Monday, June 30, 2008

The Problem With Polls

problem pollI would most vigorously argue the phrasing of the question, here. If posed that question I would almost certainly answer as the majority did, yet most of my readers know that I am greatly distressed by the huge and growing income inequality in this nation, that I blame our government for it, and that I strongly favor changes in government to correct it.

Yet the idea of the government taking steps to “evenly distribute wealth” strikes horror, even to a bleeding heart liberal like me.

Now if there were a box to check that read something like this:

"Take steps to stop the game being rigged to favor the wealthy."

That one I would check in a heartbeat, and I would not hesitate to check it as being more important than either of the two possibilities that they did pose. The problem with polls as that they are multiple choice tests, and the choices are rigged to provide the results desired by whoever is paying for the poll. And they don’t offer an option to check “none of the above.”

When I was in school I loved multiple choice tests. I barely had to study for them, as I could pass them if I had even a smattering of knowledge about the subject. One choice was always flagrantly wrong, another was somewhere in left field, and that left a 50/50 chance of guessing the right answer. Teachers loved them because they were easy to grade. They basically left everybody stupid.

Polls do the same thing, but worse. They misinform.

Government has increasingly shifted the tax burden away from the rich and powerful and onto the middle class. Government has increasingly deregulated the financial industry to allow it to enrich itself by preying on the middle and lower class. These moves must be reversed, but the poll refers to doing so as “taking steps to evenly distribute wealth.” Please take another poll, and make it with this question instead of the loaded question implying socialism,

"Take steps to level the financial playing field for all."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging

Kitty Weight“Oh, hi. I’m just hanging out here enforcing the law of gravity on your tee shirts. Things were looking a bit chaotic for a moment, here, but I have it under control now. I think I deserve some Spam for all this effort.”

“I have other neat things I do, too. Like when you are taking me to the vet. I’ll hang out in my carrier on the front passenger seat in absolute silence, merely looking apprehensive. I’ll wait for you to get on the freeway and get up to seventy or so. Not a sound; silent apprehension. I’ll wait until you are changing lanes and, just as you look over your left shoulder I’ll let out an ear-splitting meow that will pretty much literally scare the crap out of you.”

“Wasn’t that fun?”

“I like sitting on your desk, too, while you are writing your blog, enforcing gravity on your papers and occasionally knocking pens off your desk. Fun, fun, fun. As a special treat for you I’ll sit right behind your monitor and barf all over your computer cables.”

“I wouldn’t do that for just anybody, you know.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Countdown Carnival

Updated below: Updated again

Keith Olbermann is losing it. He has never been exactly the voice of balance and sober reason in the media, but he is becoming utterly unhinged. I watch Olbermann regularly, and my family refers to me as a “flaming liberal” (which is an exaggeration), but sometimes Olbermann
has me screaming “What?!” at the television.

He has these little voice impressions that he does of his arch enemies “Bill-o” and Rupert Murdock which may have been slightly funny the first time he did them, may have been, to a few people, but after a few hundred repetitions are simply inane. Well, no, he still thinks they are hilarious.
You see my point.

He came up with a really cool defense for Obama’s support of the new FISA bill, having to do with Obama being willing to savage the Fourth Amendment in order to pursue future criminal prosecution of the telecoms. At best that would result in a few telecom executives in jail and a weakened constitution for future generations – hardly something that a true left-winger would delight in. But there are a few pitfalls.
Barack Obama might lose the election.
Bush might pardon the telecoms on his way out.
The telecoms might find a way to prevent indictment.
Even if indicted, the telecoms might find a friendly judge.
The prosecution might lose the case.

But even if none of those pitfalls materialized, the best outcome, to repeat, would be a few telecom executives in jail and a weakened constitution for future generations.

So maybe the better course would be to not pass the bad FISA law to begin with. But Olbermann doesn’t want to hear any of that, goes on Daily Kos and calls Glenn Greenwald an idiot for suggesting it, and reiterates what a wonderful plan he has come up with. He presents this plan as if he is sure that it is what Obama plans to do, despite the fact that neither Obama or anyone on his campaign staff has so much has hinted along those lines (and despite the fact that it is actually an idiotic plan), and suggest that he cannot figure out why Obama has not defused criticism by revealing it.

He invites Markos Moulitsas, of Daily Kos, onto his show to confirm the wonderfulness of this secret plan that he has dreamed up for Obama, but that sort of backfires on him because Markos says, in part,
I don't want to hear him talk about leadership. I don't want to hear him talk about defending the Constitution; I want to see him do it.

Which leaves Olbermann sputtering in frustration. But not backing down.

Last night he was outraged that the Supreme Court would claim that an amendment to our constitution ought not be thrown out, and made Justice Scalia his “Worst Person” for the night. His claim was that the founders were very clear that the Second Amendment had to do only with maintaining a militia. He said that the “fog” over whether it pertained to militias or individuals was created by the NRA, that clearly it not only pertained exclusively to militias but that the only “arms” which were protected by that amendment were arms that were pertinent to the forming of a militia in the 18th century such as muskets, flintlocks, and black powder cannon. (I can own a cannon? Oh, no, only militias.)

I have read many arguments as to whether the Second Amendment applied to militias or individuals. There are points to be made on both sides of that discussion and (other than in Olbermann’s little mind) the issue is some distance from being fully resolved.

But to suggest that it protects only the arms that existed in 1791 is a really new and bizarre argument.

And it opens up a real can of worms. One could extend that to suggest that any person born after 1787 is not covered by the US Constitution, and any person born after 1791 is not covered by the Bill of Rights.

Or perhaps any state admitted to the US after those dates…

Update: Saturday morning
Oh good. Olbermann is so enamored of his "Obama Super Secret Plan to Prosecute the Telecoms" that he is going to provide us with one of his "Special Comment" segments on it Monday. In addition to the fact that it is an utterly stupid plan, he may have to backtrack on it since John Dean (who provided the comment that triggered the plan and "is worth 26 Olbermanns") has since said that it might not work.

An upcoming "Special Comment." I am breathless with anticipation. My wife pointed out that with my fubar lungs I am always breathless, but that is beside the point.

Update the second: later Saturday morning
If this idiot is going to claim that the only firearms protected by the Second Amendment are those which existed "in 1791, when the Bill of Rights was passed; the musket, the wheel-lock, the flint lock, the 13th century Chinese hand canon. Stuff like that." then he has to suppose that the only free speech that is protected by the First Amendment is the type that existed "in 1791, when the Bill of Rights was passed" also. That would be verbal first-person speech and the printed media, so telephone medium, radio, and the television upon which he brays this idiocy are not protected.

That ruins his "Obama Super Secret Plan to Prosecute the Telecoms" too since it involves wiretapping which, by Olberman's static constitution theory, is an unprotected form of communication and therefor not at issue.

(I know, Fourth not First is the issue. I'm emulating Olbermann.)

Olbermann needs to go back and read his scripts from before the primary campaign began, and go back to doing that kind of thing. The kind of stuff that he did before he lost his freaking mind.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Breaking The Law?

Last night on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, guest commenter Jonathan Alter made the following statement; a statement which struck me a really quite extraordinary,
Since last August we’ve been operating in an unconstitutional environment, in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, so there is tremendous urgency to get the FISA Court back into the game. Does this bill do that imperfectly? Yes. But it does do it and it restores the constitution which is a point that’s not getting made very much.

Olbermann essentially ignored that statement, merely moving on with their discussion about Obama’s campaign tactics, despite having displayed great outrage in the past that this administration might operate in a manner outside the law. Alter’s suggestion that anyone is currently violating the constitution without this new FISA law left him completely unmoved, which is a bit odd in itself.

What’s even more odd is that I cannot find any other reference in the news, on left wing blogs or on right wing blogs that suggests that “we” are violating the Fourth Amendment at this time. The Bush Administration at one time had such a program, but it stopped. Or at least it is supposed to have stopped. They want to restart it and it is my understanding that, other than immunizing the telecoms, allowing them to do so is pretty much the purpose of this new bill.

I have not read the FISA bill and, not being a lawyer, would not understand it if I did. I rely on people like the Anonymous Liberal and Glenn Greenwald, both of whom are lawyers, along with Democratic lawmakers, to describe that bill for me. Over the past few years, they have described that bill and many others with enough consistency that I have come to trust them.

What they are saying is precisely the opposite of what Alter claims.

Does Alter have information that suggests to him that the Bush Administration is so unhappy with the impediment created by the FISA Court and current law that it is ignoring those restrictions and is currently operating outside of the law? If so, then I would suggest that it is highly irresponsible of him to just casually drop a single statement to that effect into the middle of a discussion on a different topic and not insist on following it up.

If he does not, then what does he mean by this statement?

Update, minutes later
No surprise, Glenn Greenwald has more. Read it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is Rich

Bill Clinton (whom our media of all types persists in erroneously referring to as "President Clinton" or "the President" as if he is the only one we've ever had) gave an extremely short and rather tepid endorsement of Barack Obama on the day that his wife finally emerged from her, um, wherever she's been and began basking in the glow of adulation in the Senate. After losing, she goes off and sulks for a couple weeks, at the end of which time he says, "Oh I guess this Obama guy is okay."

Well it turns out, according to Marc Ambinder that Clinton is still miffed at Obama and expects the latter to come to him and ask to make up. Seems Obama criticized Clinton's presidency and slammed some of the things that Clinton has done. Here's the real treasure:
Why should Clinton embrace a guy who spent the past twelve months bashing him and his accomplishments?

Why indeed? Let's think about the Jesse Jackson comparison. Let's think about the "Give me a break" comment. Who, precisely, has been bashing who for the last twelve months?

Migod, I just found somebody with an ego bigger than Keith Olbermann's.

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Being Stimulated

My wife and I file our tax return electronically in early April every year. When a refund is due, we receive it by electronic deposit within a matter of a few days, and when we owe money (as we did this year) we mail a check.

When we did not receive our "stimulus" payment according to the schedule for electronic payment I called to inquire and was told that we would be paid by check, not by direct deposit, since we had paid our tax by check. That seemed idiotic to me, since we filed the return electronically and since writing the check and mailing it has to be more costly than making the electronic deposit, but... We are dealing with the Federal Government here. The person told me that based on my social security number the check would be mailed on or before May 30th.

Well, we are still unstimulated, so I called again. I got a recorded message saying that they are "experiencing extremely heavy traffic" and are unable to handle my call. So I looked up the number of my local office and called it. I got a recorded message saying that the office does "not provide live telephone service" and directed me to the main 800 number for the IRS. The main IRS number has one of those voice menus that tells me to press a number for "tax rebate" questions and, upon doing so, I am referred to the line that is currently overloaded.

I am now stimulated, but not economically.

Update: Tuesday, 1:15pm
I got through to an automated system which invited me to punch in my ss number and other data. A recorded message then informed me that my stimulation was scheduled to be mailed on May 30th, 2008. Seems they do not have a high level of confidence in the US Postal Service's speed record, since the message went on to say that I must wait until June 27th, 2008 to call them again because they "are unable to take any further action until that date" regarding my claim.

Thereby increasing my level of stimulation.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Publicly Financed Elections

Much blather about how Barack Obama has "destroyed public financing" for presidential elections. If he has, then I say, "Good for him."

Ever since the box on the income tax form first appeared that asks if I want to donate to public financing of presidential elections, I have checked, "no." If there was a box for "Oh hell no" I would have checked it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Demonizing Oil Again

As much as it pains me to ever agree with Karl Rove, he raised a point in the Wall Street Journal in an opinion piece on Thursday which I have raised in this blog several times having to do with oil company profits. He points out, as have I, that media of all types quotes that oil companies are making record profits without putting those profits into context, namely that they are the result of record sales, record volume of product, and record demand.

He also asks why a similar outcry is not being made against other industries which are much more profitable both in terms of percentage of profit and total amounts of profit. Rove lies a lot, of course, but we can assume that the numbers he cites are correct, since they are far too easy to check for him to be stepping into such an easy trap.

I’m not a very good graph maker, but graphs have a wonderful way of putting things into perspective. So if you will excuse my rather amateurish effort:profits chartOil companies hardly look like any kind of giant, do they?

Politicians are off and running again with simple solutions to a problem which has causes that are complex and to some degree unknown. Tax the big bad oil companies. Drill for oil on the continental shelf and in the arctic. Starve the poor to turn foodstuff into fuel. None of those, of course, require that the people of this nation make major and uncomfortable changes of lifestyle.

If you want to reduce the consumption of a commodity, you must tax those who consume the commodity, not those who produce it.

To what degree has unregulated trading influenced the rise in prices of petroleum products? Those in power decry that thought with great glibness, but they can offer no documentation to that effect, and they said the same thing about housing prices a few years ago, about energy before that, and about dotcoms a few years before that. Are they telling the truth this time?

Of course our national policy seems to be, “Tax everybody except me.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

Change You Can What?

More proof that electing Democrats is going to change little (if anything) about the way our nation is governed. Glen Greenwald is the “go to guy” on the FISA debacle in Congress, but I warn you, do not read that right after eating lunch.

And “debacle” may not be the right word, as it implies some kind of ineptness at work. This Congress is anything but inept, nor are they as cowardly as many are accusing them of being. A lot of posts I read claim that the immunization of telecoms is passing because Congress feels the need to update FISA due to fear of being blamed for an impending terrorist attack. I have no doubt that the real reason has more to do with the huge amount of money that the telecoms have poured into congressional campaign contributions.

We need leadership to change Congress, and it does not appear that we can look to a Democratic President for it. Barack Obama is remaining totally silent as this FISA bill makes its way through Congress. He has said in the past that he opposes the immunization of telecoms, but he stands aloof when Congress takes action to actually do it.

The telecoms are being immunized, the illegal spying activity of the Bush Administration is being buried even as it's power to do it is being enhanced, and Barack Obama is emulating the sound of crickets.

This is the same Barack Obama who is continuing the party’s policy of protecting its own, having taped an ad just this week supporting a Blue Dog Democrat, John Barrow, against a viable challenger in the Democratic primary in Georgia. Barrow is one of the primary backers of this latest FISA bill, and has unfailingly backed Bush’s abuse of power. Barrow’s challenger, Regina Thomas, has been quoted as saying that she decided to run against Barrow due to, "Barrow's failure to support his constituents against the encroachments of powerful Big Business interests."

Remember that Obama, in another instance of supporting the existing Democratic Party machinery against intrusion by outsiders, supported Joe Lieberman in a local primary contest against Ned Lamont.

Barack Obama is still immensely preferable over the alternative, an elderly and even less rational version of George Bush, but I am less than enchanted by his mantra of changing Washington or his claims of leadership.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MSNBC Renamed

The network has apparently renamed itself from "The Place for Politics" to the "Remembering Tim Russert Network." From 1:00 to 5:00 this afternoon (again) another marathon of that parade of whatever it is. Nothing happening in the world worth mentioning, folks, just the network's endless tribute to "The Greatest Human Being In The History Of The Universe."

And a private note to Coffee Yarn, it's actually "If it's working halfway decent I'm too damn lazy to upgrade it."

Gay Marriage

I don't have any gay friends at all, which is purely a matter of chance, so I have no strongly vested interest in my state's new gay marriage thing. I have never felt, certainly, that two people of the same sex getting married constituted any danger to me or to my marriage, and since I am against discrimination in any form I was quite pleased that the court ruled as it did.

I'm actually against any laws regarding marriage. I think laws should be about civil unions and should not discriminate whether a couple is of the same sex or not. Marriage should be a matter between the couple and that couple's church, and should be defined by that church.

Recent pictures in the news, couples beaming with happiness as they are wed, have "vested" my interest a bit more. You cannot see that much happiness and not know that something has gone right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Democratic Warmup
Prior to Gore’s endorsement of Obama last night, the Governor of Michigan was at the podium warming up the crowd. Countdown was showing her as background to the discussion of the moment, and she was nothing if not animated. She had arms waving, fists flying, fingers pointing… She was smiling a lot in the midst of her declamations, and at one point she took off her shoe and waved it around but stopped short of pounding it on the podium. There was no sound and I can’t read lips, so I have no idea what she was saying, but I was ready to go fight in her army, storm whatever battlements she need storming, whatever.

I don’t envy Gore and Obama trying to follow that act.

Speaking of Which
What’s with Gore endorsing Obama at this point in the process? Really going out on a limb, isn’t he. Given that his only other choice is…

British Surge
Which segues nicely into the outstanding valor of our intrepid allies across the pond, who timed their announcement of their Afghanistan “surge” to coincide with Bush’s visit. They are surging their troop levels by adding 250 soldiers to their forces in that country.

250 troops, not battalions, troops. Knock yourself out, England.

I guess that’s better than Iceland with its troop. Singular. But is adding 250 troops really worth an announcement? I know the British are fond of understatement, but this is carrying that trait to a bit of an extreme.

Asleep at the Switch
Lee Child has been busy writing. A new Jack Reacher novel came out this month and I didn’t know about it. How did that happen? Usually I’m at the bookstore before it opens. My wife gave me the hardcover for my birthday today. (65th) Blogging may be slow for a while.

Bad Plan
My plan as a youngster was the classic, "Die young and leave a good looking corpse." Both parts of that ship have sunk.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Leaving Earth

Saturn VI lived in Florida during the Apollo program and went to Cape Canaveral for several launches of this beauty, including the one night launch. The space shuttle cannot hold a candle to the Saturn V, it was utterly beyond imagination.

A couple of years ago I got a closeup look at the Apollo capsule in the Air and Space Museum in DC. Toggle switches. Men went to the moon in that.

The Discovery Channel is running a series When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions on Sunday nights. What a way to spend a couple of hours, reliving magic.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Meet The Press

Tim Russert was undoubtedly a good father and husband, a good friend, and a fine person. I am sure that those who knew him are upset and saddened by his death and will miss him. I, too, have lost friends and loved ones, and I feel sympathy for them.

For Tim Russert I feel nothing. I never knew him. He was a face on my television screen.

He was a face I will not miss, as I considered him an arrogant jackass.

He did not engage in an interview with the person he was facing, he played “gotcha” in a fashion to make himself appear to be smarter than his subject person. He phrased his interviews to protect those in power and to embarrass others. He lobbed softballs at those in power, and his favorite kind of question to those with lesser stature was to ask, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” and demand a yes or no answer.

In almost every deification speech aired endlessly yesterday, he was described as a “political insider and journalist” without anyone noting that the former disqualifies the latter. And political insider he certainly was. He himself admitted that any conversation he had with a person of power was confidential unless that person agreed that it was for publication - a standard that any journalist would abhor. He was Dick Cheney’s favorite mouthpiece. Any time that Cheney wanted a piece of propaganda aired, he could rely on Russert to put it on the airwaves without questioning it.

As a political debate moderator he played the his game, asking the “horserace” and “gotcha” questions instead of making an effort to extract information from the candidates that would inform potential voters as to the candidates’ positions on issues of importance to this nation. The fact the Gibson and Stephanopoulos did an even worse job doesn’t mean that Russert’s was worth the powder to blow it up.

Tim Russert demonstrated everything that has gone wrong about today’s media. The media today does not present the news, it is the show. The very name of his program illustrates that truism, Meet the Press. The star and centerpiece of that show was not the people who appeared on it for the audience to learn about them, the star and centerpiece of that show was Tim Russert. That show was an opportunity for Tim Russert to strut his stuff, and the people who came on the show were mere stage props.

I understand why MSNBC is doing five straight hours of tribute to Tim Russert. I did much the same kind of thing when my father died. I did my grieving much less publicly, but then I am not a media star. What Tim Russert was to them and what he was to me are far, far different things.

Nonetheless, for those at NBC/MSNBC - Tim, rest in peace.

Friday, June 13, 2008

This is Who We Want

No more dramatic contrast can be drawn between the two candidates than the one highlighted by the decision handed down by the Supreme Court yesterday. That decision, restoring the "Great Writ" partially unwinds the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Glenn Greenwald, in his post today on the subject which you should read in its entirety, reminds us of how these two Senators participated in the passage of that bill.
Passage of the Military Commissions Act was spearheaded by John McCain, who was anointed by cowardly Senate Democrats to speak for them and negotiate with the White House. Once McCain blessed the Military Commissions Act, its passage was assured. Barack Obama voted against it, and once its passage appeared certain, Obama offered an amendment to limit it to five years. That amendment failed, rendering the MCA the law of the land without any time limits.

Barack Obama tried to stop this atrocity and, when he saw he could not do that, he tried to limit it as best he could. He was thwarted in that effort as well, but he fought the good fight in behalf of the principles for which this country has stood for two centuries.

McCain, for all his bragadoccio of bring a "maverick" not only went along, he aided and abetted the Bush Administration's power grab.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bush the Third

The media is missing the main story again. There’s nothing wrong with the story they are getting, the criticism they are making is valid enough, but they are stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.

Asked if, given that the surge is working, McCain now has a better idea of when the troops will be coming home, he replies,
"No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, Americans are in Germany, that’s all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw. We will be able to withdraw. General Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are. But the key to it is that we don’t want any more Americans in harm’s way."

Certainly the criticism of, “No, but that’s not too important” is a valid one. The remark is insensitive and is demoralizing to the men and women far from home and the military families whose loved ones are separated from them. These families want to know when they will be reunited and, despite McCain’s apparent opinion, they think that the timing of that reunion is very important indeed.

But his answer betrays two disconnects from reality that speak to his fitness to serve in this nation’s highest office and the media, in its haste to “support the troops,” overlooks two serious issues in McCain's response.

The lesser issue is that McCain glibly speaks of leaving our military in this theatre in a casualty-free environment, but offers no method by which this might be accomplished. In two of the three nations he names it was accomplished by formal treaty signed with national leaders of a vanquished nation. That possibility does not exist in Iraq, as the vanquished nation we are occupying is, at least nominally, our ally even as we suffer casualties inflicted by multiple armed organizations who are attempting to drive us out. In the third named instance it was a formally declard stalemete between two governments and our troops there, faced off against more than a million enemy soldiers and hundreds of thousands of artillery pieces, can hardly be said not to be in harm's way.

So, while it may be possible to accomplish the utopian status that he envisions, it seems unlikely at best, and he offers no pathway to that destination, merely states his desire to arrive at it.

The greater issue is, “General Petraeus is going to tell us in July...”

I have always despised those who crave authority and are unwilling to bear the concomitant responsibility. They want the glory but are unwilling to bear the risk. They want to swagger and strut, to receive the praise and bask in the adulation of high office, but they shun the anxiety of decision-making and are unwilling to accept the agony of error. They are as sounding brass, filled with noise and fury, signifying nothing.

George Bush calls himself “The Decider,” yet from the very day that this war in Iraq started to go bad he began deferring to “the generals on the ground.” Every good thing that has happened has been his decision and every bad thing that has happened has been “on the advice of my generals.” George Bush has been saying for months that the schedule for troop withdrawals from Iraq will be decided by General Petraeus.

And now John McCain, “General Petraeus is going to tell us in July...”

How can John McCain claim that he is not running for George W. Bush’s third term as President?

How can any president leave that decision to any general? For two centuries this nation has operated on the fundamental principle that the military is subordinate to civilian leadership. The decision as to the nature of the occupation of another, sovereign nation is a policy decision that is properly made by the civilian leadership of this nation, not by the general commanding the occupying army. George Bush committed a grave breach of national tradition, or worse, when he abdicated that decision to David Petraeus, and John McCain is echoing that policy.

Perceiving the timing of the homecoming of troops as unimportant is in poor taste. Being unaware of the manner in which our nation is properly governed renders McCain unfit for office.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Broken Government

Reading a blog post last night about the Articles of Impeachment offered in the House by Dennis Kucinich, I noted the author saying that Republicans would try to block its passage. Sadly, they won't need to, as the Democratic leadership of the House has already sidelined the bill by allowing only that it be routed to the Judiciary Committee, where it will be allowed to die. The best that Kucinich could get was to have the bill read in its entirety on the floor.

Electing Barack Obama to the White House is an act of faith, an act of hope for better government and a better nation. That is the appeal that he is making to us, and I believe that is what the voters are responding to. I believe that is what the people of this nation want. McCain is offering tax cuts, "I'll put some money in your pocket." Obama is saying something less concrete but more appealing than that, "I will empower you."

But Congress keeps pulling on the same set of oars. "Impeachment is off the table," because that act would lead to the risk of our party losing power, and us staying in power is more important than justice, or good governance, or the integrity of our constitution, or the force of law.

With its illegal and greedy excesses, this Administration has finally drawn enough attention to itself that the voters of the nation are calling with a loud voice for change, and it appears that the change we desire will be realized.

We can only hope that the refusal of Congress to do its duty will have a similar effect sooner rather than later. So far that appears unlikely, and the Democrats have shown no more willingness to perform their duties than did the Republicans who preceeded them. They make more of a show of doing so, but they take no action whatever.

That's another reason to work for the election of Barack Obama. Perhaps his presence in the White House will shine a light on the deficiencies at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Awesome Spare Ribs

Grilling ribs has always been a chancy business for me. Getting them cooked through without drying them out is not all that easy, and a flareup can be disaster so you have to watch them pretty closely. I love ribs, but…

Then I read a recipe a few months ago that prescribed braising the ribs and finishing up on the grill. That struck me as a really good idea, but of course I couldn’t find the recipe when I finally bought a rack of ribs. I made this one up on the fly so, while the basic idea is not original, the recipe itself is.

Awesome Spare Ribs

1 rack Pork Spare Ribs
1 can Beer (24oz) (for nitpickers: 2 ea, 12oz cans will work fine)
4 ea Whole Cloves
4 tbsp Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Mix beer and brown sugar and put it into a roasting pan with the cloves. Cut the ribs into manageable sections, maybe five or so ribs per section.

Brown the ribs in a bit of oil in a hot skillet on both sides. You’re not cooking them at all, and you don’t need to char them. Just brown them lightly and put them in the roaster with the liquid.

Leave them in the oven at 320, covered, for 1-1/2 to (preferably) 2 hours.

Preheat your bbg grill. Remove the ribs from the roaster and put them on a very hot grill, meaty side down, turning them after about a minute. Once the heat has evaporated the braising moisture, apply the bbq sauce of your choice and brown them nicely on both sides. They are fully cooked at this point, so all you need to concern yourself with is the nice crunchy coating.

Another option would be to use a mix of herbs and spices rather than bbq sauce; the traditional “bbq rub.” In that case you would want to remove the ribs from the braising, pat them dry and apply the “rub” while they are still damp, before putting them on the grill. You might want a slightly less hot grill for this option, too.

If I keep having this degree of success with my “made up” recipes, I may keep making them up.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bush Photo-Op

I thought that I had heard the worst that this administration could offer. I thought that no further revelation of the criminality that this group of evildoers had engaged in would ever shock and appall me again. I thought that the full scope of the utter filth and the depth of depravity of these men had been fully revealed. Sadly, no.

We’ve known how the media “failed to ask the hard questions” of this administration, how they have played the role of stenographer rather than reporter, how when they have asked questions they have accepted patently false answers as gospel. I have iterated in this space how ABC News to this day acts as a platform for the administration’s scare mongering by airing handout pieces from the DHS on terrorism as if they were news.

In How Karl Rove played politics while people drowned at Salon on Friday was revealed just how truly awful this administration has been. Go read the article. To some degree there is not all that much new, as it has been known that politics were played with this event at the cost of lives.

The article describes how Bush demanded that a state with a Democratic governor federalize its National Guard, while he freely sent federal aid to two states with Republican governors without that demand. But there is worse to come, far worse.

To be truly appalled, read in detail about this recollection by Mary Landrieu, Senator from Louisiana – a recollection of a lie staged by Bush and Company with the assistance of the Army Corps of Engineers, a lie concealed by the media.
“So we landed at the canal, five minutes from my house.” The Senator says, “I was so excited because they were finally doing something. The Corps of Engineers was there, and they had dump trucks and sandbags. All the cameras were there for the president, who was doing one of his famous press conferences about how he was going to do everything. So I thought, 'At least the guy is doing something, so show your manners and be good and smile.'”

And then,
On Friday, Mary Landrieu had been with Bush and Blanco as they toured the 17th Street Canal, where, at last, major work had commenced to repair the damage that had been caused when the levee broke. "Then, on Saturday," Landrieu says, "George Stephanopoulos called and asked to do an interview with me, and I said, 'George, I'm tired of doing interviews. I have to work. And nothing you are airing is accurately showing what's going on down here. … You get a helicopter and I'll go up and I will show you what is actually happening.’ … So George and I went up in the helicopter and for three hours his jaw was dropping. Then I said, 'George, before we finish I have to show you one positive thing because I can't send you back to Washington to produce a story that shows nothing but devastation and disaster.' So I told the pilot to tack right so I can show George the 17th Street Canal and the work that was going on there. I swear as my name is Mary Landrieu I thought that what I saw with the president was still there -- people working, trucks, sandbags, everything. Then I looked down and saw one little crane. It was like someone took a knife and stabbed me through my heart. I lost it."

George Stephanopoulos knew, and he said nothing.

If Stephanopoulos wasn’t at the prior day’s photo-op, he certainly knew of it and he had merely to run clips from his own news agency to have proof. He was in the helicopter with Mary Landrieu when she made the discovery, so he had a grandstand view of the duplicity. He knew exactly how dishonest the President had been with the people of this nation, the lengths to which the President had gone to stage the lie, the enormity of the lie, and he did not tell us. He kept silent, concealed the lie, was complicit in the lie.

The Republican Party started the process of removing Section 4 from Article 2 of The Constitution of the United States of America, impeachment of the President, and the current Democratic Congress in the person of Nancy Pelosi completed it in a self-serving political move to enhance the power of her party to the detriment of her nation.

Future criminals in the White House will forever be able to point to depraved actions such as this photo-op in New Orleans and say in their own defense, “You did not impeach for this.”

Neither the media nor Congress will bring these criminals to account.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hillary's Home Run

Center field, over the bleachers, into the parking lot, with three on base.

Well, a bit of hyperbole perhaps, maybe in part due to contrast with prior rhetoric, but this was well done. It was the work of a statesman statesperson. It was what the Democratic Party needed, and John McCain is reaching for the DiGel.

Those who dislike her saw the beginning of her speech as more of her self-rhetoric, but she was not speaking about herself. Listen carefully, she was speaking about her people – the people who campaigned for her, who donated to her campaign, who sustained her. She spoke of them with warmth and gratitude, and with every word she drew the crowd in. She transformed the mood. She made the crowd part of the moment.

So that when she announced the suspension of her campaign and her endorsement of Barack Obama she drew resounding cheers.

Her endorsement of Obama was on a party line basis rather than being personal, and that is entirely understandable and reasonable. In fact, to become personally effusive in this speech would have been in poor taste. An endorsement given as graciously and unreservedly as hers was in this speech, is above reproach. She did not stop with her own endorsement, she urged her supporters to join her in that support. This was everything that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party could have hoped for.

Remember the speech that Obama made about race after the Jeremiah Wright issue? Hillary Clinton should get the same degree of credit for the last part of this speech that he got for that one, because she made the same speech about the gender divide.

When she began, my first thought was that she was going to blame gender for her loss. She did not. What she did say is that the “glass ceiling” is a fact in our society, and it is not going to go away just because we don’t talk about it. She than talked about it in much the same way that Obama, earlier, had talked about race, not with rancor but as a wound in our society that is healing but is still unhealed and cannot be merely covered with a bandage. There is work still to be done, she says, and she intends to continue to lead the way in doing that work.

Well, says this 65-year-old male, I’m with you on that.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

More Media Wingnuttery

There are wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing and violence quite a few places in the world, several other nations rebuilding from natural disasters, a world-wide food shortage, our national election and economic issues…

The San Diego Union-Tribune lead item on page one, banner headline, above the fold with large color picture is that California State Parks has decided to ban nudity on the beach at San Onofre State Park in northern San Diego County. This leaves the county with only one nude beach, the better known Black’s Beach just south of Torrey Pines. Nudists are, of course, outraged. I do not think that the news is, itself, wingnuttery, but putting it on page one strikes me as a bit strange.

The article says they are going to begin “issuing tickets to persons without pants” after a three month “grace period” to let people get used to the idea.
I can’t resist this – where is the ticketed person going to put the ticket? It also doesn’t say what is going to happen to a person of the feminine gender who is wearing pants but is not wearing a top.

The “grace period” is a bit difficult to comprehend. Signs are up now that state unequivocally that nudity is prohibited, so they are giving people three months to, what, learn how to read? Or three months to be sure they bring pants with them to the beach? How does that work if you are arrested in downtown Solana Beach for driving without clothes? “It’s okay officer, I’m going to a nude beach.”

The reason given by officials is a little weird, too. I can think of quite a few reasons for banning nudity at state parks (more than I can think of for a general ban), but to “protect state employees from the effects of nudity” would not have occurred to me. I don’t think state employees were required to be nude themselves, so the protection was apparently to… Oh, well.

ABC News continues to serve as a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Stupidity. A big story last night was all about how drug runners “have turned to using" submarines to bring drugs into the country, complete with pictures of said submarines running on the surface and DHS agents providing guided tours of them. Never mind that a semi-professional news agency Raw Story broke this item, complete with photos of those same submarines, in August of 2007. So ABC News is using DHS handout pieces that are no less than ten months old.

And finally, will somebody please educate our idiotic news media, all of them, as to the proper use of the title “President?” The title belongs to the office, not to the man. The man may not use it once his term has expired. This country has only one “President” and, unfortunately, his name is still Bush for another half of a year. Bill Clinton is “Former President Clinton” or “Ex-President Clinton,” but he is not and has not been for more than seven years “President Clinton” or, as MSNBC referred to him today just before his wife's speech, "the President." Idiots.

Friday, June 06, 2008

SoCal Acadamecia

Those who do not live in San Diego are missing the experience of having daily access to the twilight-zone-like San Diego Union-Tribune. You can read the news, sports and, on the op-ed page, be transported into another dimension. Not infrequently our tour guide for such a journey will be a member of the faculty from one of our local institutes of higher (?) learning.

First we had the wingnut who teaches political science at SD State and was alarmed that the dean of that school would call in the DEA to investigate a drug marketing (not just selling, actual marketing) ring that was operating on campus. It turned out later that it was actually the campus police that called in the DEA, but this prof was concerned that such action might lead to the IRS getting called in if students were overheard protesting the income tax laws.

Or maybe the DHS or FBI if somebody wears a checkered scarf.

Yesterday we had a guest editorial written by a history professor at the University of San Diego entitled “How we all harm national security.”

The subhead was pretty damning of the country as a whole. “National security is about culture. Ours is in crisis, because we no longer consider basic values to be important. Because it is so ubiquitous, the police ultimately cannot solve this crisis.”

Or it was damning insofar as one might consider the first sentence to be accurate. I actually consider national security to be more about people blowing us up in large numbers. Others may disagree with me, but from the speeches I’ve heard none of the candidates for president seem to.

It was also unclear to me what the police might have to do with culture, or for that matter what “basic values” might have to do with culture, but I decided to read the editorial to see if that would be cleared up by the professor.

It seems the outrage that the professor was feeling was provoked at a rock concert he attended on Memorial Day weekend. Okay, how seriously am I going to take a professor who is attending rock concerts? Oh well, onward.

The Ticketmaster website where he bought the tickets, he says, indicated that chairs could not be brought to the amphitheater. When he arrived, however, the security guards were permitting concertgoers to bring in beach chairs, the kind with no legs that sit on the ground. One security person even had a tape measure and was measuring the legs of chairs. I’m not sure of the national security issue here. Chairs? That he wasn’t allowed to bring a chair? That others were? The Kossack with the tape measure?

What the government should do about beach chairs was not defined.

Then there was an issue with people standing in front of people sitting and being averse to sitting down when “politely” asked to do so.

I’m not sure what to make of a person that would stand up at a rock concert; they might have terroristic tendencies. I’m even less sure what to make of a person who would sit down at a rock concert; they might be brain dead. Why is that person even at the freaking concert? You might very well sit down at a Mozart concert, but The Police?

What should be done about rock concert standees was not defined.

But then we get to the meat of the professor’s outrage. “The smell of pot wafted through the air.” At a rock concert! Of all places. OMG, who would have thought!

Um, professor, why do you know what pot smells like?

My first impression was that the professor was outraged that there were not a zillion police and/or federal officers panting hotfoot after the odor of pot to arrest and incarcerate the offending pot smokers. He compared the lack of law enforcement to the “blitz on drug users and traffickers” that had occurred at SD State a few weeks earlier, as if a few people smoking pot they probably brought with them was equivalent to the cocaine and heroin marketing operation busted by the DEA.

But then the professor declaimed against the pot smokers themselves and against all those nearby who did not intervene, presumably by yanking the joints away from the smokers and stomping them on the ground. That might actually be a rather dangerous and stupid thing to do, and might well have turned the concert into mayhem, but…

He went on to rant that the permissive society illustrated by the pot smokers and those who tolerated them at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater that weekend was what ultimately led to Osama Bin Laden perceiving us as a country that should be attacked. He finishes by saying that we have so numbed ourselves by drug use that we are “an easy target.”

I cannot figure which is more inane – that a college professor would write this drivel, or that the Union-Tribune would devote a full third of a page to printing it. (Or, admittedly, that I would devote a blog post to it.)

See what you miss by not living in San Diego?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Beaten Into Submission

ClintonNow that she is graciously going to “suspend” her campaign and announce “her support” for Barack Obama and “party unity,” we will all join hands with her, sing Kumbaya together and move on in sweetness and harmony toward November.

Not quite yet for me.

When I was in grade school if someone was spitting on me, throwing rocks at me and stabbing me in the back at every opportunity, it took more than having a teacher tell them “Stop that” for me to be willing to be friends with them. Just because they said “Okay” and apologized in the formula dictated by the teacher did not mean that I believed for a second that their nature had changed one iota.

They had to prove something with actions, not mere words. I would deal with them afterwards using the old adage of, “When you dine with the devil, sup with a long spoon.”

The Clinton person received at least two phone calls: one from 23 members of Congress, the other from 8 Senators. All were people allied with her and high in the Democratic hierarchy. They were angry with her behavior Tuesday night and they were telling her, not asking, to concede the nomination and to support the winner.

So in the end, the Democratic leadership did step up to the task, and they had to, because in the end Clinton had to be beaten into submission.

I do not think that should be glossed over for the sake of her history, or for her position or for her precious voters.

She did not run a “historic campaign.” She ran a narcissistic, angry, incompetent, incoherent, dishonest and divisive campaign. She lied about her past, she lied about her accomplishments, she lied about her present, she lied about her opponent and she made promises that she would be unable to keep if elected and that were therefor lies as well.

It does not seem likely that this Clinton person will be named as running mate, because to do so would be a stunning demonstration of incompetence by the newly elected nominee. If, perchance, he does get blackmailed into it, he had certainly best get himself a very long spoon.

Update: why two posts disgusted with this Clinton person, and only one about Obama's historic victory? Because one is about her speech Tuesday night, and the other is about my opinion of her tepid attempt (so far) at riding the party unity pony.

And because this speaks for itself. I cannot improve on it.

Although Churchill might.
"Future generations will say, this was their finest hour."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Deranged Narcissism

The pundits are pretty much unanimous in saying that the first thing Barack Obama must do, having won the nomination for President of The United States of America, is go kiss Hillary Clinton’s ass. The pundits should kiss my ass. Only in the mind of a pundit should the nominee for leader of the world’s most powerful nation go and court the junior Senator from New York.

Having lost that nomination, Hillary Clinton is saying the same thing the pundits are. She let it be known through a news anchor that she wants a private meeting with the nominee as soon as possible. I sincerely hope that Senator Obama lets it be known that he is too busy at the moment. I hope that he lets this Clinton person, the one who lost the nomination bid, know that the loser does not dictate terms to the winner.

Her speech last night has been referred to as “deranged narcissism.”
Given that it included no more than a brief mention of her opponent without acknowledging his victory, a statement that “South Dakota had the last word” without acknowledging that Montana had yet to close its polls, the same spurious claims of superiority in popular vote and in “states with the electoral votes to win in November,” a list of her demands, and a final statement that she will make “no decision tonight,” I would say that description fits rather well.

Especially since all of those self-serving claims and statements were preceded by a vow to unite the party for a victorious election in November.
“I will unite the party,” she says, and adds without saying it “but only on
my own terms.”

“I will make no decision tonight” she says. The decision is not hers to make. She is so narcissistic that she cannot see, or so arrogant that she will not accept, that the voters have made that decision. The decision belongs to the voters, and they have made it. She can try not to accept it, but is made.

And now she wants to dictate terms. She stands at the podium on the night that Barack Obama wins the nomination, on the night that Barack Obama makes history, and dictates terms about what she wants.

Clinton has let it be known through her news contacts that she wants to be on the ticket in the number two slot. For her to make that demand, to even hint at it, is an unconscionable intrusion on the prerogative of the nominee to name his own running mate.

All of this is business as usual in Clintonland. She is going out with power plays, dictating terms under which she is willing to play her role in reuniting the party. “I have my loyal voters,” she is saying, in effect, “and if you want them back in November here’s what you have to do for me, because this is still about me.”

Hillary Clinton divided the party, and it is her responsibility to reunite it. It is not the responsibility of Barack Obama to come crawling to her begging for forgiveness, and the idea of him doing so is repugnant. Even now, the GOP is running film clips of Clinton attacking Obama, of her making statements about his lack of qualification to serve, and they are running those clips as part of their candidate’s campaign for the presidency. She gave them that ammunition and it is her responsibility to repair that damage. She must do that without Barack Obama having to beg her to do so.

Hillary Clinton is now the junior Senator from New York. She is one of fifty one hundred people to hold the title of Senator, and is not even the senior one from her state. She needs to accept that reality and to deal with it.

Barack Obama will become President without this Clinton person.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"This Is Our Moment"

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Advancing the Cause

Harriet Christian is backing the wrong horse in the feminism issue. She is damning the Democrat [sic] Party because Hillary Clinton did not win the day at the Rules and Bylaws Committee on Saturday and, the larger issue, because Clinton will not win the nomination. Ms. Christian blames everyone except, of course, Hillary Clinton.

Harriet Christian should look to these college softball players to win the day for her cause. They inspire me more in a few minutes than Clinton has in her lifetime. In case you don’t know the story…

softball winnersThe Western Oregon player shown, Sara Tucholsky, hit a home run in a game against Central Washington. It was the first home run of her career and, with two runners on base, it was a game winner. She blew out her knee at first base, however, and was unable to round the bases putting the home run in jeopardy. The batter must touch all bases for the run to count, and her teammates may not assist her in any way.

The Central Washington players asked if the rules prevented the opponents from assisting the base runner. The officials said there was no barrier to that, so two of the opponents carried Sara around the bases, pausing at each base for her to touch it, and Western Oregon won the game. Both teams won the day.

I can only hope that men would have behaved as nobly.

Update: To belabor the obvious, do you not think that those two Central players wanted to win? Of course they did. They would not be in the game if they did not want to win. They would never, ever quit. But they recognize that there is something bigger than "self" at stake in this game. They almost certainly cannot put into words what that bigger something is, but they know that it is there and that it matters. They serve it first and their own pride and self-satisfaction only secondary to it.

They make me proud of my nation; that it can produce such people.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Just Pictures

irisClick on the picture for this and more. This man does awesome pictures of many kinds. It is what he does professionally, and he is kind enough to share it on a blog.

DUI Checkpoints

The San Diego Union-Tribune had a pair of “point/counterpoint” editorials in the Sunday paper, the subject of which was DUI checkpoints conducted by various local police agencies. The “pro” editorial was written by a local police chief, making the points that the checkpoints deliver a message and that they find violations other than drunk driving. The “con” editorial was written by the VP of a food and beverage association, whose point seemed to be that checkpoints prevented women from having two glasses of wine with dinner.

The latter person failed to provide any scientific evidence that two glasses of wine during the course of an average dinner would put even a small person’s blood alcohol content over the legal level of 0.08%, and I’m rather inclined to doubt that it actually would. My wife, however, has me drive home if she has even one glass of wine with dinner, so maybe the guy has a point. Oh, wait, in that case I’m driving.

Why do I think this guy’s real issue has more to do with the impact on his association’s members sales of booze?

My take on these checkpoints is that every person that goes through them is delivered a message by a uniformed police officer, a message in more than mere words, that driving under the influence is a very bad idea. That, to me, makes checkpoints a useful tool in the campaign against drunk driving. Convincing people not to drive drunk is more important than issuing tickets.

Which might be the lesson of leaving thinking, “What if I had been drunk?”

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Phone Registry

Open letter to politicians:                                Saturday morning

I am on the federal "Do Not Call" registry. Yes, you have the legal right to call and ask me to vote for you. Yes, you have the legal right to interrupt whatever I am doing and make me listen to your drivel. Yes, you have the legal right to clog my answering machine with your robocalls.

And I have the legal right not to vote for you.

I keep a log of those who disrespect my request for privacy. I keep a list of politicians whose self interest and lust for power outweighs their courtesy and respect for the privacy of others. I write those names down on a piece of paper and I take that list with me to the polling place.

I do not vote for them. Do not call me if you want my vote.

Update: Sunday morning

Turns out that even for political campaigning, recorded calls are against the law in California unless they are introduced by a real person, and any calls are illegal at certain times. Political campaigns ignore those laws, in part because they don't know about them, and in part because they know that the laws are not enforced.

In order for the law to be enforced, an offended party has to call and complain and for that to happen the person has to 1) know about the law,
2) take the time to call and 3) know who to call with the complaint. I failed on #1 until now, I have to admit I would probably fail on #2, and even as I write this I fail on #3. As politically active as I am, that doesn't bode well.

Wouldn't you think, however, that people running for public office would take the time to familiarize themselves with the rules governing their activity? Well, probably not, given that they make a regular practice of taking bribes.