Wednesday, December 30, 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, it's easy for me to find someone to rebut that story and help me pretend nothing's changed.  I need that pacifier so I can spend as little time and effort as possible sorting thru the data and processing the information so I can get back to being stressed out over my job or my kids or my house or my car or my breakfast cereal or whatever else the marketing department is pushing on me this season.

I'd really like to find a way to wrap this up neatly, but I'm stumped again.  I guess all I can say is that I think we get closer to the Big-T Truth by gathering the smaller bits of little-t truth as we go.

Monday, December 28, 2009

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.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

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.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

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 some dinner.  Encountered one of the neighbors trying to get back home after almost 3 days on shift at UVa hospital.  Fatigue must've clouded his judgement, as something possessed him to try driving his Lexus sedan down the unplowed road. Anyway, there he was blocking our egress not more than 100 feet from the intersection with the main road.  Fortunately, a couple of guys in Jeep CJ's from the Earlysville Fire Dept (right around the corner) had been working on it for a while and they winched his dumb ass out so we could escape.
We made it out toTGI Friday's (1st place we found that was open) and had a fine meal.  Trip back home was uneventful and when we got here the power had returned.  A big win.  Many thanks to all the people who know how to fix stuff.
I'm going to bed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

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

























Winter Wonderland

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".

Sadie on the front stoop this morning:

Friday, December 18, 2009

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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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

Saturday, December 5, 2009

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 shoulder all the time. The paradigm isn't about doing the right thing - it's about what you can get away with. As that swings back the other way, we'll see the change in attitude needed to make changes in policies.

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 every $1 of revenue loss.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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

An open thread at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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.