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Showing posts from 2009

Just Askin'

Isn't there some probability that organizations like al-Qaeda will have to run out of dumb-ass rubes and poor little rich kids who're willing to blow their nut sacks off to suck up to Allah?

And also too - if it's such a geat fuckin' idea to be a suicide bomber, why don't Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahri do it?  These guys have to be some of the greatest salesmen ever.

My General Malaise

I've been wondering for a little over 10 years now what it is that gives me this feeling of unease.  There's been something going on (several somethings is more probable), but I can't quite get my arms around it.

Today, there's a post by DougJ at Balloon Juice that gives me a real starting point.  He links to a piece in The Atlantic by Chris Good, who writes that Repubs will run on the meme that everything Obama and the Dems are trying to do will end in disaster.  There's nothing new in that of course; the wingnuts on both ends have been screaming about that kinda thing for years.  What struck me is the phrase "untethered to verifiable fact".

Over the last 20 years or so, we've moved from a fairly well centralized info system (network TV and hometown newspapers) to a system that's fragmented down to a point where I can customize my "news" so that everythng I hear fits my own preconceptions.  If I get a story that challenges my worldview,…

Perspective

I seems like the usual freak-out from the wingnuts over the attempted bombing of the NWA flight was a bit mild, but apparently TSA is talking about pat-downs, and forcing people to remain seated at certain times, and banning the use of all electronic gear aboard international flights.  When do we learn not to lose our shit every time something scary happens?  Uber Geek Nate Silver breaks it down for us.

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.
...
Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.

Christmas 2009

There's something about the human voice raised in song. When a bunch of people sing (even in fairly traditional harmonies),  it trips some deep emotional reflex in me.  This is one of my all-time favorite tunes, and these kids really nail it.

Christmas 2009

The tree is now up.  Stringing the lights is a group effort and a semi-interesting study in committee-design, team-building, and family dynamics.  LOTS of lights.
I'd post some pix but I'm not working the camera very well right now.  Ain't that the way.

Be Careful What You Pray For

On the floor of the US Senate, this numbskull Barrasso called on the rubes to pray for divine intervention in preventing some random member of the senate to be unable to vote for cloture on the Healthcare Reform bill.  When it's discovered that Jim Inhofe hadn't showed up for the vote, one of the faithful called into C-SPAN worried that they hit the wrong guy.  I'm hoping this is performance art, but I fear that it isn't.

Winter Wonderland IV

We lost power last nite around 630.  Luke was stranded at a friend's house; Irene Nick Sadie and I sat around the kitchen table playing Yahtzee and Monopoly and poker under candle and glow-stick light til close to 1AM.  Everybody wore many pounds of clothing to bed. 
This morning the temp inside the house was 52, but the skies had cleared overnite, so at least we had the sun while we did the shovel work necessary to get the driveway passable for the Durango.  Took us close to 3 hours to move the 50 feet or so from garage to street (and our street has still not been plowed as of 8:15 PM).
We hooked up my little power inverter so we could watch some football, and pretend things were more or less normal for a while.  At about 3 PM, the power company called to tell us the problem had been fixed and that our lites should be on now - they weren't.  About this time Luke's friend's mom delivered Luke to the house (giant Suburban 4x4) and we decided to try to make it out for s…

Winter Wonderland III

It's still coming down, but it's a lot lighter now.  Trying to figure out how to post some video.

Winter Wonderland II

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Winter Wonderland

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The snow started last nite (Friday 12-18) at about 5 or 530.  This morning, it was up to 19 inches.  We don't get much of this kind of weather, so nobody is very knowledgable about how to cope.  Usually the first thing that happens is that everybody flocks to the grocery stores to lay in the emergency stocks.  Then they either forget how to drive altogether, or they think there's nothing you need to do to compensate for the conditions.  So today, on the main drag thru town (US29), there are hundreds of abandoned cars - to the point that the emergency responders are having a hard time getting thru the snarl.
Nick managed to get Haley (gf) back to her house in good shape; Sadie stayed home, and it took me a little more than 2 hours (to make a trip that should take 35 minutes) delivering Luke to his friend's house for a sleep-over.

It's still snowing now at noon on Saturday.  It's getting lighter, but the newsies are telling us we can expect "another few inches&q…

White House Conference Call

This is the Q&A part.
David Axelrod makes a couple of great points:
1) If the Senate version of HC Reform is so bad, the insurance lobby wouldn't still be fighting so hard to kill it.  There are some heavy regulatory reform items that should do good things for insurance consumers.  For me, that's a pretty big deal.
2) Overall, getting something passed is better that getting nothing passed.  I still have big doubts about the mandate, and they will stay with me until I hear something that balances it out.

The kicker is that this remains a must win for Obama.

Oops

To err is human, but you need the US Military for a good old fashioned FUBAR.

Check this out.
Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

John Mayer - Slow Dancing In A Burning Room

He isn't always on, but when he hits it, he knocks the crap out of it.

Random Ramblings - Healthcare Reform

Obama has to get something passed that he can spin as Healthcare Reform - if he doesn't, it's hard to see how he isn't the new Jimmy Carter.

As it stands, the Senate version of HCR looks a whole lot like a siphon, transferring my tax dollars into the coffers of Big Insurance.  There's a possibility that it's just enough to be a framework for something better down the road, but I have my doubts. We'll have to see what happens to it in Conference.

We can call it Lieberman's Revenge.  As always, there's something going on here that we don't get to see, and prob'ly there are several somethings going on that we don't get to see; a hint of which is Howard Dean coming out against the bill, saying they should killl it and start over with the Reconciliation approach.  That sounds like it's personal.

What else aren't they telling us?

Up Your Standards

From The Angry Arab, the latest version of the Doctrine of Free Market Warfare.
In other words, the Pentagon determined that 30 casualties, even if they were civilian, were too few to matter politically or to attract the attention of the press for more than a few words. If commanders expected more civilian casualties than that, political leaders had to sign off on the attack in advance to make sure they were prepared for the PR fall-out.

Crock Of The Week

Quote Of The Day

"Thus wisdom about our destiny is dependent upon a humble recognition of the limits of our knowledge and our power. Our most reliable understanding is the fruit of 'grace' in which faith completes our ignorance without pretending to possess its certainties as knowledge; and in which contrition mitigates our pride without destroying our hope." -Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man

An Old Fashioned Christmas

My Opening Farewell

That's My Boy

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A Golden Oldie

A Brief History

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Reasonable Debate - Climate Change

I'm not crazy about the part of the argument that deals with fairness and the 3rd world countries - I doubt the leverage is there to get 1st-Worlders to make the sacrifice. Countries, companies and people behave in ways that serve their own interests first. So you won't get far trying to set something up that requires me to take the hit for something I don't feel directly responsible for.
The debate points are too easy to flip:
Yes, we ate up 25% of the world's resources, but we did it creating 25% of the world's economy.
Yes, we fucked some folks outa their goods over the last 2 centuries or so, but they saw some profit too - and are you saying they wouldn't have done the same to us if roles were reversed?

The current version of Political Correctness dictates that 'Justice' is about crackin' skulls, and has nothing really to do with Fairness or the concept of living your life without the need for a cop (or your mommy) looking over your shoulde…

My Man, Mr Bartlett

Back in about 03 - 04, CBO told us the Bush Tax Cuts were providing about 59 cents of stimulus for every lost revenue dollar; and that traditionally, direct stimulus in the form of block grants to state governments had provided around $1.19 for every dollar spent.

Bruce Bartlett confirms what everybody except a certain bunch of Republicans already know.
To wit:
The CBO also looked at the stimulative effect of various parts of the stimulus package. It found that purchases of goods and services by the federal government--such as for public works--had the largest bang for the buck, raising GDP by $2.50 for each $1 spent. Transfer payments had a lesser impact, but were still significantly more stimulative than tax cuts. Moreover, tax cuts of the sort favored by Republicans have the least impact. According to the CBO, tax cuts for low-income individuals raise GDP by as much as $1.70 for every $1 of revenue loss, while those for the rich and for corporations raised GDP by at most 50 cents for…

Afghanistan Plan

Ya wanna know what it looks like?  Try this.

And that's just what's going on in Afghanistan - try to image what happens when you add Pakistan and India, and China and and and. 

I guess I'm saying that if you really think that all a good leader needs is a little good old fashioned, small-town, family-values, simple-folk common sense, then you're a booger-eatin' moron.  This is about a lot more than what meets the eye; it's always about a helluva lot more than what they're gonna tell us straight out, and since it took us 8 years to fuck it up, it's gonna be a while before we can unfuck it. 

War prevents good things from happening, so I'll say it again:  I was wrong to support going to war in Afghanistan.

Oh Those Wacky Guys

Sometimes hard to believe, but we actually pay these guys to do this kind of shit.
See Whiskey Fire.

A Useful Libertarian

An interview with Radley Balko on law enforcement.
Most prosecutors are well-intentioned, honest public servants. But it's deeply troubling that those who aren't are almost never held accountable, and in fact are often re-elected, appointed as judges, or go on to get elected to political office.

Climate Change

Skeptical Science is a site I just stumbled upon today.  Seems to be sensible and straight up.

A Question

According to "Conservative Doctrine" over the the last 30 years or so, when Americans hear somebody say, "Hi, I'm from the government - I'm here to help you", we run screaming into the night.  How come we expect the Iraqis and Afghans to do exactly the opposite?  Just wonderin'.

Cluster Fox

Prey

Eagle vs Deer

A Nation Of Whiny-Butt Pussies

The security breach at the White House state dinner the other night has the whole village in an uproar.  The pundits are falling all over themselves in what looks to me like a contest to see who can make it sound the worst.  I've heard better conversation from a bus load of average 8th graders.

What if they were trained assassins!?!
What if they had grabbed a knife from one of the dining tables!?!
What if they'd had a vial of anthrax!?!
What if they were ninjas!?!

Yeah; wow; what if...  hey, I've got it: What if monkeys flew outa your ass!?!

This is straight out of 'The Power of Nightmares' (a BBC documentary - available on Netflix).  The guy with the darkest imagination wins.

I'm not saying it was nothing.  Any time somebody gets thru the protective circle, it's a major fuckup, and corrections have to be made, but c'mon guys.  We have to stop losing our shit every time something scary happens.  We'll never get anwhere this way.

Cluster Fox Strikes Again

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Maybe they're not all that stupid; and maybe they don't think we're all that stupid; maybe there're a few sane ones who know it's mostly bullshit, and they're trying to let us know they're there(?).  Dunno.

Old Men Talkin' And Young Men Dyin'

At Parris Island, Marine Corps recruits finish boot camp with an arduous multi-day field exercise on half rations, then do a long overnight march to a stadium to receive their Eagle, Globe & Anchor insignia and officially become Marines. They are promised a breakfast of steak and eggs. I marched in with them one year. We slogged in at dawn to find a band playing, flags waving and a stadium full of cheering parents and retired Marines and orating politicians. The fanfare wasn't for the young Marines, I realized, but rather it was for the benefit of the older generation who would send them to war.

Politics Daily

Debt vs GDP

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A snapshot.  For no particular reason - sometimes I just need a place to park this kind of stuff.

10 Years Of Hell

For you brave souls who can actually endure it (and might understand it), read the Open Markets Committee minutes here.  I get about 15% of it on my own, so I rely heavily on Bill McBride at Calculated Risk.

Here's a snippet from the minutes:
Most participants now viewed the risks to their growth forecasts as being roughly balanced rather than tilted to the downside, but uncertainty surrounding these forecasts was still viewed as quite elevated. Downside risks to growth included the continued weakness in the labor market and its implications for income growth and consumer confidence, as well as the potential for credit availability to remain relatively tight for consumers and some businesses. In this regard, some participants noted the difficulty that smaller, bank-dependent firms were having in securing financing. The CRE sector was also considered a downside risk to the forecast and a possible source of increased pressure on banks. On the other hand, consumer spending on items ot…

Rewrite

In Cluster Fox World, they just make shit up.

What's Goin' On

Crock Of The Week

I've only seen this one once, so I don't quite get it. I'll have to watch it another time or two.

Like It Is

Old reliable, 60 minutes.
We have a ridiculously hard time even talking about issues of living and dying - especially when we allow politicians to freak us out with rhetoric aimed at making us afraid and distrustful. We are fast becoming a nation of whiny-butt pussies. Why do we continue to listen to anybody who deliberately misleads us in cynical attempts to manipulate our behavior?


Watch CBS News Videos Online

I Lied

One more - but then I'll stop - for sure this time. (see Matt Taibbi's blog at True Slant)
(Palin) is the country’s first WWE politician — a cartoon combatant who inspires stadiums full of frustrated middle American followers who will cheer for her against whichever villain they trot out, be it Newsweek, Barack Obama, Katie Couric, Steve Schmidt, the Mad Russian, Randy Orton or whoever. Her followers will not know that she is the perfect patsy for our system, designed as it is to channel popular anger in any direction but a useful one, and to keep the public tied up endlessly in pointless media melees over meaningless nonsense (melees of the sort that develop organically around Palin everywhere she goes). Like George W. Bush, even Palin herself doesn’t know this, another reason she’s such a perfect political tool.

One More On Palin

And then I'll stop; really.

About Palin's book, Going Rogue:
... a book written by someone who can't write, intended for an audience that doesn't read, about the thoughts of a person who doesn't think.

Listing Palin's Lies

This is not the kind of parsing that Clinton was so good at; and it's not the conflation of Bush and Cheney.  It's a patern of telling lies. Lies that are straight up and verifiable.

Here's Sully's list:
Palin lied when she said the dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, had nothing to do with his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten; in fact, the Branchflower Report concluded that she repeatedly abused her power when dealing with both men.


Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed to have said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere; in fact, she openly campaigned for the federal project when running for governor.

Palin lied when she denied that Wasilla's police chief and librarian had been fired; in fact, both were given letters of termination the previous day.

Palin lied when she wrote in the NYT that a comprehensive review by Alaska wildlife officials showed that polar bears were not endangered; in fact, email correspo…

Reconstruction In Iraq

Y'know what we really need right about now?  We need some dumbass "conservative" to wag his finger at us and deliver a good stern lecture on fiscal responsibility.

From the NYT, a report on the failure parade in Iraq.
In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.
But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.
...
Despite the $53 billion spent by the United States, many Iraqis have criticized the rebuilding effort as wasteful. Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, said it had not had a discernible impact.…

Conservative Descent

Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune) critiques Sarah Palin.

Chapman:
The 19th century American writer Henry Adams said the descent of American presidents from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant was enough to discredit the theory of evolution. The same could be said of the pantheon of conservative political heroes, which in the last half-century has gone from Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan to Sarah Palin. That refutation may be agreeable to Palin, who doesn't put much stock in Darwin anyway.

And Sully despairs:
And I, of course, think of Thatcher, whose example helped make me a conservative, and her total grip of policy detail, and her fascination with ideas and history, and her degree in chemistry from Oxford and her training as a lawyer, and years in diligent opposition and government, and her willingness to take on and argue with anyone, and to never quit anything.
And I silently weep that the right has been reduced to this absurd fantasist know-nothing who believes her ignorance i…

10 Years Of Hell

From Calculated Risk:
This morning several commentators suggested that housing starts were depressed in October because of the expiration of the tax credit (new home buyers had to close by Nov 30th to get the tax credit), and also because of the weather. Probably. But the key point is that housing starts will not increase rapidly because of the large overhang of existing vacant housing units. And that suggests that the economy will not recover quickly either.

Healthcare Reform

OK, so we have a bill out of the House that costs a trillion dollars and covers about 96% of us; we're getting a bill from the Senate that costs about $850 billion and covers 94% (even tho' Schumer says 98%).

Whatever.

I'm not crazy about spending a lot more money on much of anything right now, but I'm willing to do it if we can do something worthwhile like getting out from under the burden of bigger and bigger insurance premiums - but what strikes me as odd is that it seems like people are expecting me to jump up and down cheering for a plan that costs a lot, puts a big pile of tax dollars in the pockets of big insurance AND still  leaves somewhere between 6 and 15 million people without health insurance coverage.  I'm unimpressed, and I'm wondering just what the fuck is wrong with us.

Gravity

...stay the hell away from me.

A Blockbuster Saga

Low probability that it's true - don't really care.  It's a fun story either way.
Sometimes it's just good to fantasize about pushing back against the 'authorities'.
Tip o' the hat to Doug Z.

The KSM Trial

Andrew Sullivan gets a little purple sometimes, but I think his take on why we should try KSM in NY is exactly right.
When you listen to the Fox News right speak about this, they reveal amazing levels of fear. They have been truly spooked by these men with long beards and chilling eyes. They are so scared of them they are willing to drop any and all legal principles that the West has historically used with respect to mass murderers. Their fear brought them to institute torture, and to engage in mass brutality against prisoners of war in every theater of combat in a manner that will tragically taint the honor of the US military for a very long time. It led them to establish Gitmo, to create for the world a reverse symbol of the Statue of Liberty, and imprint it on the minds and in the consciences of an entire generation of human beings, whose view of America will never be the same.

KSM Trial

Bill O'Reilley's show is like that jug of milk in the fridge that you know has gone bad, but you still can't resist smelling it just to be sure.
A couple of classic BillO Moments:
1) "I don't care about the Constitution."
2) "If the Bush administration had declared war on al-Qaeda..."
Not even a semi pocket dog like Napolitano would sit still for crap like that.
But here's the kicker: BillO opposes trying KSM et al in NY because he thinks it'll be a circus - a show trial - that it'll be about everything except the acts of terrorism it's supposed to be about. Even if that's a fair point, I still have to ask; what is he afraid will be revealed? Will we be reminded of Bush's epic failures before during and after 9-11? And will it all play out to the disadvantage of the Repubs during the next 2 election cycles? Is that what we're really worried about here, Billy?

We're #1

Security Theater

Along the lines of Political Theater - Bruce Schneier explains.

Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear. The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: they are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.

InfoMania

Current TV popped up on my Dish Network box a couple of years ago(?). They do some interesting stuff.

KSM Trial

Politicians can usually be counted on to run away from their own comments &/or positions when they think they need to - Rudy G is certainly no exception. And of course, since the Repub Handbook clearly prohibits changing your mind even in light of changed circumstances, he just spins like a top to make it seem like he was in perfect agreement with the decision to try the 1993 bombers in the NY courts because "there were no alternatives ... now we have the alternative of military tribunals". He said then that he tho't it was a good idea because it would show the bad guys that the US is in fact "what we say we are - a nation of law". Now that we do have the alternative in the form of military tribunals, does it mean that we're no longer the nation of law that he was so proud of back then?

But uh oh; another little problematic detail pops up - military tribunals WERE available for the Moussaoui trial - and Jack Reed sticks Rudy with it.

Put all this asi…

The Triangle

I'm thinking, somebody's gonna tell me this is why I shoulda paid more attention in Math Class.

Welcome Back, Mr Beckerman

Marty Beckerman explains his trek to, and then back from the dark side - which sounds a little like my own actually.
Just as morphing into an extremist took a couple years, un-becoming an extremist happened over time. One by one I saw the flaws in conservative orthodoxy: attempting to fight terrorism with torture, which only aided our enemies' propaganda efforts and thus created more terrorists; seeking to liberalize the Muslim world while curtailing rights for gay people at home; criticizing public schools for lackluster results and therefore cutting funds further; disdaining the weak while never analyzing why they are weak; always seeing the effect but never the cause, which on a mass scale perpetuates the effect.
Here it is.

Wall Street Leeches

From The Agonist
There are dozens and dozens of companies like Dollar General that were taken private by leveraged buy-out firms during the market frenzy that peaked in 2007. They were all bought with little cash and enormous amounts of debts, and they are sitting like time bombs on the balance sheets of the leveraged buy-out firms that misjudged the market. As the months go by and the buy-out firms watch their fees from their investors get eaten up by high interest costs, they are getting more and more desperate to dump these companies back on to the public markets and naïve individual investors.

Oops

The Republican National Committee’s health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party’s own platform calls “a fundamental assault on innocent human life.”
Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC’s policy covers elective abortion.

But they're gonna fix it - now that it's been found out and brought to light.  Mike Steele is all over it and has told the bennies admin to drop coverage for abortion services.  Read all about it.

Gotcha - Followup

From Media Matters, Hannity issued an "apology" for airing some bogus video - which is just the most recent in a long line of such things:

A more complete listing of examples.

Today's Quote

"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?" - Will Rogers

Gotcha

The brilliance of Jon Stewart is indispensable.
I couldn't get the embed language to copy correctly, so just follow this link.

Cluster Fox

What's the message between the lines here? Why would Roger & Rupert single out this one small piece of BS for challenge?

The Costs Of War

Looking at War strictly as a business proposition is a little dicey because it reduces the thing to simplistic dimensions; but trying to look at War always and only as a totality, it gets way too complex and convoluted in a big hurry.  You have to break it done into bite-sized chunks. So here's a slice fer ya.  BTW: these numbers don't include things like Cost Of Opportunity, Cost Of Capital, Depreciation, etc.

These items are all relative to what we could provide for people here in Albemarle County if we had spent our share of the money on something other than wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
--  41,496 Homes with Renewable Electricity per Year
--       732 Elementary School Teachers per Year
--  14,077 People with Health Care per Year
--    1,042 Scholarships for University Students per Year

So let's see - with a population of about 116,000, we could have provided a nice green energy source for PRACTICALLY EVERY FUCKING BUILDING IN THE WHOLE FUCKING COUNTY.

Sorry. Kinda los…

Red State Update

I managed to miss this one - glad I checked.

Worth Remembering

...though (probably) soon to be forgotten. I can easily see Mr Cao being challenged in a primary early next year. But for now, he's a hero; a guy who votes for something he thinks will HELP THE PEOPLE in his district, in spite of what his party wants. Nice knowin' ya, Mr Cao.

SNL vs Goldman Sachs

God Love The Onion

The Budget

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For the self-described Deficit Hawks / Budget Nannies / Fiscal Conservatives,  here's your chart:


It's hard to see clearly, but here's how it breaks down for the Top Seven:
1) Social Security
2) Medicare
3) Medicaid & SCHIP
4) Unemployment/Welfare & other mandated spending
5) Interest on National Debt
6) Defense Dept
7) Global War On Terror (does NOT include Iraq and Afghanistan)
These 7 items add up to 83.6% of the total budget.

So when you say you wanna cut federal spending, tell me where.  And be specific.  "Waste Fraud and Abuse" is not a qualifier unless you can point to real examples.

How It Works

Everybody's favorite Congress managed to get Unemployment Bennies extended after only an extra month of  doing whatever it is they do to make us think they aren't just jackin' each other off.
From John Cole at Balloon Juice:
You see- you aren’t allowed to just pass a bill extending unemployment benefits at the cost of $2.4 billion dollars, because that would be socialism. It takes another $21.6 billion to grease the palms of the people who own the “moderates” and the “fiscal conservatives,” and once you get the cost up to $24 billion, you have achieved “capitalism.”

Off-Year Elections

Looking at the election results from Tuesday, lots of people keep asking "what does it mean?" 
Here's what it means: Republicans won a couple, Democrats won a couple, and you too can be Mayor of New York City for the low low price of just $100 Million.

People wanted change so they voted for Obama last year.  Guess what - they still want change so they're voting against incumbency.  But guess what else - sometimes change is a scary thing when you're in the middle of it, so there's a tendency to revert to the old familiar ways of doing things. 

Having sobered up a little after the Bush Blowout, some of us are beginning to remember that actually you can't get something for nothing.  If you want good schools and roads and safe food and secure borders and professional cops and clean water and healthcare and and and - then you have to figure out how to pay for it all.  If you don't want to pay for anything, then you don't get anything.  It's not a…

War Dead

Another month goes by and we're still spending lives and big piles of money in places where nobody wants us to be, for reasons nobody believes in.

US Dead in Iraq = 4355
US Dead in Afghanistan = 909

Dollars spent for 2 wars since 2001: $928,000,000,000.00 (increases by approx $318 Million per day)

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight

Carbon

Proposals for Cap & Trade to reduce Carbon Emmissions get a lot of ink; and of course, they attract a lot of crap from "both sides" - tho' I can't quite firgure out what there is to be choosing sides about.  Traditionally, the thing is set up as Jobs vs Scenery - which is stupid.  Even if it's possible to separate the Economy from the Environment, it's really not a good idea to try.  The whole thing just doesn't work as a zero-sum game.  We have to have both in balance.  So we need to stop pretending we're smart enough to beat the system.

Cap and trade on SO2 emmissions here from EDF.

The projected cost of cap and trade on CO2 emmissions here from Stanford Univ.

When The Wall Came Down

WaPo ran a cool little recap today in the Outlook Section.

"But the real story of the wall coming down is a lot less tidy than it may appear in the rear-view mirror. The "decision" to open the border was not a conscious choice at all. Instead of a reassuring victory for the forces of freedom, it was a chaotic and potentially violent mess. One of the most momentous events of the past century was, in fact, an accident, a semicomical and bureaucratic mistake that owes as much to the Western media as to the tides of history."

Always good to take another look at memorable events.

Risk Management

Sticking Point(s)

This is one of the things I've been worrying about.  Dumping Will Kill Us

If we aren't careful, we're gonna get a reform law that simply sets us up to fail. Either the public option leads to a system that transfers enormous amounts of money from taxpayers to insurance companies; or it strips out the quaality of care from private plans because it applies so much pricing pressure; or it kills the insurance industry outright; or, or, or, etc.

I think the one thing that's obvious is that this is gonna get painful.

Just The Way You Are

Dove started this a few years ago, and it seemed like a great idea. Real women depicted in a real way. Haven't heard much about it lately; I'm hoping they stick with it.

Crock Of The Week

Cluster Fox

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The Rupert Street Journal may have let one slip by.
The token librul, Thomas Franks somehow got this past 'em.

"But no journalistic operation is better prepared to sing the tragedy of its own martyrdom than Fox News. To all the usual journalistic instincts it adds its grand narrative of Middle America's disrespectful treatment by the liberal elite. Persecution fantasy is Fox News's lifeblood; give it the faintest whiff of the real thing and look out for a gale-force hissy fit."


Live To Work vs Work To Live

By way of The Agonist, here's a post from a guy named Joe Bageant.

"America looks like one big workhouse, "under God, indivisible, with time off to shit, shower and shop." A country whose citizens have been reduced to "human assets" of a vast and relentless economic machine, moving human parts oiled by commodities and kept in motion by the edict, "produce or die." Where employment and a job dominates all other aspects of life, and the loss of which spells the loss of everything."

"But you won't hear anyone complaining. America doesn't like whiners. A whiner or a cynic is about the worst thing you can be in the land of gunpoint optimism. Foreigners often remark on the upbeat American personality. I assure them that our American corpocracy has its ways of pistol whipping or sedating its human assets into the appropriate level of cheeriness."

Afghanistan

From an Op-Ed piece by Scott Corey as posted on Juan Cole's Informed Comment.

"Today, power is so diffuse that empire and isolation are equally dead. Control of information, money, natural resources, and ideological persuasiveness all move parts of the political world. Still, all of it hangs on a framework of formal authority residing in a collection of states that wield force, legitimacy, representation, and diplomacy.
Terrorism prospers in the complexity of this political world. Political identity is no longer simple and fixed, so friend and enemy are hard to know. If I hit you, we fight, because the enmity is clear. If I coerce you with weapons, you might be intimidated or you might defy me, but the choice is clear. However, if I kill someone else in a spectacular manner, you need to know why before you can react. My cause might be just. My enemy might be your enemy. Or I might be coming for you and yours if you take the wrong path."

News vs Opinion

At ClusterFox, they seem to blur the line just a bit.

Beck's Projections

Listen closely, and you can make out the subliminal message: Teach your kids to expect less. There are winners and losers in life; the people you see on TV and the people you read about in the papers are the winners, and all of you are losers. Get used to it.

Carl Sagan Sings(?)

Virginia Gubernatorial Race

Nick's project for his Government Class is this campaign spot - with my own humble self doing a guest shot as narrator.

Evidence-Based Reality

And the debate rages on.  From an article in Wired, Amy Wallace takes a look at what's beginning to happen as a result of the "Anti-Vaccination Movement".
In May, The New England Journal of Medicine laid the blame for clusters of disease outbreaks throughout the US squarely at the feet of declining vaccination rates, while nonprofit health care provider Kaiser Permanente reported that unvaccinated children were 23 times more likely to get pertussis, a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing and is potentially lethal to infants. In the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, Jason Glanz, an epidemiologist at Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported pertussis cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004. A disease that vaccines made rare, in other words, is making a comeback. “This study helps dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccin…

Superconductive Levitation

Your science assignment for today:

For The Record

I caught a short glimpse of Frank Gaffney on Hardball trying to argue that a real insurgency caused problems in Germany after WWII - which somehow is supposed to mean we should stay in Iraq and Afghanistan in spite of the locals' deep desire to get us outa there.

The 'Werewolf' in Germany was mostly fiction - made up of frightened hungry teenagers and some number of die-hard Nazi buttheads.  A Pentagon report listed 42 American soldiers "killed as a result of enemy action" between June and December 1945. In 1946, there were three.

Get. Out. Now.

Once An Asshole, Always An Asshole

“They’re opening them [oil fields] up to other companies all over the world … We’re entitled to it. Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and a trillion, five hundred billion dollars," -T. Boone Pickens, speaking to Congress about Iraq.

I have to admit, when Pickens was doing his commercials for wind energy, I tho't maybe we were seeing the beginnings of real change in how we'd go about feeding the beast - which (I'd hoped) would change the beast.  Now I see it was just standard bullshit - he saw an opportunity and tried to capitalize on it.  Nothin' wrong with that in itself, but pricks like T Boone Pickens feel entitled to the resources that somebody else paid for.  They actually believe that my kids should fight and bleed and die in some desert shithole to make sure they have access to the enormous profits they can make by selling the oil back to the machinery being used to go to places like Iraq to secure their access to the oil supplies.

Ther…

Green Economy

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http://www.brammo.com/home/

100% electric motorcycle.  15,000 miles on about $100 in electricity.


Return To Glass-Steagall

"By not making another financial crisis impossible, they are making another financial crisis inevitable, and next time it will be even worse."

cupidty –noun; eager or excessive desire, esp. to possess something; greed; avarice.

Read this from Ian Welsh.

The Warning

We're gettin' fucked with our pants on, guys. And it doesn't stop until we all stand up and make it stop.  So here's your homework assignment for tonight.

Front Line - The Warning

Be aware of the problem, and at least be supportive of people who try to do something about it.

Mr Grayson Rocks The House

Pointing out the stupid shit that sometimes passes for "The People's Business" is an important function. Let's hope he has the integrity to do the same with the Dems from time to time as well.

Money In Your Pocket

When the cost of healthcare coverage (as a percentage of compensation) goes down, wages go up.

Ezra Klein posted a good look at the concept.

Mind Your Mother

"The problem with modern contrarianism is that it's lazy. Too often, it's the sole focus of a piece, and it's the focus for reasons purely of entertainment or ideology. Which is too bad, because the kind of journalism that's most useful is the kind that explains both first order things and counterreactions and doesn't pander to readers' desires to pretend that the world is simpler than it really is. After all, counterreactions may usually be less important than first-order effects, but they're still worth investigating. Some tax cuts really don't raise as much revenue as you'd think. Raising the minimum wage really can have perverse effects in specific slices of the economy. If you're genuinely interested in knowing how the world works, you want to know this."

Kevin Drum explains at Mother Jones.

Give 'Em Hell, Harry

From a speech Harry Truman gave at a convention of The AHA in 1952.

At about 11:40, he makes the point that healthcare is vital to national security. "only the strong survive, and only the healthy can be strong."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wow

I got my first ever comment.  It's from somebody signing as "Snowball", posted yesterday, and I just noticed it this evening.  Yay.  Thanks, Snowball.

Ten Years Of Hell

Matt Taibbi does some great reporting. It's a long piece, and I had to circle back to read some of it more than twice, but the perspective is important.
"By the middle of the Bush years, the great investment banks like Bear and Lehman no longer made their money financing real businesses and creating jobs. Instead, Wall Street now serves, in the words of one former investment executive, as "Lucy to America's Charlie Brown," endlessly creating new products to lure the great herd of unwitting investors into whatever tawdry greed-bubble is being spun at the moment: Come kick the football again, only this time we'll call it the Internet, real estate, oil futures. Wall Street has turned the economy into a giant asset-stripping scheme, one whose purpose is to suck the last bits of meat from the carcass of the middle class."

Crock Of The Week

Rush Is Out

Rush LimpBalls has run the standard play (claim to be the victim and deny any ownership of your own actions) in his attempt to salvage something from his latest little dalliance at the edges of the NFL.

He also throws out the usual dodge of pointing at Al Sharpton (Tawana Brawley) and Jesse Jackson (HymieTown), and trying to say, "it's OK if I'm a racist asshole because those other guys are racist assholes too."

Rush is given space in (where else, right?) The Rupert Street Journal to plead his case

The last full paragraph is my favorite.  First, he whines about "the news business...contempt for conservatives".  (Does this mean that Rush has a paricular soft spot for liberals that I'm just not seeing?  And is he somehow working under an assumption that the tight little group of the NFL Ownership is just chock full of Democrats?)   Then he seems to be saying that his poor humble self is being denied access to the American Dream just because he's a …

Too Rich To Care

If you don't have it, then (obviously) you don't deserve it.

This is why unregulated free enterprise always leads to bloody revolt.

NY Times Op-Ed by Paul Sullivan - can this guy get any more tone deaf?

Here's No More Mister Nice Guy taking it apart.

10 Years Of Hell

From Lance Mannion:

"We’re experiencing a jobless recovery right now. That’s a problem. But my fear is that we’re on our way to a jobless economy"

-and-

"It’s a good bet that company execs rarely think of their companies as making something or doing something special at all. All big businesses are in the business of selling stock."

New For Your iPhone

Larry Summers Speaks

Sounds a lot like he's warming up to do battle with Wall Street.  Should be interesting to see if he calls for any specifics.

From The Agonist.

Buy The Cookies

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Creationism vs Evolution (cont'd) Updated 10-17-09 1110 EST

We're a nation of laws, and law requires factual evidence.

Creationists claim that their faith (ie: absence of evidence) is the same as the presence of the factual evidence of science.

If I'm in a position of authority, and I've established my Belief as The Law, then I should be able to drag anyone into court and convict them of the worst crimes imaginable simply by saying I believe them to be guilty.

UPDATE:
Kansas decided a couple of years ago that science courses in public schools would deal with teaching Evolution and not Creationism.  The full force of law is now behind Science - meaning that the use of deadly force can be brought to bear on anyone teaching anything else in a science class in Kansas.

Logical Extreme: If I teach Creationism in my science class when Creationism has been banned, I can be fired.  If I refuse to leave the building, then I can be forcibly removed.  If I resist being removed, then the authorities have the option to escalate all the way to…

Today's Worst

10 Years Of Hell

Well now, this oughta make your day.  The guys at The Agonist are in their usual cheery mood.

"If you are an American and want to survive this, you have got to get your living costs down. You have to find a cheaper mortgage or cheaper housing, you have to monitor your food costs, shrink your electrical and heating bills, renegotiate your homeowners and life insurance, and pray that the federal government does something to reduce health care costs. Your wages are going to stagnate for a long time to come - if you can keep a job - and you are going to have to play the deflation game yourself when it comes to managing your costs."

Corporatism

There are a few things for which Capitalism is just not well-suited.  Prisons for example.

Here's a story from The Texas Observer reporting on a riot in Pecos.
"As the crisis negotiators quickly found out, the riot had not been prompted by gang infighting, racial tensions or a spontaneous outburst of violence. The men incarcerated at the Pecos prison are considered “low-security”; most are serving relatively short sentences for immigration violations or drug offenses. All are set to be deported at the end of their sentences.
Leaders of the rebellion were demanding a meeting with the Mexican Consulate, the FBI and the warden to discuss a number of grievances that they said GEO Group, the prison company that manages the 3,700-bed facility, had refused to address.
The evening of the uprising, the inmates sent a delegation of seven men—a Venezuelan, a Cuban, a Nigerian, and four Mexicans—to meet with the authorities.
They explained that the uprising had erupted from widespread diss…

Creationism vs Evolution

(this is a work in progress; I just want to jot some things down as they pop into my head)

We're a nation of laws, and law requires factual evidence.

Creationists claim that their absence of evidence (faith) is the same as the presence of the factual evidence of science.

If I accept the creationists' belief as the law, then I should be able to drag them all into court and convict them all of the worst crimes imaginable simply by saying I believe them to be guilty.

Unemployment Numbers for September 09

SUMMARY:
The unemployment rate increased a tenth of a percentage point to 9.8% in September, in line with the Bloomberg market consensus.

The rate has doubled since the start of the recession. This 4.9 point increase is the highest recessionary increase on record.
The labor force contracted significantly in September.

Some scary shit from The Fed in Atlanta.

Why is it they never give us the real numbers the first time around?

Short Memory

Cluster Fox needs you to believe; they need you to clap your hands so Tinker Bell doesn't die; they need you to ignore that man behind the curtain. And they need you to believe there's no such thing as a video archive. These people have no soul.

Crooks & Liars

New Mr Deity Episode