Thursday, January 29, 2009

At Least There'll Be Dessert

Governor Sarah "Go Ahead and Rape My Daughter, She Still Ain't Getting No Birth Control" Palin still manages to get into the news, like a weevil is able to insinuate itself into that box of cornflakes in your pantry.

Lovely image, that.

Anyway, The Magilla from Wasilla so far has managed to stay in the spotlight thanks to rumors that she's shopping a book deal for $11 million and has set up her own political action committee (named, with surprising modesty, SarahPAC). Now we hear she'll be at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner in Washington DC.

(Alfalfa Club? Where's Darla and Stymie?)

The sole reason she's going, apparently, is to say that she had dinner with President Obama.

Good for her, I say. I wouldn't mind sitting down to supper with him either. I'd make a few remarks that might get me kicked out. But what's going on in Alaska while she's down in the Lower 48 noshing on tasty viands?

Well, the drop in the price of oil has not been kind to Alaska, since the state economy is sort of predicated on it. The state is running a budget deficit, there are rumors of yet another ethics scandal emanating from the Governor's Mansion in Juneau, and some outlying communities in Alaska are in dire need of food and fuel or are in danger of having their populations die of cold and hunger. And I remind you that Alaska is part of the USA, the Mightiest Nation on Earth(tm).

To top all of this, there are reports that Mount Redoubt, 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, may be preparing to blow its top. It last erupted in 1989-1990, and it could raise havoc with air travel in that part of the state as well as endagering communities by causing mudflows. If it does erupt, the state apparatus will need a functioning chief executive there to lead and give the people some confidence.

But Sarah will be at dinner. Gods forfend that she should pass up her opportunity to schmooze in DC.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Making the Case for Failure

A recurring refrain we've heard over the past six months is that Business X (whether it's an investment brokerage, bank, auto maker, pornographer, etc.) is "too big to fail."

I respectfully beg to differ.

Yes, I'm going to go there - a biological allegory to illustrate my point.

Basically, the dinosaurs were too big to fail, yet fail they did because of their size. The bigger you get the slower you get. A radical change can kill you off.

So let's look at the Big Three. Their argument regarding the government's re-examination of fuel efficiency and automotive emission standards is that they're too radical, and the industry couldn't possibly cope with the new environment.

My answer?

You take Uncle Sam's dime, you do what Dear Uncle wants.

My advice to General Motors - the largest non-government corporation in the world - is to voluntarily emulate Ma Bell.

We who are of a certain age recall Ma Bell, the Bell System, ripped apart into the several Baby Bells by court antitrust action back in the 80s. Each of those separate telecommunications companies were encouraged to leave the nest and sink or swim as the market dictated. Some failed, others prospered. And the divestiture spurred innovation and competition.

So, GM, break yourself up. GM can keep the trucks, and send all the other brands out on their own. Baby Generals.

Sure, it'll be a wrench, but if the telecommunications industry can do it, so can you. It'll enable people to innovate and compete. And we can look forward to the eventual extinction of the internal combustion engine and our addiction to the hydrocarbon slime that is petroleum.

Ahmadinejad Speaks

At a recent speaking engagement in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a few things to say that amounted to, "Hey, President Obama - put up or shut up."

"When they say 'we want to make changes', change can happen in two ways. First is a fundamental and effective change ... The second ... is a change of tactics.

"It is very clear that, if the meaning of change is the second one, this will soon be revealed."

This is a clear opportunity, and one that Iran has offered to the US in the past. In several posts on my blog I have advocated direct talks with the Islamic Republic despite the assault on our Embassy and the taking of US hostages in 1979. The reason is abundantly simple - Iran is a regional power, and its reach exceeds ours at the moment.

Sure, their military would be hammered by ours, but in the real world (outside of neocon fantasies) power is measured in ways other than sheer force majeure. Iran has proxies in Lebanon and can support Hamas in Palestine. Thanks to our crippling of Iraq Iran is now the 800-pound gorilla in the region.

We have to talk to Iran.

Another thing the Iranian President called for was for an apology by the United States, which dovetails with my advocacy of the same tactic. Democracy in Iran was aborted in the Mossadegh coup (Operation Ajax) in 1956. To say we had a hand in this is like saying that we had a hand in beating Hitler.

We toppled a democratically elected leader and supported an absolutist despot (Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, for those who need reminding), who used a secret police to help enforce his rule. Scant wonder, therefore, that Iran would like an apology.

I suggested in the past that we should preface any talks with an apology for Operation Ajax as a gesture of our goodwill and our benign intentions. It would get things off on the right foot and show the Iranian people (and, more importantly, the religious leaders who are the true power in the government) that we're serious.

So, Ahmadinejad speaks.

Will we listen?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Study in Contrasts

The globulous fraud known as Rush ("Buy My Show So I Can Buy More Drugs and Fat Young Boys, Please") Limbaugh wasted no time in describing the tenor of his radio show for the next four years. His radio 'show' can best be reproduced by playing tapes of long episodes of beer and cabbage farts, interspersed with volleys of explosive diarrhea.

I digress, but leave you with that mental image. Mental floss is available in the lobby.

Limbaugh will essentially be returning to the "America Held Hostage" meme he pioneered on his TV show way back during the Clinton Administration - he refuses to give Obama any sort of honeymoon or grace period to see how he might perform. Of course, he wants Obama to fail anyway, naughty little America-hating bastard that he is, but one thing he burped out of his gaping piehole inspired this post.

He said that no one gave Bush any honeymoon or grace period in his first term, so why should he give one to Obama?

Rush, it seems, has a short memory.

The US Presidential election of 2000 was the closest race since 1876 (which had to be decided in the House of Representatives). Thanks to the disputed recount in Florida which led to a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court Bush won with 271 electoral votes and 47.9% of the popular vote, while Gore held 266 electoral votes and 48.4% of the popular votes cast. The disparity between the EV and PV, coupled with "Flori-duh" and the Supreme Court's decision, meant that many people in America felt very strongly that Bush's election was illegitimate.

But don't take my word for it. Roll tape!

In the 2008 Presidential election, on the other hand, Obama beat McCain with a greater than seven percent advantage in the popular vote (52.9% to 45.7%) and a better than two to one advantage in the Electoral College (365 to 173). Very few people could dispute the legitimacy of such a wide margin of victory.

And need I roll the tape of Obama's Inauguration? Didn't think so, as it's already posted.

The peaceful transfer of power in the US is something to be proud of. Other nations either transfer power by outright fraud or by hails of bullets, so we like to point with a certain pride at how we do it.

Hence the anger at Bush's first inaugural.

Hence the joy at Obama's first inaugural.

Note I said "first."

Five Days In ...

Well, it's been an eventful five days, folks, so let's do a teeny bit of recapping, shall we?

Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as our President on Tuesday and what could be considered a "throng" of people gathered to cheer him. The past two inaugurations were rather a downer, after all, so we were in a bit of a party mood.

Not that Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Mighty Wurlitzer cared, of course. Limbaugh even went so far as to say that he wanted Obama to fail. That means, by the oh-so-logical extension so favored by the Right (I'm Republican; I know my people), that Limbaugh wants America to slide into a depression. He wants us to be attacked by terrorists and see Americans die in terrorist attacks.

(I'm not making this up. But you'll have to look up the links yourself; I don't link to Stormfront, and I won't link to Limbaugh.)

But so far this past five days have seen a flurry of executive orders come out of the White House: Guantanamo Bay closed as a prison, CIA black sites shut down, senior staff pay in the government frozen at current levels, abortion funding reinstated for Third World countries, etc. We will even start research into human stem cells as treatment for diseases.

You can hear heads exploding on the Right with the radiance of a thousand suns.

The Vatican immediately deplored Obama's stands on abortion and gay rights, which suggests to me that our next Ambassador to the Holy See should be a Lesbian Catholic.

So, it's been five days in Washington ...

... and the tiny-brained screechers of the Far Right have yet to see their fondest wish come true.

Speaking of the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI reinstated several excommunicated bishops, including one who is a Holocaust denier. I guess the ranks of seminarians at St. Pedophiles were getting a bit thin of late.

A man ran amok in a Belgian nursery, killing two babies and an adult worker before his apprehension. Interestingly, he had his face painted to resemble Heath Ledger's Joker from the last Batman movie. Right now, he ain't talking.

The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, underwent heart bypass surgery this past week. Ordinarily this would not be much cause for concern in the US, but after the November 26th attacks on Mumbai tensions have risen between India and Pakistan. Furthermore, ever since the 'Smiling Buddha' test in 1972, nuclear release authority in India has been vested with the Prime Minister. Hopefully they've worked out a succession scheme so that the launch authority doesn't automatically devolve upon local commanders.

And in our Oh, the Sweet Taste of Bitter Irony segment, former priest and homophobic evangelist gay guy Ted Haggard (who you'll recall had to give up his lucrative megachurch after he admitted having a gay affair) is now having to fend off questions about another gay affair back when he was supposedly straight, this time with a 20-something church worker. Word of advice, Teddy - try to find a lower-profile line of work, or just come out and admit it, okay?

Ooh crikey! I almost forgot!

Evidence has been shown that there is a deep fossil fault line under Arkansas that (if it goes pop) could, conceivably, be as powerful as the New Madrid Earthquake back in the early 1800s. And central Arkansas recently had about 400 very minor temblors. Hang on to your hats, kids ...

Anyway, it's been a fun-filled five days, and we can expect to see more. Obama's 100 days aren't up yet.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Liveblog

I've been watching C-SPAN. There were hijinks in the House at the start, when it was revealed that the 435 members would be seated by seniority (think herding cats).

The Army Herald Trumpeters have just sounded, announcing the parade of former Presidents (in order, starting with Carter). The Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial is a sea of humanity.

For the first time in many years, we are permitted to hope.

Bush The Elder and his hateful wife, wearing imperial purple scarves, now taking seats. I am reminded of Nixon's words regarding Babs: "That woman knows how to hate." One wonders what she's thinking now.

Now the Clintons, looking the happy couple as the Capitol Police salute. I hope she does a good job as SecStat.

The Marine Band playing various and sundry airs, as they've done all morning.

Obama's daughters and Biden's grandkids. How will the years mark them?

Bush the Younger, still smirking.

Finally Obama, entering alone.

Feinstein is speaking, having called the proceedings to order.

Warren's invocation included two of the epithets associated with Allah (Compassionate and Merciful) as well as Jesus as he appears in the Qur'an (Isa). Surprised me. I expected worse.

Aretha did a fairly good job with My Country, ’tis of Thee. Granted, she's no Marian Anderson ...

Biden being sworn in now by Associate Justice Stevens, followed by four ruffles and flourishes and the Admiral’s March.

Beautiful arrangement of Simple Gifts.

And now, the Oath, administered (as is his right) by Chief Justice Roberts.

Muffed the Oath – damn, Roberts! Your only line and you screwed the pooch.

“Congratulations, Mister President.” Ruffles and flourishes, Hail to the Chief and the twenty-guns used for the head of state.

“My fellow citizens …”

I'll post up the video of his address. The words are powerful.

UPDATE: Here's the Inaugural Address, Part One:

And Part Two:

Rev. Lowry up for the benediction. He blew Warren's invocation to bits from the opening lines.

And the National Anthem to close the proceedings.

Party time!

Monday, January 19, 2009

21 Hours

In just 21 hours Barack Hussein Obama will place his left hand on a Bible, raise his right hand and recite the words that all Presidents are required to say.

The Oath of Office, swearing the person to support, protect and defend the Constitution.

Kinda grabs you by the po-po, doesn't it?

The last holder of the office has finished packing up his belongings and getting ready to leave for his new house in a former "covenant neighborhood" in Dallas. Much as I'd like to say good riddance to him, questions remain.

One of those questions is whether he and his regime - his enablers, assistants, cronies and hangers-on - will be summoned to account for the various ways in which the Oath of Office was violated. The Constitution was used as toilet paper by the outgoing Administration, and they cannot be allowed to walk away scot-free.

But we'll see what happens, in another twenty-one hours.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Give Our Regards to Number One

In the 1960s British actor Patrick McGoohan helped create and starred in a TV series titled The Prisoner, a surrealist drama where a spy who tried to quit was incarcerated in an unknown location called "The Village" in an effort to extract information from him.

Here's a clip of the introduction to each episode:

And this is his response to "Number Two" (we never see One) when McGoohan's character is labeled Number Six:

The series was short, but has a cult following to this day.

McGoohan's last prominent role was as King Edward I Longshanks in Braveheart. He died today in California, aged 80.

Number Six is now free.

Rest in Peace, Patrick.

"Be seeing you."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Etiquette Film

I think this is what screwed up succeeding generations of American children.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

From Our Bitter Irony Desk


It's a word that isn't used much any more, as people have seemed to have become inured to seeing or experiencing atrocious things in their daily lives. But it's a word that I'll use to describe what apparently happened on January 4th in the Gaza Strip town of Zeitun.

According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) the Israeli Army herded some 110 Palestinians into a single-story house, ostensibly for their safety. That safety was rendered illusory about twenty-four hours later when IDF artillery shelled the house, killing thirty of the civilians inside. Compounding it, the UN and medical teams were blocked from entering the area.

Now, this is based on "several testimonies," according to the report, meaning of course that the IDF and its American apologists will be quick to counter that it's propaganda. But the IDF has already fessed up that it blew away five of its own soldiers due to 'friendly' fire, which doesn't bode well for its ability to distinguish between a legitimate target and noncombatants.

Interviews with Israeli civilians make it sound like some of the conversations I've had at work with people (some of whom are Gulf War vets, or ex-military) - a lot of racist rhetoric about "Hajjis" and "Sand ni**ers." Further indications of this attitude are found in such phrases as "they don't have the same vaules we have," "they don't value life like we do," and the ever-popular "force is the only thing these people understand."

These are absurdities.

And if people believe in absurdities, they can be convinced to commit atrocities.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Saturday 'Me' Time

I decided that today was a 'Me' day, a day in which I will do what I want to do without being beholden to other peoples' schedules.

I started early this morning with a Tarot reading (I use a Rider-Waite deck, and cast only a 3-card spread). As always it's open to interpretation, but even my worst case interpretation seemed satisfactory.

I followed that up with some food shopping, among which was beer, cheese and crackers for the football games starting up this afternoon. Which reminds me, here are my predictions for the game-winners:


I then went to the local garden center, bought some plants and did some gardening. I have a bit more gardening to take care of in the front of the house before I settle down for Sunday's games.

What do you do for 'me' time?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Making It Official

Yesterday the House of Representatives and the Senate met in joint session to tally the votes of the Electoral College and confirm Barack Obama and Joseph Biden as President and Vice President.

Acting in his capacity as President of the Senate, current Vice President Dick "So What?" Cheney had to state what clearly made him hurt inside:

In fact, apart from acting as a tie-breaker, what Cheney did yesterday is his only other legislative duty as Vice President.

If we lived in a just and sane universe he and the rest would be rounded up, arrested and tucked away in a cozy brig somewhere safe starting about 12:01 PM on January 20th.

But we live in a universe where nothing has any business being perfect, so it most likely won't happen.

Still, the moment must be recorded for posterity.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Application of Force, the Search for Solutions

The picture above is of Hamas-launched Qassam and Grad artillery rockets being launched against targets in Israel. These missiles don't have much of a guidance system, being a generally "fire and forget" sort of missile system. And the picture below shows part of Israel's response.

So far, the Israeli Army's penetrated into the Gaza Strip as far as the Mediterranean, splitting the area in two and surrounding Gaza City, the largest population center. Casualties are certain to mount, because no matter how well-guided or 'surgical' your munitions are if you drop them into a city of 400,000 or so people you're bound to hit someone in addition to your target (shrapnel does fly about, you know).

Israel, however, is missing the point.

The point that is being missed is that Israel has to realize that applied firepower will not stop the rockets. No application of force will, and certainly not decapitating strikes against the Hamas leadership (any such merely creates a vacuum that allows more radicalized members to advance to leadership positions; these people will carry on the grudge).

Part of the reason for the economic sanctions that have crippled the Gazan economy and the present military action is a desire on the part of the Israelis to force a change of regime by severing Hamas' links to the general population. We've seen throughout history that that doesn't happen very effectively (I overuse Vietnam as an example, but the argument is still effective; perhaps I should start using Cuba instead). I'm certain there's a political aspect to this as well, as Israel will be having elections soon and the ruling party doesn't want to look like pussies.

Will the application of force work? No. Under the present course of action the best Israel can hope for is another intifada. That's best case; worst case entails Israel taking up the same course Stalin (forced emigration) and Eichmann (extermination) took.

Which, of course, reinforces my contention that Israel is a national analogy to the statistical axiom that abused children tend to grow up to become abusers.

And we must look to the possibility that Israel's actions, and the perception that Arab leaders (Egypt, the Gulf States, etc.) are not doing enough to stop them will drive a further wedge between those Arab leaders and their populations, raising the risks of them being displaced by radical elements. Which will further destabilize the region.

Other nations are trying to get a solution together, but efforts by the United Nations will be blocked by the United States, who nearly always stands ready to block anything having to do with Israel that may affect Israel negatively. Proving, once again, that we are (for some inexplicable reason) Israel's bitch.

So, what can be done?

Were I the Israeli leadership I would immediately pull the troops back to their pre-incursion start lines, and work to undermine Hamas by flooding the Strip with food and other essential supplies (do it under Fatah auspices so as not to foster the perception that it's imperial largesse). At the same time I would make direct appeals to the population, asking for forgiveness on the one hand while pointing out that the current regime's actions precipitated this. I'd also allow the reopening of the sea and air links.

Would it work? Hard to say; I'm not a practitioner of psychohistory. But it might work, as opposed to Israel's current actions, which will not work.

Not a pretty set of prospects, from any angle you care to look at. Until both sides choose to stop talking at each other and start talking to each other we will not see anything resembling peace in that area.