Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
A few months ago I stopped commenting at my conservative counterpart Donald Douglas' blog American Power because the little lady kept deleting my posts that he didn't like and I got tired of banging my digital head against a brick firewall. I still stop by every once in a while when I need a good laugh or cheering up but I don't waste any more time there than that. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that my tubby little buddy hasn't forgotten all about yours truly:
Actually, this seems like a comment from folks like snark-ass JBW:The rest of the post is about a tea bagging party held at a replica of Independence Hall Don went to in So Cal to see free range Republican cougar Michele Bachmann talking about how everyone in government is bad and wants to destroy America except for her and her friends. I was going to make some snarky comments about Don being an unprovoked hater vis-à-vis the Chappelle's Show inspired graphic above but then I remembered how totally racist it was of me suggesting that he would have to fight my hate monkey Thade a while back and I didn't want to upset the old boy through word association. Oh, and Don doesn't know this because he and I have never met face to face but I actually have the words "Snark Ass" tattooed across all of my knuckles, hard core gangsta-style. Don't hate the blogger, Don; hate the game.Dear Dr Douglas: If you want to see the Liberty Bell, or the place where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed, we have the originals here in Pennsylvania; you don't have to see faux copies.But actually, that's from Dana at Common Sense Political Thought.
You probably already knew that but then someone asked him what he thought of President Obama's State of the Union address:
I remember when the Internet and especially the blogosphere had both become large enough that they started having a real effect on politics and I would watch a compilation like the one above and think to myself, "What is this guy, stupid? Doesn't he know that people are going to be fact checking his every word when he says this about the president? Maybe he could have gotten away with saying something like this and not be exposed as a bald-faced liar thirty years ago but certainly not today, doesn't he know this?" I would think that to myself but I didn't know at the time how wrong I was.
He can get away with it, they all can get away with it and almost all of them do. Politicians and pundits and talking heads go on television and lie every day and the entire political blogosphere devotes its energy toward exposing them and then what happens? The tiny minority of Americans who actually give a shit about politics and government educate themselves and learn the truth only to ultimately be held hostage to the electoral whims of everyone else who only know who Giuliani is because he's the guy from that 9/11 thing on TV. You just watched proof that the things he's saying are lies but all he has to do is say them on television enough times and eventually enough people will consider them truth. This is the state of American politics in the 21st century.
Sorry, I woke up really early today and I'm grumpy. I needs me some Red Bull.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
So I watched the State of the Union speech last night (you can watch/read it here) and yes, I do have a few thoughts. All in all I found it a pretty good, not great, but pretty good speech and while it was one of the longer States of the Union in a decade I thought that it encompassed pretty much everything it had to without plodding along (although the average non-political junkie might take exception to that statement). Most importantly though, it was a challenge to the American people as well as the recently ineffectual Democratic party to not back down in the face of economic and political adversity.
As always, Obama combined soaring oratory with conversational rhetoric and I thought that he appeared quite presidential as he used both to easily convey his ideas to the American people in a frank, almost informal, manner. He once again enumerated the myriad problems that his administration has inherited from the last one (this will most likely be labeled as petty or partisan by some talking heads but recent news cycles have shown that many folks are already beginning to forget these things) before quickly moving on to the main topic of the economy.
He started out by commiserating with Americans about their collective economic woes with a warning that while the worst is behind us there is still much to be done (tedious but necessary) before laying out proposals for business loans, tax credits and the elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses while at the same time urging the Senate to pass a jobs bill similar to the House bill from last year. He also articulated the need for stronger financial reform of the banking system which was then followed by a call for more investment in clean energy jobs and increases in safe nuclear power, off shore drilling and so-called clean coal technology. I can't tell you how happy it made me to finally hear a Democratic president calling for more and better nuclear power plants; I was less enthusiastic about the off shore drilling and "clean" coal however.
He then noted the need for increased U.S. exporting of goods and making sure that our trading partners and competitors adhere to the rules of current trade agreements in order to make America competitive on the world market once again. Finally, he emphasized that we must increase funding for and accountability of public education, particularly in the areas of math and the sciences, through a national reform competition and tax credits for attending four year colleges. His pronouncement that he does "not accept second-place for the United States of America" on these fronts set an appropriately forceful tone as he then addressed the current health care reform debate in Congress.
He repeated his administrations goals of covering the uninsured, bringing down the deficit and insurance premiums, strengthening Medicare for seniors and reining in insurance company abuses (those of us who have been paying attention have heard these all a thousand times) before stating that he's still open to any serious suggestions about doing so while also asking Congress to "not walk away from reform" when they are so close to changing the status quo of a health care system that has been broken for decades. This is what I was wanting to hear more than anything else last night and while I think that he could have been a little more forceful (don't I always?) I think that his message was quite clear: I've spent the better part of my first year working on this so you wishy-washy bureaucratic pussies need to sack up and get this thing done! That's a little something called leadership and it was nice to see him finally doing it well.
Addressing the deficit Obama again explained that it was necessary to spend money that was added to our debt in order to right the country's financial ship rather than immediately trying to reduce spending, something he would have preferred to do right away. He introduced his plan for a bipartisan fiscal commission charged with reducing the deficit and then stated that since American families are tightening their belts that the federal government should do the same; though why, I have no idea. Yes, his proposed three year spending freeze looks good on a psychological and symbolic level and it's a good jumping off point for serious fiscal responsibility and reforms in the future but I'm still of the opinion that when it comes to the economy we should be listening to the suggestions of actual economists, not public opinion polls from nervous voters unable to balance their own checkbooks.
He then pivoted to the problem of Americans not trusting their government (who do so with ample reason, I might add) by addressing the need for bipartisanship in governing along with lobbying and earmark reform, all of which I won't believe until I see it irregardless of which party is in power. His foreign policy proposals were fairly standard and pretty much hold overs from his campaign: increased vigilance towards al-Qaida and terrorist networks, prohibitions against unlawful torture (although holding certain past administrations accountable for instituting such practices seems to be all but off the table as of late), strengthening our position in Afghanistan, pulling our troops out of Iraq, securing loose nukes from former Soviet republics and keeping up diplomatic pressure against Iran and North Korea. I certainly don't mean to belittle these efforts by calling them campaign hold overs because I do think that Obama is quite sincere on these issues; I'm just saying that we've already heard them all before, as we have his ever eloquent call to embrace the ideals and values that have made America great (but that part is always good to hear and never gets old).
As I said, this was obviously a speech for both the American people and members of the Democratic party but they weren't the only ones Obama was speaking to last night. Just as he did with teachers' unions and black voters during the presidential election, Obama spelled out some hard truths to several groups assembled in the crowd. He admonished Republicans for their callous obstructionism on health care and economic reform who, despite his repeated calls for bipartisan tax relief and energy policies, proceeded to sit on their hands throughout the entire speech whilst glaring like petulant children being scolded by an angry father. He was met with similarly dissenting scowls from conservative Supreme Court justices and the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he decried the recent ruling allowing corporations unfettered access to politicians and media through increased campaign contributions and pledged to end the military policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" towards homosexuals, respectively. And on a totally unrelated style note, I was also quite happy that he forwent the relatively recent practice of presidents sprinkling various ringers throughout the audience to refer to during their speeches; it just always seemed like such awkward and obvious political theatre to me and it wasn't missed at all.
This was a speech of intelligence, wit, honesty and serious truths that the American people, and especially our politicians, needed to hear from our president. Obama stood before the nation and reminded us of why we elected him to lead us through these tough times. I do fully expect his continued calls for bipartisanship to fall upon deaf Republican ears but that will of course come as no big surprise; what I really hope to see emerge as a result of this speech is a renewed spirit of perseverance and strength on behalf of the Democratic party. Obama needed to come up with a strong State of the Union address last night and he delivered, but I never really had any concerns on that account. As always, it's what he does best. We must now wait to see if he convinced Congress to similarly deliver on the various proposals he's laid out for the nation. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't cynical about his chances but I also must admit that I now have a bit more optimism towards that end as well. Let's just hope that it's warranted.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This easy to follow chart labels them "The most feared punctuation on Earth" and I think a lot of writers would agree with this assessment. Personally, I love semicolons and I use them relatively liberally in my own writing. In fact, I've made a real effort to cut down since shortly after the inception of this blog; it was starting to get a bit out of hand. Oh, there I go again...
This window view is representative of two great cultures' major contributions to the world:
Conventional photographs of the Sphinx, such as the one featured in this month’s issue of Smithsonian magazine, are taken looking west and give the impression that the figure and the three pyramids sit in a remote Egyptian desert. The reality is that urban development of Cairo and Giza have brought the cities to within easy walking distance, as one can see from a Google satellite view. This photo, taken from inside a nearby fast food location, emphasizes that reality in a dramatic fashion.I can't decide if my love of archaeology or my love of grease is why I dig this view so much but the fact that I'll be able to combine them by enjoying a Meaty P'Zone when I visit the Giza plain someday has moved that destination up my travel list by at least three spots. Oh, and that sound you're hearing? Khufu softly weeping...
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This is disgusting, especially in the middle of a national recession:
(CBS) Thanks to recently filed Congressional expense reports there's new light shed on the Copenhagen Climate Summit in Denmark and how much it cost taxpayers.Now obviously global climate change is a serious problem that requires action on the part of every major government around the world so I'm not trying to vilify those who are working to make headway on this important issue but come on, people! This incident and many others like it prove that there needs to be a vetting process for all congressional expense reports over a certain dollar amount and that it needs to be much more than the mere formality of a rubber stamp, even if those reports are filed by the House Speaker herself as they were in this instance. I realize that tax dollars must often be spent in order to deal with the myriad problems facing this nation and the world at large but there's no reason that this can not be accomplished with at least a minimal level of accountability from our elected officials. And for me it's just one more reason amongst many to dislike Nancy Pelosi a bit more than I do already.
CBS News Investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports official filings and our own investigation show at least 106 people from the House and Senate attended - spouses, a doctor, a protocol expert and even a photographer.
For 15 Democratic and 6 Republican Congressmen, food and rooms for two nights cost $4,406 tax dollars each. That's $2,200 a day - more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgage payment.
CBS News asked members of Congress and staff about whether they're mindful that it's public tax dollars they're spending. Many said they had never even seen the bills or the expense reports...
Total hotel, meeting rooms and "a couple" of $1,000-a-night hospitality suites topped $400,000.
Flights weren't cheap, either. Fifty-nine House and Senate staff flew commercial during the Copenhagen rush. They paid government rates -- $5-10,000 each -- totaling $408,064. Add three military jets -- $168,351 just for flight time -- and the bill tops $1.1 million dollars -- not including all the Obama administration officials who attended: well over 60.
In fairness, many attendees told us they did a lot of hard work, and the laid groundwork for a future global treaty.
Monday, January 25, 2010
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better." -South Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, explaining how providing government food assistance to lower-income residents - things like food stamps or free school lunches - encourages a culture of dependence.
So let me see if I've got this straight: the right doesn't want the poor and homeless to reproduce (ignoring for a second the fact that Bauer unfeelingly compared them to stray animals) but they also don't want them to be taught sex education, use contraception or have the right to an abortion. Oh, and Jesus is Lord and all life is precious... so poor kids obviously shouldn't receive cheap school lunches. I don't know about you but I find this ever-present disconnect between the conservative rhetoric and their so-called Christian values more pronounced and distasteful with each passing day.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I know I said that I wasn't going to post anything today but during a discussion with a buddy during the Vikings/Saints game I came across this picture of Sylvester Stallone training for his new movie The Expendables. Look at this guy! He's 63 years old. I really need to get back in shape...
No time for blogging today (yes, yes, I know, I didn't blog yesterday either but I was busy and I've been trying really hard to write more lately so sue me), the AFC and NFC championships are on. I'm calling the New Orleans Saints as the 2010 Super Bowl champs right now; we'll see if history agrees with me.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Scott Brown, the new Senator-elect from Massachusetts, won the special election there by running on a platform of tax cuts and opposing congressional health care reform even though he never laid out any plans to cut federal spending to balance out those cuts and he voted in support of a state-run health care plan as a state senator. In short, he ran on principles and populist talking points without actual ideas or plans for dealing with the problems this country faces. Yes, Martha Coakley also ran a horrible campaign and one of her problems was that she didn't know how to talk to American voters in the manner successful politicians on both sides of the aisle have perfected:
Brian's assessment of undecided voters is right on in my opinion. This is why President Obama has had so much trouble throughout his first year in office: He speaks to American voters as if they are rational thinking adults, and apparently they hate that (or just plain can't comprehend it). If the Republican party does well in the next election cycle it will be in part because they knew how to tell voters what they wanted to hear without putting forth any policy proposals other than tax cuts, torture and the status quo. And Americans will get the government they deserve for their inability to take politics seriously.
"This is about more than health reform and we have to see it in that context. This is about a cynical nihilist attempt to break this presidency before it has had a chance to do what we elected it to do by a landslide vote. It is an attempt to destroy a majority's morale, to break a president's foreign policy autonomy, to prevent engagement in the Middle East peace process, to stop action on climate change, to restore torture, to increase tensions with the Muslim world, to launch a war on Iran. We cannot delude ourselves that if Obama fails, this is not the alternative. It is.
And we have to re-engage as powerfully as we did in the campaign to fight back against these now emboldened forces of reaction. I think this is true not just for the sake of the country but also for the sake of the GOP. The nihilist obstructionism and rhetoric they have embraced makes constitutional democracy close to impossible. Their total lack of any workable alternatives to dire problems is a form of degeneracy we have to avoid empowering.
So fight, Mr President. And to the House Democrats who won't go along with the only way to salvage health reform: this is the only sure-fire way you will lose in November. If you pass this bill, you may also go down in this climate. But you will have done something you can be proud of. Politics cannot always be about narrow self-interest. If it always is, nothing important can get done.
Do your duty. And grow some. Fight back. Explain why you're right. Tell the liberals they can always come back later to reform the bill. Just get this passed." -Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, reminding me to stop my fucking whining and remember why I supported Barack Obama in the first place. He warned us that real change was going to be difficult, so I suppose I can go a bit longer before throwing in the electoral towel.
[Update: Just the thing for the Democrats in congress:
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Because the level of pussification of that party in standing up to Republican obstructionism, even in the face of actual real-world threats to this country's safety, is unacceptable to me:
Imagine that after 9/11, a liberal Senate Democrat had quietly placed a hold on George W. Bush's nominee to lead the Transportation Security Agency. The problem in this case wasn't qualifications. The nominee was a former airport security chief, FBI officer and university professor. The problem was that the airport security chief wouldn't say that he wanted the Transportation Security Agency employees to unionize.At this point I really do feel like a man without a country. Democrats have all of the power in our government yet they won't use it to protect this nation while the Republicans could care less because their tactic of chipping away at that power garners them some semblance of electoral strength and both parties just watch as we become more vulnerable to our enemies without. This last week has been extremely depressing politically and maybe I'm a bit too drunk as I write this (I am) but I'll admit that I've seriously considered just stopping caring about both parties and their never ending machinations and callous posturing at the expense of the American people. This system is completely broken and I don't see it being fixed anytime soon by anyone of conscience or consequence. I now understand why so many people in this country don't give a shit about politics and I'm seriously considering joining them in not doing so. I'm simply tired of it all.
Then an Islamic radical tried to blow up a plane.
The Democrats would have been hammered for holding up the TSA chief's nomination. Bush would have made a recess appointment. Republicans would have gleefully campaigned against the liberals who would have left our air travelers defenseless.
That same story just played out, but the parties were reversed. It was Barack Obama who nominated Erroll Southers, the former airport security chief and FBI officer, to lead the TSA. And it was South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint who blocked his nomination over unionization. Did DeMint back down after an al-Qaeda-linked radical attempted to detonate a plane? Nope. Did Obama step up and make a recess appointment? Nope. Did Democrats make a major issue out of it? Of course not.
Instead, Erroll Southers formally withdrew his nomination today. Score one for DeMint, and another against the Democrats.
I always liked the SNL sketches featuring this character (I was a huge MacGyver fan as a young lad) but I'm not sure if the few one note jokes that make them funny can sustain an entire movie, although I am grateful that they didn't waste a "disarm a bomb using only a paperclip, a rubber band and a hockey ticket" joke in the trailer. Plus I now know what an "Upper Decker" is:
Val Kilmer just keeps getting tubbier and tubbier, doesn't he? I think that I'm going to stop saying that people constantly tell me that I look like him. And perhaps he should change his call sign to "Ice Cream Man". Zing, score one for "Goose"!
Democracy In America has some thoughts on how to do so in the shadow of the recent suicide bombing in Kabul:
The objective of attacks like the one in Kabul is to convince the population that the government is unable to protect them, and to discourage people from lending the government legitimacy or working with it. Matthew Yglesias has written a lot of amusing posts over the years ridiculing the "Green Lantern Theory" of conflict, which holds that all military and political challenges can be overcome if we just show enough "resolve". Most of the time such thinking really is ridiculous; but this type of pure terrorist attack is one of those that can be countered through shows of resolve. The Taliban suicide commandos weren't in Kabul to show they had support among the population there; they don't. They were there to show resolve, to prove that they can still recruit people willing to die for a chance at killing a few Afghan government officials.I know that I've probably mentioned this before but every time America experiences a terror attack or even some type of near miss I always feel a bit embarrassed at our hysterical overreaction to these types of threats because I hearken back to London during the second World War and their incredible resolve in the face of constant carpet bombing of their city by Nazi forces over the course of several years. I can't express to you how much I wish the American people could just embrace this philosophy of stiff upper lipism in the face of dangerous adversity.
The best way to discourage that kind of attack is to snuff it out, clean it up, and pretend it never happened. Israeli terror incident response policy calls for cleaning up an attack site within three hours and restoring it to its pre-attack state within four days. The principle is essentially the same as the "broken windows" theory of policing, with its insight that quickly repairing damaged buildings and graffiti ultimately deters vandals. One obvious response to yesterday's attacks in Kabul would be to make a high-priority emergency effort to rebuild the Faroshga market.
Someone bombs one of our cities? Fuck you, we're all going to work, play, shop, etc. just like we normally would while we rebuild our neighborhood and there's nothing you can do about it. Someone blows up one of our planes? Fuck you, we're all going to go on vacation and drink copious amounts of alcohol whilst eating pork sandwiches and drawing pictures of Mohammed while we're at it (I'm sure that all of my moderate Muslim friends would approve of this course of action on principle). I'd like to think that we'd all agree to do these things as a unified showing of defiance to any and all who would have even the audacity to try and change our American way of life through intimidation but the sad truth is that we collectively tuck our tails and start blubbering whenever some crazy jihadist lights his balls on fire aboard one of our planes and quite frankly it's becoming fairly embarrassing on the world stage.
Israel has the right idea (and it's one that most of us learned in grade school): get back up immediately after you're knocked down and show anyone who would try to intimidate you that you're not going to be cowed like the lazy, decadent pussies the Islamists claim that we are in their propaganda. In short: take it like a man, and stop your crying. If we would all just rise up and symbolically tell these terrorists to kiss our asses every time they tried to attack us instead of shitting our collective pants and spying on our neighbors just like they want us to do we'd be a hell of a lot closer to winning this supposed "war on terror" than we are now. Speaking of which: how's that Freedom Tower coming along? No wonder they keep fucking with us: because we keep letting them.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
If you don't own a television, receive a newspaper or have Internet access you might not have heard about this but even that would be hard to believe given the amount of breathless coverage it's been given by the media today:
Yesterday, Scott Brown pulled off a tremendous political upset. The Massachusetts Republican beat out Democrat Martha Coakley for the Senate seat left vacant by the late Democrat Ted Kennedy. On this, the day after Brown's improbable victory, the Web searches are pouring in on everything from Sen. Brown's victory speech to his daughter's Hollywood aspirations to his humorous defense of pickup trucks.That's Ayla in the picture above, which I assume is an American Idol publicity shot (she made it into the top sixteen contestants in the fifth season). Now I don't know if her political proclivities run with or counter to her father's but regardless as a representative of the liberal left I am officially extending my... hand across the political aisle to her in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and polling the electorate. Yes, I was spurned by Sweetits but I have a good feeling about this one. Ayla, I'm a relatively poor man, I have no real power or influence over anyone, I drink way more wine than any healthy human being should and I prefer not to cook or clean. Come and get it, girl! She'll be in good hands, Senator-elect Brown. Good, busy hands.
The victory speech
He may be a United States senator, but he's still Dad. During his victory speech, with his wife and daughters standing behind him, Brown thanked his family for their support. And then things got a little awkward. As his shocked daughters looked on, Sen. Brown said that both of his daughters were "available."
Quoting Dad: "Just in case anyone who's watching throughout the country, yes, they're both available." He then backed off his comments as the crowd hooted and hollered. "No, no. No. Only kidding, only kidding. Only kidding, only kidding," he said. "Arianna... Arianna's definitely not available." He then added, "But Ayla is."
A website devoted to the casting of children as a movie's stars in cinematic flashbacks. I've always been impressed, and sometimes even a bit surprised, when movies I like have hit the nail on the head in this respect (Pulp Fiction's own success on this front is somewhat debatable, in my opinion).
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Most of you have probably heard all about the special election today to fill the late Senator Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. I won't go into the details of the race here but judging by all of the polling data it certainly does appear that the Republican Scott Brown will defeat the Democrat Martha Coakley (that little guy on the right doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell). Now a lot has been made of the fact that if Brown wins he will vote against the current health care reform, seemingly destroying President Obama's main initiative from his first year in office and laying the ground for a massive Republican victory in the 2010 elections. I personally disagree.
If Brown wins (which again, seems pretty likely) it will by no means sound a death knell for health care reform. There are several legislative and procedural methods that the Democrats can still use to pass a finished bill and after a year of ugly partisan wrangling and infighting you can bet your ass that they're going to do everything in their power to make it happen. It won't be a perfect bill of course but this legislation has never been close to perfect from the start. Getting something substantive passed right now should be their main goal; many aspects of the bill can be adjusted and fixed later on. And I also disagree with those who say that a loss isn't so bad because we can always start all over again if nothing gets passed. This is of course factually true but to say that it would be an uphill battle legislatively and electorally would be a huge understatement. Plus, the callous Republican strategy of obstructionism over the past year should not be rewarded with a political victory that only harms the rest of the country in the process. They may not care about the American people anymore but we still should.
And let's be completely clear here: a Republican victory in this election is obviously not a referendum on health care reform, nor even on Obama's administration, no matter how much the right-wing pundits and blogosphere would like to believe that talking point. If it were, why would Obama waste time campaigning for Martha Coakley in a state with the most progressive health care system in the country? The truth is that Coakley is most likely going to lose this election not because Brown is a great candidate or even because the people of Massachusetts (and by extrapolation, the American people) are voting against Obama and his policy agenda; she's going to lose because she's an absolutely horrible candidate. Her words and actions up until now and even her very presence on the ticket indicate that she and the Democratic party in Massachusetts have not taken this race at all seriously, quite possibly out of some misguided feeling of entitlement towards Kennedy's long held senate seat. It just wasn't something he could leave them in his will, and they're learning this fact the hard way.
Polls on the East coast close in about an hour so I guess we'll soon know how everything turns out, unless of course it's at all close and we have to wait for the return of overseas and provisional ballots but even if it isn't the Democrats will still have about two weeks to get this legislation in the can before a formal certification can be issued for Massachusetts' newest senator. As I said, this election will most likely end up helping the Republicans in the short term sound bite media battle that cable television loves so much but hopefully it will also kick the Democrats in their collective butts and get them moving on this essential piece of legislation. The fact that some of them are still weighing their chances of reelection against their support for some version of health care reform is pathetic. The members of that party need to take a page from Obama's personal playbook and try to envision a longer, more pragmatic view of the future. Change is still possible in this country, we just need some semblance of an actually functioning Democratic party to have any chance at making it happen. Although as I look back at this last year of electoral timidity and legislative ineffectiveness on their part, you'll excuse me if I don't hold my breath.
[Update: The Associated Press is now projecting that Scott Brown has won the Massachusetts senate race. It's neither a conservative revolution nor is it the end of health care reform, it's merely the end of Martha Coakley's political career.]
[Update II: The graph below (click to enlarge) illustrates our current health care system, in which we spend more and more money to insure fewer and fewer people, that Senator-elect Brown has promised not to change once he's in office:
Monday, January 18, 2010
A time lapse video of the recovery of Flight 1549 which crash landed in the Hudson river last year in the middle of New York City, piloted (and all lives aboard saved) by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. The coordination and effort it took to do this in these icy conditions is truly impressive:
Sunday, January 17, 2010
As a weapon, variations of land mines have been around since perhaps as early as the 13th century, but it was not until World War I that the technology was more or less perfected, if that can be said of weapons that mangle and mutilate the human body, and their use became common.The article goes on to say that about 75-80% of the victims of land mines are innocent civilians not involved in the conflicts that caused their placement. I have a hard time believing that we're still having this conversation in 2010, and the refusal to sign this international agreement is just one more thing that Obama isn't doing that depresses me about his administration so far.
The United States has not actively used land mines since the first Gulf War in 1991, but we still possess some 10-15 million of them, making us the third-largest stockpiler in the world, behind China and Russia. Like those two countries, we have refused to sign an international agreement banning the manufacture, stockpiling and use of land mines. Since 1987, 156 other nations have signed it, including every country in NATO. Among that 156, more than 40 million mines have been destroyed.
Just days before Obama flew to Oslo to make his Nobel Peace Prize speech, an international summit conference was held in Cartagena, Colombia, to review the progress of the treaty. The United States sent representatives and the State Department says our government has begun a comprehensive review of its current policy.
Last year 5,000 people were killed or wounded by land mines, often placed in the ground years before, during wars long since over. They kill or blow away the limbs of a farmer or child as indiscriminately as they do a soldier. But still we refuse to sign, citing security commitments to our friends and allies, such as South Korea, where a million mines fill the demilitarized zone between it and North Korea.
No time for blogging today! My beloved Dallas Cowboys are playing the Minnesota Vikings for the right to go to the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints next week. Admittedly I'm a little worried since the Vikes are one of the best teams in the NFL with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game at their helm but if there was any time during this somewhat shaky season that I felt confident in the Boys it's right now. They're coming off of back to back spankings of their division rivals the Philadelphia Eagles and they're looking better than they have all season.
So since I don't believe in jinxing I'll say that I'm actually feeling good about their chances today but talk to me around 1 pm Pacific time just in case. Depending on my mood by then I might put up some posts later today but only after the second game. True, the Boys won't be playing in that one but even though I'm an atheist I'm also a Texan, which means that watching NFL football on Sundays is my equivalent of going to church. All hail Saint Romo and go Cowboys! Hallelujah!
[Update: That was sad and pathetic (and I really hate that fucking Viking victory horn they kept blowing). Minnesota's defense is a ravenous beast that totally enveloped Romo and his offense for the majority of that game. Good luck New Orleans, you're gonna need it.]
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Are any of you getting tired of all the bacon related goodness floating around the Internets yet? Yeah, neither am I:
Take your snacking to the next level with Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn ($35/2 lbs.). This sweet/savory snack mix incorporates the smokey goodness of bacon and a bit of bourbon with the sweetness of caramel and the crunch of popcorn, resulting in an addictive snack that's a great way to kickstart your next Baconholics Anonymous meeting.The only thing that would make this any better would be if the bourbon got you drunk while you ate. Delicious and functional.
"The more you listen to Palin, you sense a shift in her consciousness, a shift that she is indeed the woman chosen to save this country - chosen by God. "It is God's plan" was Palin's reaction to losing the election.
And the plan is that she will lose once only to be resurrected at the head of a large army of disaffected and alienated Christianists, a brigade of anti-government populists, channeled and organized directly by a media outlet that has long since abandoned the role of a neutral journalistic organization.
FNC is now the RNC. The strategy is clear: demonize Obama as a threat from within (the classic McCarthyite paranoid tradition, given more oomph by race and religion), add a whiff of the idea that he is deliberately weakening America to allow Islamic terrorists kill us, portray even obviously emergency moves, like bailing out the banks, as a plan to take over the entire economy and socialize it, and wrap it all up in a coded religious eschatology.
If you are not alarmed by this development - a new, proto-fascist political party being recreated on television in front of our very eyes - then you have not read much history." -Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish
Perhaps I've been too flippant in dismissing Palin and what she represents. As I've said these people, while not that bright, are definitely mad about something and even if they don't exactly know what they want they definitely know what they hate. I just figured that since there aren't a vast number of these wingnut teabaggers that they don't represent that much of a threat electorally but if they were actually able to convince enough sane Americans to sign on with them this country could have some real problems. My only hope is that the more reasonable people see and hear from Palin the more they'll understand what many of us who pay too much attention to politics already know: that she's a self-centered, incurious hack who believes that she's more competent and important than she actually is. But unfortunately with a cadre of teabaggers at her back and her own dedicated cable network at her disposal, it's just possible that she's more dangerous as well.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
This kind of tragedy is the last thing these people needed:
A major earthquake struck southern Haiti on Tuesday, knocking down buildings and power lines and inflicting what its ambassador to the United States called a catastrophe for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.The precision of casualty estimates is hard to verify at this early hour but officials have put them anywhere between 100,000 and 500,000 individuals. If you have any family members in Haiti the U.S. State Department has set up this toll-free number to call: 1-888-407-4747. If you have any spare cash you can donate to the relief efforts you can do so through various reputable aid organizations at this link. Please help out if you can.
Several eyewitnesses reported heavy damage and bodies in the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where concrete-block homes line steep hillsides. There was no estimate of the dead and wounded Tuesday evening, but the U.S. State Department has been told to expect "serious loss of life," department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington.
[Update: Who didn't see this one coming?
Pat Robertson should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell.]
"See, these reporters were not there and I think that these are the political establishment reporters who love to gin up controversy and spin up gossip, the rest of America doesn't care about that kind of crap!" -Sarah Palin (transcribed by me), reacting to revelations alleged about her during the 2008 presidential campaign in the new book "Game Changer" on The O'Reilly Factor yesterday.
Ah, the victim hood mentality of the modern Republican party. A few thoughts: These reporters are not claiming to have been present when she supposedly expressed a belief that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks or that she didn't know why North and South Korea are different countries or that she wanted to call Biden "Joe" during their vice-presidential debate because she kept mistakenly referring to him as "O'Biden" during her debate prep; they're reporting what high-level campaign staffers who were present at those events have told them. And their flippant dismissal as "establishment" is the same type of tired populist bullshit that plays so very well with her incurious cadre of sycophantic fans.
Yes Mrs. Palin, America is entirely composed of nothing but erudite philosophers and serious policy wonks who hold only disdain for the establishment media's insistence on treating politics as if it were some type of ideological war or frantic horse race. This country obviously has no desire for base entertainment composed of cheap tawdry affairs such as this! Thank God that Americans have eschewed the inclusion of controversy and gossip in all aspects of their everyday lives and refuse to tolerate it as any portion of their media diet.
So I guess my only question is, if Americans hate controversy and gossip as much as Palin claims that they do (at least she insists as much when said controversy and gossip is about her, anyway) how do any of the millions of TV shows, movies, magazines, books and websites that are composed almost exclusively of controversy and gossip make any money at all in this country? It's a mystery to be sure, but then economics was never one of my strong suits.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Just to keep things in perspective, given the current political climate. So get on a plane and fly somewhere cool, they're very safe and virtually terrorist-free. It's time to stop being afraid of these assholes and the fear mongerers who empower them.
If you have not yet heard:
WASHINGTON – The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate apologized on Saturday for comments he made about Barack Obama's race during the 2008 presidential bid and are quoted in a yet-to-be-released book about the campaign. of Nevada described in private then-Sen. Barack Obama as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Obama is the nation's first African-American president.This is one of the most racist things I've ever heard and Harry Reid should resign from the United States senate immediately. Just kidding. I was just imagining what it would be like to be a partisan reactionary douchebag there for a second; could you imagine if I was really like that? *shudder* And yet many such Republicans are indeed tripping over their own feet in the rush to condemn Reid because finally someone who actually isn't a member of their party said something racist in public. And let's be clear here: if we're to analyze what Reid said about Obama in the context of every other statement we as an all too politically correct society have deemed racist, then this was certainly a racist comment.
"I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments," Reid said in a statement released after the excerpts were first reported on the Web site of The Atlantic.
"I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance 's legislative agenda."
That's not to say however that it wasn't true, and Reid was in fact giving Obama a compliment by stating that those previously mentioned attributes would work to Obama's advantage as he ran for president (his was also one of the first major endorsements Obama received from the Democratic establishment). Now personally I'm not entirely convinced that the specific skin tone of a black political candidate has an appreciable effect on their electability but it also wouldn't surprise me were it true. After slavery was officially abolished in the U.S. during the 19th century many light-skinned blacks and Mulattoes took advantage of their ability to "pass" as white for a time, and on a personal note when I was employed in downtown Oakland I worked with a guy named Mike whose last name I thought was Black. I eventually found out that all of the other black guys we saw every day called him "Black" because his skin was so dark. So one can't deny that we notice such differences as a multi-racial society and thus they must have some effect on elections, even if it's speculative or somewhat negligible.
Reid's comments about Obama's lack of a "Negro dialect" that he can turn on and off at will also hold truth. Let's face it, if Obama normally spoke like the average NBA star or hip hop artist he never would have been selected as the editor of the Harvard Law Review, much less elected president of the United States. But instead Obama is perceived as an intelligent well-educated man and his impressive public speaking skills are his strongest attribute as a successful politician. Another asset is his ability to act hip (or as hip as a nerd like Obama can manage) by speaking popular street slang, connecting him with voters who don't necessarily relate to his usual professorial speaking style. These are advantages that Reid was attempting to praise with his idiotic, ill-phrased comments.
And those comments were most definitely idiotic and ill-phrased, there's no doubt about that. Really, what experienced politician walks around saying the word "negro" in public in the year 2008? The fact that congress is almost completely composed of old white guys is an image that they're trying very hard to move away from, not call attention to. So now of course Republicans, never a party to pass up a chance to twist the rhetorical knife into their political opponents (although the Democrats are hardly much better most of the time), have begun the all too predictable calls for Reid to resign as the Senate majority leader with a pathetic display of faux moral outrage. The most popular avenue of attack thus far has been that of comparing Reid's remarks to those of former Republican Senator and majority leader Trent Lott about Republican Strom Thurmund at his 100th birthday celebration:
When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.Now you're probably saying to yourself, "Hey self, those remarks don't really seem all that racist." And you'd be correct, if only Lott hadn't been saying them about a man who ran for the presidency on a platform of strict racial segregation. That's right, Lott was saying that he was proud to have voted for a man who's presidential stump speech included statements like, "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches" and that if Thurmond had only won the presidency and been able to implement his racist vision of barring black people from white society America would have been better off as a result (since this was the late 1940's we'll forgive Thurmond's use of the word "negro" as merely a sign of the times). Lott was subsequently forced to resign as Senate majority leader as a result of these comments and rightly so, but I have to take exception with the current comparisons some Republicans are trying to draw between that incident and Senator Reid's moronic statements.
Reid wasn't trying to disparage black people with his remarks, he was merely trying to strategically handicap a political race by enumerating some of a candidate's positive electoral attributes (admittedly phrased in an extraordinarily stupid manner). This is hardly ethically equivalent to stating that one is proud to have voted for a segregationist and that a segregated America would be a better country. Add to that Lott's longstanding ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization established by former activists in the segregationist White Citizens' Councils that advocates white supremacy and white separatism, along with Lott's consistent grade of "F" on the NAACP's legislative report card and his remarks about Thurmond begin to provide a fairly accurate portrayal of the man's views on race relations.
Senator Reid, on the other hand, has consistently received a 100 percent rating from the NAACP and is well known for his decades-long efforts to integrate Las Vegas' casino industry. Now in the past I've stated my displeasure with Reid on numerous occasions (I consider him to be an ineffectual pussy of a Senate majority leader and somewhat of an annoying dork to boot) but it's obvious to any objective American that he's no racist and thus should not be forced to resign his seat over this incident. At worst, he's guilty of being an old white man who has trouble relating directly to the black community but his actions as a legislator rightfully outweigh any stupid remarks he might have made during the last election.
The real villains in this tale are the serial opportunist Republicans who wasted no time in quickly moving to exploit Reid's situation by attacking him with that same faux moral outrage I spoke of earlier. They've made it abundantly clear that they would rather stoke the flames of racial discord in America than use their elected positions to pass legislation like health care reform that would significantly benefit the economically disadvantaged in this country, a group disproportionately composed of minorities. This makes it fairly obvious that black America has some real problems with the Republican party and its current drift even further to the right of the political spectrum will do little to make those problems disappear.
Based on this track record, it's entirely possible that the Republicans really don't understand the difference between a terrible choice of words and pining for segregationism. This is no excuse for their despicable actions of course, and one could argue that it actually makes them appear even more disingenuous and out of touch with the rest of America, but at least it would be the truth. Although they seem to have a real problem when it comes to that, don't they?
Monday, January 11, 2010
"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee," - Bill Clinton, to Teddy Kennedy, referring to Barack Obama, while appealing to Kennedy to endorse Hillary for president in 2008.
I don't consider the Clintons to be evil or anything like that but their ability to see the whole world and everything in it as entirely political is extraordinarily tiring.
[Update: More from the newly released book about the 2008 election, "Game Change", from whence the above quote also originates:
In lieu of further comment about the Clintons I'll simply refer back to my previous statement above.]
Clinton senior strategist Mark Penn boasted to his staff how many times he managed to say "cocaine" on that famous Hardball segment (page 163).
Hillary Clinton was initially pleased when her New Hampshire campaign chairman, Billy Shaheen, mentioned Obama's previous use of drugs (page 161):
"Hillary's reaction to Shaheen's remarks was, 'Good for him!' Followed by 'Let's push it out.' Her aides violently disagreed, seeing what Shaheen had said as a PR disaster. Grudgingly, Clinton acquiesced to disowning Shaheen's comments. But she wasn't going to cut him loose. Why should Billy have to fall on his sword for invoking something that had been fair game in every recent election?"
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
A comment by regular reader oneLbill yesterday about shooting our collective waste into space as a (tongue in cheek, I assume) strategy for dealing with some of our environmental problems reminded me of this chart I saw last week illustrating the respective gravity wells for the major celestial bodies in our solar system. I just like the simple layout and the easy to understand way in which it explains the science (you'll have to enlarge to read it).
For those not in the know, Michelle Malkin is a fairly important right-wing political blogger and a contributor to the FOX News channel. She's also an extremely shrill and unpleasant woman whom I find just as annoying as I find her physically attractive (yeah, I said it; I dig Asian chicks, sue me). And I think she has a (somewhat) valid point about the Democrats' decision not to allow C-SPAN to televise the final deliberations to reconcile the two houses of congress' versions of the health care reform legislation:
In addition to pointing out how Barack Obama used C-SPAN as a political football during the presidential campaign and how the White House has only allowed one hour of dog-and-pony coverage of health care debate on the public affairs channel, [C-SPAN CEO Brian] Lamb sums up the simple, non-partisan principle behind the push for open, televised coverage of the backroom wheeling and dealing:Her hyperbolic insults aside, I'll have more to say on that point in a minute but first I wanted to compare her principled, unwavering and totally non-partisan commitment to governmental transparency (which I actually don't seem to recall hearing much about during the Bush administration but maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention to her back then) in the above case to her reaction to a federal judge's ruling that next week’s trial in San Francisco of a lawsuit challenging the initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California won’t be televised live but will be videotaped for delayed Internet release on YouTube:
“If we pay for something and it’s the public’s business, we ought to be able to see how it’s done.”
No wonder the Vampire Congress and the Prince of Darkness in the White House have responded to a simple request for transparency with near-violent apoplexy...
Judicial activism + far Left radical activism = Courtroom intimidation.The article she cites goes on to state that most of the witnesses will be campaign officials or academic experts accustomed to speaking in public and that the judge will have the power to order that individual witnesses’ faces be concealed or their voices muted on the YouTube uploads if he deems it necessary, thus all but negating her argument that this will be an intimidation tactic employed by the gay mafia or whatever. Regardless, we can glean two things from this little tirade of hers: 1) Malkin is an unprincipled, partisan hack who hypocritically calls for transparency in government only when it suits her and her agenda, and 2) Malkin has no idea what the term "show trial" actually means.
Yesterday, liberal California Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued an unprecedented ruling that will put the trial involving a challenge to the Prop. 8 same-sex marriage ban on YouTube...
I generally support more sunshine in all government proceedings. But the judge’s unusual method of securing video coverage is extremely troubling. This isn’t a sincere educational effort to provide transparency to the public. It’s a flagrant attempt at making Prop. 8 a show trial — and intimidating Prop. 8 backers who will be called to testify.
Of course, the former point should not come as a shock to anyone who has heard this woman speak before and it is hardly revelatory but the latter point is rather important. Wikipedia defines the term "show trial" as follows:
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial. The term was first recorded in the 1930s. There is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant and that the actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as an impressive example and as a warning. Show trials tend to be retributive rather than correctional justice.Now, Malkin can hardly be blamed for her apparent ignorance on this count. In fact, if you've been paying attention to the right-wing noise machine lately the term "show trial" has been bandied about as much as the term "death panels" was last fall and if you know anything about said noise machine, you'll know that they beat memes and talking points into the ground with a coordinated effort that would impress Joseph Goebbels (of course I'm not comparing them to Nazis or anything, I'm just saying that Goebbels was a hell of a propagandist and he was really good at staying on message with the whole "Jews are evil" bit; it's actually a compliment, of sorts).
Such trials can exhibit scant regard for the niceties of jurisprudence and even for the letter of the law. Defendants have little real opportunity to justify themselves: they have often signed statements under duress and/or suffered torture prior to appearing in the court-room.
Malkin even said the same thing when President Obama announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators were going to be tried in a New York City civil court. And that's what I don't quite get: Malkin and other right-wingers believe that KSM and many of the other terror suspects the United States has in custody are pieces of garbage who deserve to be put on trial and punished with a death sentence for their crimes against innocent Americans (something we agree on) and that they are less than human and should be tortured to within an inch of their lives as part of that punishment (something we do not agree on). In fact, I would think she'd be cheering the use of coerced confessions and retributive trials against these people, per the definition of what a show trial actually is.
But that's the thing: in their ignorance, Malkin and her ilk seem to define "show trials" as any trial they disagree with that will be shown to anyone outside of the courtroom. To the political right in this country, the American ideal of public trials has seemingly now morphed into the shadowy practice of show trials (there's that government transparency she likes/dislikes so much again) and letting anyone they don't like have their day in an open and unbiased court of law is tantamount to the deceitful tactics employed by the former Soviet Union (although they seem to be disturbingly comfortable with the idea of torturing these individuals first, also a favorite tactic of the former Soviet Republic). I myself have a relatively good deal of faith in the American judicial system and I'm fairly confident that it will render a fair verdict in each of these respective cases but I'm obviously a dirty liberal who hates this country and all that it stands for (just ask Michelle), so what do I know?
Now, as to the Obama administration's aforementioned promise during the last presidential election to broadcast all of the health care reform legislation negotiations on C-SPAN:
Yeah, he promised to do that and yeah, it looks like he's going to break that promise. I said many times during that election that the man's neither an angel nor a saint, he's a politician and we shouldn't be surprised when he acts like one but I'll be completely honest here and say that I was still disappointed when I heard about this. But then I heard another argument that gave me pause: broadcasting these negotiations will only delay the process even further and that's why the right is so adamant about holding his feet to the fire on this count (aside from it being just one more reason to trash the man and his administration, of course).
Let me explain: just as Obama is a politician, congress is full of politicians, politicians I trust to do the right thing a lot less than I do Obama (and I'm only talking about the Democrats right now). The sad truth is that to merge the legislation of the two bills congress has before them that body is going to have to engage in some of the ugliest bureaucratic sausage-making that you and I have (n)ever witnessed and they're sure to do it in one of two ways: 1) with the cameras off, they'll buckle down, twist some arms, grease some palms, make some deals and finally hammer out a health care reform bill that will admittedly be imperfect but will also be a sizable improvement over the current system, or 2) with the cameras trained on them, they'll spend a great deal of time making a series of carefully prepared grandiose speeches whilst preening and posturing for the cameras while they do all of that bureaucratic sausage-making I just described anyway, except that they'll do it all secretly behind closed doors.
I'm not saying that it's a great system and I'm not saying that I like it (or even that it's endemic to either party), just that it's the system we have and we must be realistic about that. And not to be too partisan on this point but can you really blame them? Think about this: despite what seemed to me to be a genuinely sincere effort by President Obama to reach across the aisle the Republican party has roundly rejected bipartisanship at every turn since the first day this legislation was introduced. In fact, they publicly announced from the outset that they were going to do everything within their power to delay and derail health care reform and they've held pretty much true to their word on that count. No compromises, no alternate plans, just delays and obstructionism.
I expected Obama to have given up trying to work with these people long ago but as always he's proven himself to be a far more patient and pragmatic man than I could ever hope to be, but he's also not a sucka. He and the Dems have realized that in order to achieve any real results on this front they're going to have to finally get their hands dirty and do some actual work whether the Republicans want to participate or not. Again, I'm far less than crazy about the process and I would love to see a lot more governmental transparency going forward but I'm also convinced that if this legislation doesn't get passed now the odds of it getting a second chance will be almost nil and after thirty years of failures I don't think that the American people can afford that any longer. The resultant bill will be ugly and it will be imperfect but it will also be a starting point that we can build upon later and that's better than what we have now. I'm tired of watching this sausage being made; I'm ready to see how it tastes. Here's hoping that the country gets that chance, and right soon.