Monday, May 31, 2010

Maria Muldaur

A bit of a chestnut, but I never get tired of hearing Amos Garret's amazing riffs at the break.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aliens

Close encounters of the fungal kind?

This thing is growing near the tree line behind the house.

The Mosque At Ground Zero

There's a meltdown occurring because the community board in lower Manhattan has approved plans to build a good-sized Mosque/Muslim Community Ctr a couple of blocks away from the WTC site.

The Brain Free Zone (aka Fox News and other Wingnut Media) is going ape shit, yelling about "those insensitive bastards...; it's a slap in the face...; blah blah blah.

I only know two things about any of this:
Fear is the opposite of love, and forgiveness is the opposite of hate.

BTW: the proposed mosque is to replace one that's already within spittin' distance anyway.  If you're opposed to any mosque "on hallowed ground", then you need to have been a little more aware of what's been goin' on all along.

This non-troversy is typical reactionary bullshit and I'm callin' it for what it is.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Deficit As Hangover

From a post at The New Rupublic, Chait argues that Obama isn't wrong, he's just not right.

























Now, I think it's fine for a story to eschew "balance"when one side is making an unsupportable or hypocritical case. But Obama's case isn't wrong -- it really is true that the economic and budgetary problems we're facing were inherited from the previous administration. What's false is the Republican effort to imply that Obama caused the problems -- an argument that collapses upon the slightest empirical pressure. But somehow the standard here is not what's correct but what's polite, and it's impolite for Obama to blame Bush.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

That's Entertainment

It's gettin' fun now, by golly.

Bombing of a Mosque in Florida.

Joe Arpaio = Sheriff of Nottingham.

Arizona threatens retaliation for boycott.

Yay, Germany - I think

The Germans decided to ban the practice of Naked Short Selling when it comes to European Gov't debt, and a lot of the snakes on streets named Fleet and Wall have their panties in a bunch because of it.

The way I understand it is that short selling is a necessary aspect of keeping the markets "honest" - or at least as honest as some of these assholes are willing to let it be.  But anyway, shorting is a time-honored device that lets me borrow shares of a company's stock, sell them at a price below current market value, and then buy them back when the market price goes down.  Usually, "shorting" is a bet that the market in general, or the price for that particular stock is heading down.  And it's a good thing to have because it can be a safety valve.  Properly applied, short selling can help prevent bubbles.  But if you do it on a big enough scale, you can actually force the price(s) down, and then shorting becomes just another means of manipulation and speculation.  And that's where Naked Shorting comes in.

Naked Shorting (to my mind) is really just a statement that you want the price of something to be a lot lower.  You've not borrowed the stock or the bond or whatever - and so you're not risking your own money- but you're saying you'll sell it at a price well short of the current asking price if others are interested in buying it.  This creates a kind or impromptu consortium of players which dramatically multiplies your market power.

So I'm a little uneasy about shorting because like any other useful tool it can be a weapon of malice, causing undue harm to good companies (and the PEOPLE who make up those companies) solely in the name of turning a few extra profit points for guys who never actually produced anything in their lives.  Don't get me wrong - bankers and brokers are necessary to a healthy economy, but when they elevate themselves above it, they become threats to the system and have to be beaten back.

When you sell something that doesn't belong to you, we call it fraud and you're supposed to go to jail for that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Awesome Power Of Rationization



The Pro-Gunners all seem nice and reasonable when it comes to abiding by the law banning all guns in order to attend their convention. I have to assume not all Pro-Gunners feel the same as the people in this clip, but these few say they're just fine with the kind of gun control restrictions at their convention site that their organization went apeshit over when WashDC tried to ban handguns. And the irony is completely lost on them. The real kicker is the guy at the end. He actually says he's more worried that the Anti-Gunners might bring guns and make trouble; and so, in the interest of everybody's safety, disarming everybody is a good idea.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Religiosity

A Catholic nun and longtime administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix was reassigned in the wake of a decision to allow a pregnancy to be ended in order to save the life of a critically ill patient.

The decision also drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, who indicated the woman was “automatically excommunicated” because of the action.

Neither the hospital nor the bishop’s office would address whether the bishop had a direct role in her demotion. He does not have control of the hospital as a business but is the voice of moral authority over any Catholic institution operating in the diocese.

The actions involving the administrator, mostly taken within the past couple of weeks, followed a last-minute, life-or-death drama in late 2009. The patient had a rare and often fatal condition in which a pregnancy can cause the death of the mother.

Sister Margaret McBride, who had been vice president of mission integration at the hospital, was on call as a member of the hospital’s ethics committee when the surgery took place, hospital officials said. She was part of a group of people, including the patient and doctors, who decided upon the course of action.

So, if you're a kid-fucking priest, the church takes great pains to protect you and send you from parish to parish to spread your shit.  But if you're a nun who takes a little initiative in an attempt to salvage something less than completely fucked up out of a situation that's nothin' but fucked up, then they come down on you like a truckload of rocks.


Oil Spill

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

"The answer is no to that," a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. "We're not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It's not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort."


There's a fairly simple rule about Project Management and Problem Solving that applies universally.  It goes like this: If you don't appreciate the full scope of the task, you are almost certain to fail.

2 probabilities - BP knows it's worse than they're saying it is publicly; and they're gambling that the bulk of the oil will stay below the surface, which gives them some plausible deniability. 

I guess I worry that the "anti-oilers" are seen as overstating the problem. If the catastrophe then doesn't quite materialize the way they say it will, there's an opportunity for the "pro-oilers" to whip up a backlash, and we're right back to Drill Baby Drill.

Lastly, what happens to the booms and the sandbag dikes and to the oil blob itself when there's a storm?



Friday, May 14, 2010

Solution Of The Month part 2

Conflation

As always, nothing happens all by itself.  Everything happens in some kind of context; concomitantly;  in conjunction with...etc.  So the oil flood south of New Orleans comes at a time when the dead zone (also just south of NO - and the 2nd largest in the world) is gearing up for the summer season as the Mississippi dumps a jillion tons of animal waste, lawn care chemicals, farm fertilizers, parking lot runoff, and partially treated human shit into the Gulf of Mexico.

From discovery.com

From mindfully.org

I guess we can hope that this disaster contains the usual 30% sawdust-as-dramatic-filler-material that our Press Poodles love to pimp to us.  Or maybe we shouldn't hope for that at all.  What if the media types tell us it's gonna be huge, and then it isn't so huge, and then we get the feeling that this isn't as bad as it actually is?  We can all go back to pretending that we're not driving ourselves over the cliff.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Fitting Tribute to Ken Cuccinelli

The Coochster is taking lots of heat.

Listen to the mp3, and follow along with the lyrics below.

As published in Richmond Times Dispatch (by Bart Hinkle 5-7-2010)

I am the very model of a mad Attorney General,
My politics are paleoconservative and visceral --
I'll sue the pants off Democrats and wreck their plans historical
With writs and briefs that I'll compose, tendentious and rhetorical . . . .
I'll stop environmentalists from regulating greenhouse gas
By proving carbon dioxide does not have an atomic mass --
That solar-radiative forcing's nothing but a liberal plot
And dendroclimatology is superstitious tommyrot.
I'll prove the EPA is overrun with Commie militants
Who haven't shown a single lick of scientific diligence --
In short, in matters legal, ecological, and federal
I am the very model of a mad Attorney General.

I'll stop the federales, too, from passing mandates medical --
Our Founding Fathers would have found them utterly heretical:
There's nothing in the Constitution that allows the government
To take upon itself an act of such obscene aggrandizement.
Our hospitals and clinics do not need yet more bureaucracy
The whole scheme is most antithetical toward democracy;
ObamaCare could mean as well a case of hip dysplasia
Might put your grandma on a gurney, bound for euthanasia.
The situation's reached the point that it is nearly critical --
And so I'll sue to save the life of our corpus political.
In short, in matters Hippocratic, curative, and medical,
I am the very model of a mad Attorney General.

I'll save our universities as well from filthy sodomites;
The colleges have got no grounds to grant those fellows equal rights.
The legislature has declared they constitute a second class --
Though some might find that attitude as dated as Depression glass
I do not think we need more men who know how to redecorate
Or women dressed like lumberjacks -- God meant us all to procreate.
It's right there in Leviticus: Verse seventeen of chapter eight
Requires colleges to let their faculties discriminate.
I simply want to guarantee our young men's masculinity
By keeping Sapphic types far from the commonwealth's vicinity
In short, in matters non-Euclidian or homosexual
I am the very model of a mad Attorney General.

I also like to think myself a rather high-browed classisist
And artifacts of history are something I cannot resist
But images of Virtue that expose her breast and mamelon
Are too risqué -- they're apt to turn the concupiscent rabble on.
There's nothing more erotic than the Iliad or the Odyssey
And so I'll substitute a pin that manifests more modesty
(One mustn't risk the chance that some poor lad's Attic exuberance
Could lend itself to lusty thoughts and some turgid protuberance).
I'm simply trying to keep things clean, I don't believe in censorship --
But won't go down in history as the man who let a nipple slip.
In short in matters glandular, lactiferous, and sensual
I am the very model of a mad Attorney General.

Today's Quote

Something politicians might wanna consider.

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. -George Eliot

Fallout

We haven't heard much about it lately, but apparently there's still some effort to get back at the US for our high-handed approach to "fighting terrorism" during the Bush administration.

From Harper's Mag online.

I use the term "get back at" because I think these attempts are more about grandstanding for public consumption than they're about justice and substance.  That said tho', the Spanish seem to have a real bug up their butts about it.  And it wouldn't exactly hurt my feelings if somebody from Bush's team took a fall.

I think it's more than a little interesting that not one of the former Bush officials has ever gone out of the country to do any kind of victory lap anywhere but Saudi Arabia.

On Conspiracy Theories

There was a thread over at The Agonist today, trying to make some sense of the recent Flash Crash.  One of the commenters asked the author to "dumb it down a bit" because he didn't understand all of the jargon. The author then provided what I consider the best insight on conspiracy theories I've heard so far.

Paraphrasing:
You see why there is constant demand for alternative conspiracy theories. People at least have to understand the terminology. A conspiracy theory would be more credible to me if it contained concepts which a layman couldn't understand; but they never do; because the theory has to survive in a story telling market.

Brilliant.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ten Years Of Hell

Whether or not you believe it, I'm not always looking for dark clouds that surround the silver linings.  There has been some decent economic news of late and I really do wanna be up and enthused, but I'm not going to be sucked in by the happy talk that managers and bureaucrats throw at us every other day.

The Credit/Debt Monster is still on the loose, and the bail out schemes for Wall Street and Greece (and the rest of the EU), plus the Stimulus Package (the 2nd half of which hasn't even started yet) are still way too recent for anybody with any sense or credibility to make a good assessment.  So we're operating on the assumption that "we're on the right track" and "things will be back to normal soon".  Where have we heard that before?

Here's a little ditty from Rupert Street Journal from last month that passes on to us exactly what the Gov't told the "reporter".  But there's a gimmick the lenders use when reporting  problems with these loans that actually helps them under-report the loans in default by a factor of up to 5.  Where most of the loans showing up in these statistics are the "traditional" ones held by 20- and 30-Somethings for loans they took out to go to "traditional" institutions, the real story in the last couple of years is that a huge amount of money has been borrowed by a much wider range of people to attend the non-traditional For-Profit schools like Univ of Phoenix and Capella Univ which have been enjoying a massive boom.  Any guesses on what those default rates are?  Take a look at this episode from Frontline. At about the 40 minute mark, the picture of our future servitude comes into very sharp focus.

And Jesus wept.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wastefulness

Ya wanna know what Government Waste really looks like?

Here it is.

The wrangling over Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's investigation of a climate scientist continues...

After indicating last week that it would comply with a subpoena sent by the AG, demanding documents relating to the work of former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann, the university is now equivocating. "Our intention is to comply but we are looking at some options," a UVA spokeswoman told theWashington Post yesterday.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

AGW Denial Fallout

Climate Change resistance seems to be all about a political agenda that intends to create inaction.  "Conservatives" and Repubs (mostly) are always blocking movement toward anything they think disrupts the status quo (ie: threatens their positions of power).  There may be some legitimate reasons for it - eg: the economic disruptions of moving away from oil will likely be pretty major, and the trouble we can't predict is always what hurts the most.

While I can understand the reasoning, I dislike intensely the conflict that arises from the way people go about trying to put their policies into effect. The tactic is to paint the AGW proponents as being in service of a Leftist Political slant intent on destroying capitalism, which is of course always portrayed as being "the very essence of all things American".

"Lefties" often do the same kind of painting, but right now, I think the view from "The Left" is more accurate.  My assessment of the ebb and flow of political sensibility is that we're shifting to the left again.  It may well be that the way to "save capitalism" is to take it away from the assholes who claim to be its defenders.

In the case of AGW, the really odd thing for me is that what's driving the shift in sensibility is an adherence to the traditions of science, and that's forcing the opposition to attack the facts themselves, and to defend a position based on uninformed / misinformed / disinformed disbelief.

So we end up arguing about the process instead of debating solutions for the real problems.

Some interesting stuff over at Little Green Footballs.

Solution Of The Month part 1

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Make Up Your Mind

Ten Years After

I'd Love To Change The World

Changes

So I was listening to Tony Blankley today on KCRW's Left Right and Center (via truthdig.com).  The topic swings around to BP's oil spill in the gulf and the other commentators are bitchin' about how awful it is, and Blankley says (I'm paraphrasing), "hey, it's bad, but if we don't drill for oil here, we'll have to ship it in, and there're more spills with shipping than with drilling, and we'll be sending more of our money to foreigners - so just think how much worse it'll be if we DON'T keep drilling..."  And I just flashed on something - these guys are always using that specious bullshit argument about some totally unprovable hypothetical that sounds really scary and all too often closes the debate.  We have to stop going along with that shit.

First, we can challenge these guys on the simple fact that they're often so totally assbackwards on their predictions.

Secondly, because our imagination is unlimited, we can conjure up all manner of horrible outcomes - every event COULD BE much worse.

But here's the point: Instead of accepting that kind of argument (which is so often delivered in a condescending and dismissive tone), we need to turn it around on itself.

THEY SAY: "...so it could've been a lot worse, and the next time it WILL be worse if we don't just go along with (insert crappy policy that produced shitty outcome here)"

I SAY: Stick it right back in your ditty bag, Sparky.  Maybe we should start thinking about how much BETTER it could all be if we had some real regulatory guidance; and if some of these asshole companies like BP and Goldman Sachs and Halliburton started following the fucking rules.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Calling Names

Some teabaggers are upset because they say the term "teabagger" is insensitive and insulting.  Cluster Fox ran a longish segment with Monica and Megyn rippin' Obama for using the term.

At first blush: tough shit, girls.  Get a helmet. Nobody likes it and nobody should do it, but y'know, if you're gonna bitch about being called names...fuck it. Never mind.

Moron Arizona
























Meanwhile, get a load of some of these polling results:

                  Fer    Agin   Ain't Sure
All               53      36         11

Dems           12      79          9
Repubs        89       7           4
Indies          46      28         26

White          63      26         11
Hispanic       15      76          9
Black            8       80        12

Ever get the feeling that white people really shouldn't be in charge of this joint?
If we ever get a chance at reworking the school system, I think the first thing is to make Civics a part of the core curriculum.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Confluence

I love it when aspects of different and unrelated stories or events come together and link up to illustrate a point.

First, there's the problem with Arizona's (SB 1070) Papers Please law.  Opponents hate it for a variety of (I think) good reasons, but mainly because it turns Hispanics into 2nd Class citizens by reinforcing our silly notion that while profiling is kind of unpleasant; and we certainly wouldn't want it done to us; we need to make some exceptions because after all, we're practically under attack here, and really - if you look at all those illegals, the thing that stands out is that almost all of 'em are brown...

Second, months ago, an Afghani civilian who was supposed to be "on our side" attacked and killed a group of US Military and CIA, killing a bunch of them.  This was a big surprise because while the guy was suspected of being a double agent, they didn't expect him to go all Jihadi because he was in his 30's, he was married, he had a couple of kids...BECAUSE HE DIDN'T FIT THE FUCKING PROFILE!

The brilliance of the guys who put this country together is reaffirmed.  It's like they knew that whatever else happened, we weren't gonna make it unless we understood that we have to treat people like people.  We have to be willing to do the hard work of dealing with each other as individuals and as equals.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And The Horse You Rode In On

Homeopathy Sendup

More Bubbles

And the hits just keep rollin'. What level of disaster will it take to get us to understand some things?

More at The Real News

Ten Years Of Hell

Plutocracy: government by the wealthy

Plutonomy: a term that combines plutocracy and economy, refers to an economy in which growth is confined to people at the very top of the wealth pyramid. The term was coined by investment and marketing advisers to characterize the U.S. economy, as an ostensible guide to framing profitable investment and marketing strategies. Critics assert that this usage is one of the many indicators of the moral corruption of the system.

Plutonomy stands at the opposite end of the continuum from economic democracy, a system in which every person has an ownership stake in the means of production on which their livelihood depends. Economic democracy is an essential foundation of political democracy. Plutonomy and political democracy are mutually exclusive, as the current U.S. experience demonstrates so clearly.


This sounds a little "too left" for me, but it also seems there's a pretty strong sentiment in favor of it right now. 

Economic Justice is something we're used to hearing about from guys like Al Sharpton or Spike Lee - and of course, we've generally dismissed it as some coded message about Race-based Politics, but maybe now we're seeing a move toward the rhetorical framing that makes the concept of greater economic equality sound more acceptable emotionally - which in turn will make that equality more achievable politically.

The pendulum swings.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Day, Another Spill

From Reddit by way of HuffPo:

Breaking News: Large air spill at wind farm!  No threats reported.  Some claim to enjoy the breeze.


















Wouldn't it be nice.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Today In Pictures





















Lacrosse Backstop

As usual, the project looks pretty easy and cheap, and then costs a lot more and takes a lot longer than I figured.  At least we get to do something together.