed to pursue a desperate attempt to salvage its last year in office.

For many years whenever I have read stories about athletes holding out for enormous amounts of money, offered dozens of millions and declining it to demand more, I have wondered what the point was. They have been offered more money that they could possibly spend in a lifetime and declined it as being insufficient. That is simply incomprehensible to me. Why would someone want to have so much money that even the most sybaritic lifestyle could not deplete it?

The Fed seems to support my question, doesn’t it? With the theory outlined in it’s op-ed it claims that wealth beyond what is consumed is not actually wealth at all, and that it might as well not be accumulated at all. Wealth is measured, after all, not by accumulation but by consumption.

The Fed also betrays the myth of the “ownership society” in this op-ed piece. This administration does not want any money to be saved or invested in ownership. It wants money to be spent to rescue it from the economic disaster it created. (Not that any forseeable amount of consumer spending will accomplish that goal.) By postponing the recession for just one year, if it can do that, this administration can blame its own malfeasance on its successor.

You, too, can be wealthy. All you have to do is spend more money. You don't need to make more income, making money is missing the point.
You need to spend more. You can obtain funds by selling property and "drawing down bank accounts" to achieve the wealth you desire. What are you waiting for? Start now. Go shopping.

God help us all.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Follow the Flag

flagWhen you have an ocean on one side of you and a desert on the other, which way the flag is blowing is a matter of no small significance. There is a nice big flag at an auto dealer near our home, and checking it’s direction is automatic every time we drive by. It’s a better weather forecast than you can get on television. Right now it’s blowing toward the ocean. Desert breeze is warm and dry, temp is in the high seventies and the sky is totally free of clouds. If this were a little earlier in the year we would be worried about fire, but after all the rains the past few weeks that is not an issue. I can deal with this.

With this forecast to last for a week or more I took my car to the car wash the other day, something I have not done in quite a few weeks. Now driving it is sort of freaking me out. What happened to my window glass? I’m not sure I like this. Now that I can see things I realize that, omg, there are cars everywhere out there, and they are going really fast! Yikes.

Driving on San Diego freeways is not for the faint of heart. It’s easier, albeit likely somewhat more dangerous, when your car windows are really dirty.

That thought probably reflects a lack of good sense on my part.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Minor Annoyances

About half a dozen or so blogs that I read on a daily basis now have some sort of script that hangs up my computer. When I go to the blog the computer freezes for about 20-30 seconds, sometimes more like 60, and I cannot even close the browser until a popup appears that advises me that a script has "stopped running or is busy" and asks if I want to stop the script. I suspect it is some sort of advertising thing, since all of the blogs that it occurs on have advertising on them.

Other blogs, ones that don't have this script, have lots of ads and load very slowly at times. When there is a long wait for a load and I look at the lower left of the browser the advisory is always something like "Waiting for" Notice that the advertising loads before the content does, so I can't be reading anything interesting while I'm waiting for the ads to load.

Now you know why there is no advertising on my blog.

The anti-virus program that I use updates daily at about 9AM, and lately it has decided that I must restart my computer after the update. It used to do that about 1 out of every 100 times, now it does it every single day. Do they know how long it takes to restart a Windows computer? Are they trying to annoy me into buying some kind of upgrade to the program?

I wish political commentators would quit saying there is "no difference of policy" between Obama and Clinton. Why bother with a primary campaign if that is the case? There are many of us that believe there is a significant difference between "Yes I will talk to the leaders of nations we don't like" and "No I won't talk to them until they have done what we want them to." (Obeyed our orders.)

On the other hand, if these are the worst things I can think of to complain about, I would say my life is going pretty well.

Friday, February 08, 2008

What Kind of Society

What kind of society do I want? I want one with people like Jill who posts at Brilliant at Breakfast. I'm not going to quote from her post today because then you might not go over there and read the whole thing, and that would be your loss. I'll give you just a little hint,
"...isn't what we want a society free of gender and racial bias?"

Yeah, but she says it better than I would. Go read it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lines That Inspire

I don't need to tell you who said these:

This election campaign is different. It's not different because of me. It's different because of you.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Today's Worst Person

Keith OlbermannI watch Keith Olbermann regularly, and I recommend his show to you. It has some really lame aspects to it, but for the most part I enjoy it.

Last night we had to give him his moment, as he was one of the very few people in the world who predicted that the Giants would win the Super Bowl. Not only did he make that prediction, but he made it based on the ability of Eli Manning to create fourth-quarter comebacks. So it’s fitting enough that he give himself a minor shoulder injury patting himself on the back.

But he wasn’t willing to settle for that. Oh, no. Manning, according to Olbermann, made not one but two fourth quarter comebacks.

Give me a break you self-adulatory egomaniac. The go ahead score with eleven minutes left was barely into the fourth quarter and was not the result of any kind of hurry-up offensive playmaking. You can’t settle for being right, you egotistical idiot, you have to be some kind of hyper-right.

And then you have to carry your anti-Fox crusade into the sporting arena.

In case you didn’t see the show last night, Olbermann created some kind of fairy tale about Brady’s ankle having been a seriously hampering influence throughout the game. Olbermann claimed that Brady could not either plant or pivot on the ankle and that he saw it clearly as he watched the game.
"I saw it" he said, and then proceeded to blast Fox for not saying anything about it during the broadcast of the game.

Fox didn’t say anything about it because it didn’t happen. I didn’t see it. No one I have talked to saw it. Not one sportswriter in any publication I have read has written a single word about Tom Brady’s ankle. Not one single teammate has said a single word about Tom Brady’s ankle.

Keith Olbermann is the only one who saw it, because Keith Olbermann made it up. He invented it out of his fevered imagination in order to promote his personal, maniacal vendetta against Fox News Corp.

And in so doing he belittles the accomplishment of the New York Giants, in effect saying that they won because their defense was playing against an understrength Patriots team. Shame on you, sir!

Keith Olbermann: today’s Worst Person in the World.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl Comment

I was watching the game without any emotional investment in the outcome until that red flag hit the field. At that moment I knew who I wanted to win, and it wasn't the team coached by a chicken-crap piece of garbage who dresses like a thug and has the morals and behavior to match his attire. Watching him leave the field with his tail between his legs before the game was even officially over was the best moment of the entire NFL season.

To use the protest flag because an opposing player was a mere foot short of clearing the field of play before the ball was snapped displayed just how little regard Belichek has for the game he coaches. Accepting advantage from a penalty called by an official is one thing. Seeking advantage from a marginal and uncalled penalty by means of the protest flag is simply unconsionable. It displays just how willing he is to abuse the rules to seek advantage; to place winning over decency and sportsmanship.

This piece of slime is an affront to all who love the game of football. He dishonors the field that has felt the footsteps of men named Lombardi and Halas and Walsh. He is an insult to the men who toil and sweat to play the game for the fans. Rumor has it that some new taping episodes have surfaced, and Roger Goodell will do a great disservice to the game if he does not ban this garbage from coaching for life.

The Giants played a great game, particularly on defense. They went toe-to- toe with a record-breaking offense. They said "We are not afraid of any of your receivers, and we do not fear your quarterback." They took New England on at the line of scrimmage and beat them. It was a joy to watch.

If you took the phrases "you know" and "I mean" away from Troy Aikman he would be unable to speak. At times he uses them together, "The ball, I mean, you know, went 50 yards." I can remember when one of the requirements for being an announcer was that you had to be articulate.

I'm sure Keith Olbermann is going bonkers. He was one of, I believe, three people predicting a Giants win. I can't wait to see his show this evening.

Was it just me or were the blockbuster Super Bowl commercials mind-bogglingly lame this year? There was one that had a bunch of lizards dancing with a hot chick that was kind of cute, but...

So what's left now that football is done? American Idol? Oh, God...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Blogroll Amnesty Day

This phrase has cropped up on the net the past couple days, and I finally found out what it means. It has to do with how you get on the "blogroll" of the big important bloggers.

For small unimportant bloggers like me, all you have to do is ask. Send an email saying that you've added me to your blogroll and asking that I reciprocate, and I do so at once. I even send you a return email thanking you. We both gain readership and everybody comes out ahead.

But if you are a big important blogger there is only one day per year that such a request is answered, which is why most of the blogs that are on my blogroll do not have reciprocal links to my blog. I added the link and sent the email, but I didn't do it on the one day per year that the big important bloggers were open to such invitations. Who knew?

Update: Sunday, 8:00am

This post has led, directly and indirectly, to quite a lot of other bloggers who indicate an openness to reciprocal links. It will take me a few days, but I'm going to pursue those leads in some depth as I have time to do so.

Update: Super Bowl Sunday

Today I'm going to hope that both teams lose a football game: the one that knocked my team out of the Super Bowl, and the one quarterbacked by the spoiled brat who rejected my team's draft four years ago.

In SD this is regarded as the most unwatchable Super Bowl in history.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Democratic Debate

I actually watched the debate last night between Obama and Clinton, and I watched it all the way through. My blood pressure stayed at 100/60 the whole time, although I did wave my finger (I’ll let you guess which one) at the television a few times. The perception of who came out ahead is always colored in these things by the likes and dislikes of the viewer, and anyone reading this has no real doubt about my opinion of Senator Clinton. Even with that thumb on the scale, however, I thought Senator Obama did very well indeed.

My opinion of Senator Clinton is not exactly enhanced when she is asked why she formed her health care plan behind closed doors in 1993 and her response is, “Well I was trying to start the national conversation on health care.” That was one of the finger-waving moments. How, precisely, does holding meetings in secret start the national conversation? People are talking about you then, not with you about health care.

I seem to recall a similar thing with the energy issue and Cheney. That certainly served us well. What kind of “national conversation” did that start?

She also didn’t answer the question of how she is going to enforce the mandates in her plan. Neither did Obama and his plan also contains mandates, but at least it has fewer of them. For the record, I oppose government mandates of any sort because either they are accompanied by punitive measures or they are meaningless. Neither option is attractive.

Confronted with the “tax and spend” issue I liked Obama’s response. He talked about principles, about what is right for the nation, about the proper way to apply progressive taxation. Clinton talked about detail of how she will pay for her health care plan, saving “x” dollars by electronic records and so forth, but that was not the question. The question was how she would respond to the Republicans on the charge of “tax and spend.”

The main part of her campaign is that she is better equipped to go against the Republicans in the general election but when asked, here, how she would do so on a specific issue she missed the point of the question and did not answer it. Obama did answer it and his answer was not bad at all. He seemed ready for that general election battle.

On the immigration issue it seems to me that Obama’s position was significant in a couple of ways. In declining to blame job losses on immigration he is rather transparently courting the Latino vote, but I think he’s doing more than that. I think that stance is part of his “bringing people together” theme, because I don’t think this is merely a campaign slogan for him. I also respond to his position that we have to get beyond the blaming and scapegoating and deal with the bigger problem, which is the jobs that have been lost and why they have been lost.

My suspicion is that some African-American unemployment absolutely is caused by illegal immigration. So is some white unemployment. What we need to deal with is unemployment and we do that by creating decent, well-paying jobs. We don’t do that by blaming and dividing, by setting one people against another. That's the point that Obama spoke to, and I liked it.

Finally, there’s Iraq. Senator Clinton still, after all these months of the campaign, trots out the “if we knew then what we know now” meme. She still claims that "certainly I did an enormous amount of investigation and due diligence to try to determine what, if any, threat could flow from the history of Saddam Hussein being both an owner of and a seeker of weapons of mass destruction. But her "due diligence" did not include reading the then-current N.I.E.

It is not her vote that so greatly disturbs me. It is not even her refusal to admit the error of that vote that so disturbs me. The empty, patently absurd, vacuous arguments that she uses to defend that vote betray a personality that would spell disaster in a national leader.

We’ve seen that delusional self justification for the past seven years.

She also said, "I believe in coercive diplomacy." And I, most emphatically, do not. That is what starts wars. That is what started this war in Iraq.