Friday, August 28, 2009

Vacation Time!

Yes, it's time for my vacation.

Where will I go? Exotic foreign climes?

Well, yeah, if you consider deepest, darkest Alabama "exotic" and Memphis, Tennessee "foreign."

In other words, dear readers, it's time for a Road Trip!

Here's the basic itinerary: Pensacola, Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville, Memphis, Fayetteville, St. Louis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta and then home.

Yep, a lot of pranging about in my Auto-MO-beel. While on my travels I expect to visit spots like the Parthenon replica, the Gateway Arch, Lookout Mountain, the National Civil Rights Memorial and others.

The lynchpin of the vacation will spending Labor Day weekend in Memphis attending a convention known as Mephit Furmeet, billed as a furry convention where those interested in promoting the anthropomorphic genre can exchange ideas. Now, don't start going all CSI on me - there will probably be very little of that kind of shenanigans. I'm going because I'm currently writing for that genre (on the Spontoon Island website, a great anthology site for stories and art) and I've never been to one.

I will, of course, be taking pictures.

Will I be going to Graceland while I'm there?



Because Tennessee has laws against desecrating graves, and that's the only reason I'd ever go to Graceland.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Read This

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Comes As No Surprise

Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and former Reichsfuhrer of our Homeland Security Department, now alleges that he was pressured to raise the country's alert level from Puce to Cerise in advance of the 2004 Presidential election. He eventually didn't, but that's beside the point right now.

The fact that he was pressured reinforces my contention that the Bush Administration was an aberration not unlike the reign of The Mule in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Had it not been for the attacks on Black Tuesday Bush would have been a one-term President. Public opinion was running against him after the bitterly contested and still-fractious 2000 campaign, the economy was slumping and we had just concluded a minor diplomatic incident with China that left us looking weak.

But, as Burke opined, "The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," and such was the case. Robert Clarke notified the President and others in the national security apparatus that Osama bina Badboy was planning on striking us, but it was blown off in exchange for fantasies about how bad Saddam Hussein was.

With predictable results.

And anyone with even a gram of common sense could see during 2004 that the Bushies were manipulating peoples' fears in such a way as to drive them, lemming-like, to the polls so they could re-elect a genuinely stupid man and his cabal of war profiteers, warmongers and authoritarians.

Of course, all the current GOP apparatus knows how to do at this point is to exploit and play on peoples' fears (but in this case it's health care).

So Reichsfuhrer Ridge's allegation at this late date comes as no surprise whatever.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making a Comeback

People of a certain age who watched the fall of the Berlin Wall will recognize this little car as the Trabant, or Trabi. Seating four adults, the little sedan with the smoky engine was a fixture on East Bloc roads for thirty years.

To hear Wikipedia tell it, refueling the Trabi was ... interesting. You had to open the hood, add gas, then add oil, then shake the car from side to side to mix the two fluids. It got 34 miles per gallon, supposedly. Production ceased in 1990, after 3 million models had been built.

Fast forward.

Cloaked in a roseate glow of nostalgia, people seemed to want the Trabi to come back. While Herpa, a miniature car company in Bavaria, offered a model for about 50,000 euros, another consortium is seeking funding for this:

Der Trabi lebt!

This concept model was unveiled in Leipzig in 2007, and the company hopes to have the first Trabant NTs rolling onto German roads by 2012 (a full-sized concept will be on display at the IAA Frankfurt auto show in September). Now, get this - the car will be an all-electric model, with a range of 250 kilometers between charges.

It also looks a bit sportier than its ancestor.

It's nice to see people trying to take an old symbol and recast it as a better, more modern model.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Novak, RIP

Good-bye, Novakula.

Keep your mallets and stakes handy, folks. Cancer or not, he might come back to out another CIA officer.

What's the Point?

If you drop the public option from any health care reform bill, what is the fucking point of even trying to reform health care?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First of the Season


Tropical storm.

The first one of the season, and while it's way out in the Atlantic right now, computer models differ as to its direction and outcome. Time to start thinking seriously about preparedness options.

Of course, I've been preparing for a storm since at least May.

Sometimes I Wonder

Sometimes I wonder. I really, really do.

Let me explain. We have an NFL player named Michael Vick, who did admittedly reprehensible things involving dogs. He served a two-year sentence in Federal prison, and has been (very gingerly) offered a job with the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the other hand, we have another NFL player, Donte Stallworth. He got drunk and decided to drive his car while drunk. He plowed into another human being and killed that person. Stallworth spent 28 days in jail, and has to sit out this year.

Two years for killing dogs.

One month for killing a person.

What. The. Hell!?

Since when do dogs rate higher than a human being? Had I been the judge, Stallworth would have been under the jail, and would still be there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Afraid of the Facts?"

The above question was the chyron on this morning's edition of Fox and Friends, subtitled Stupidity Ahoy!, and you have to admit it's rather thought-provoking for Fox. The thrust of the question seemed to center around the loud disruptions of town-hall meetings and the assertions made that the loud mouths are stifling honest, thoughtful discussions.

Well, here are some of the questions and statements I heard over the weekend, culled from the videos played for us by the media:

"The Government should keep its hands off my Medicare!"

"This bill - this monstrosity - says nothing about tort reform."

"Why won't Obama come clean about his birth certificate?"

"Why does Obama want to kill Trig Palin?"

Taking these statements and questions in order, I suppose it'd be nice if the Government - which established, runs and funds Medicare - should just drop it like a chalupa and walk away. I suppose it'd be good to wedge some tort reform into the bill and make it harder to sue doctors for malpractice. The "birther" and "deather" arguments are Just Plain Silly, but are usually delivered at volume levels just shy of public nuisance (the bit about tort reform was actually delivered in a deliberate and measured tone - much respect for that guy).

Unfortunately, the people who are tossing these statements and others like them around like so many verbal firecrackers are not interested in measured, thoughtful debate. Far from it - they want to yell, displaying their ignorance for all and sundry while trying to drown out anyone who actually wants to talk about issues.

Let's toss in for good measure the Twittered threats that these "protesters" will exercise their First Amendment rights while carrying guns, which poses the risk that they'll be whipped by their own rhetoric into a homicidal fury.

Because it's all fun until someone dies.

And that's what people should be afraid of - not the facts.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The High, Lonely Music

Harry John Patch died recently. A plumber's apprentice, he was drafted into the British Army at the age of 15, and fought at the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), one of the many bloody slaughters that marked the First World War on the Western Front.

Mr. Patch's funeral was attended by British troops (six privates bore the coffin) as well as Belgian, French, and German soldiers. He insisted on Germans being present as a sign of reconciliation.

At age 111, Mr. Patch was the last man to have fought in the trenches for his King and Country.

As the pallbearers stood, two buglers played The Last Post, that high and lonely music that the United Kingdom plays for its military dead.

Rest, Harry.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Return of Big Bill

Four and a half months ago, two journalists sneaked/strayed/ended up across the border separating the People's Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The two women, affiliated with Current-TV, were arrested by North Korean authorities, charged with conducting a smear campaign and sentenced to 12 years at hard labor.

Twelve years at hard labor.

In North Korea, folks.

Club Med this wouldn't be.

Now, our relations with North Korea are not really the best possible (we're still at war with them, 56 years on), so while we officially made noises about demanding the return of the women, a call was sent out.

Enter Big Bill, also known as former President Bill Clinton.

Apparently using his mighty Rolodex, he made some contacts. This ended up with Clinton being invited to Pyongyang for dinner and a chat with the DPRK's Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.

The outcome?

The journalists were pardoned, and are now home in California.

So, everyone happy, right?


The atonal, brassy braying of the Right Wing Bombs-n-Jesus Machine started venting instantly, displaying once again the deranged hatred and fear they still harbor for all things Clinton. Several of the pundits, notably former UN Ambassador and Walrus Porno Mustache Bearer John Bolton, continued their usual tactic of looking at the glass as half-empty by alleging that we gave something away to Little Kim.

While I dislike even reading Fox, here's a link to the article. They're all hot and bothered about Kim scoring a propaganda victory - as well as (of course) screeching about what the DPRK's news agency called an apology.

For the record, here's the bit from the Korean Central News Agency:

"Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it. Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong Il an earnest request of the U.S. government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view."

Now, an apology is just words. Our reputation is big enough compared to North Korea's that we can afford the minor loss of face in apologizing. And, to their credit the Obama Administration rather strenuously denies that there was an apology or any other quid pro quo.

Both countries can claim a victory here - the US for getting our people back, and the DPRK for the photo op (they may have also stuck us with the check for the dinner). And we got our people back.

So why isn't the Right happy?

Because it brought back Big Bill, whose magic penis is still able to strike a Lord Voldemort level of terror into the heart of conservatives.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Right, Again

One of my favorite bromides to lob at bromide-spewing coworkers who inveigh against "The Liberal Media" is this: "So-called 'liberal' media are only as liberal as their conservative corporate masters allow them to be."

I've been proven right again.

It's been fun to watch Bill O'Reilly of Fox News and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC snipe, snap and snarl at each other over the years. But no longer, thanks to Charlie Rose of PBS.

Ironically, Charlie Rose, who once denigrated those who stated that media corporations affect those who report the news, helped broker a meeting between the heads of General Electric (who owns NBC, and MSNBC) and News Corporation (who owns Fox). The two corporate heads conceded that although the feud was good for ratings it was dragging down any remaining facade of civility in the news.

So they reportedly put the kibosh on The Feud.

Olbermann has stated that he's not part of any deal, but it's important to point out that the level of vitriol has dropped way down.

So once again I've been proven right.

Doesn't make me feel good, though.

News Roundup

Another country heard from ...

Remember that North Korean freighter that everyone was so exercised about last month or so? The one that might have been carrying nuclear technology? The one that the DPRK threatened to go to war over?

Well, there might have been a reason it was on the way to Myanmar (once known as Burma). Seems that the military junta running the country over there may be planning a nuclear reactor, with plutonium extraction facility (of North Korean manufacture) capable of creating a nuclear weapon.

Why are they doing this? Fairly simple; the military junta doesn't want to lose their grip on power through foreign intervention, so they want a deterrent.

Another dirt-poor, ain't-got-a-pot-to-piss-in country wanting to run with the Big Dogs.


An unknown shooter approached a gay community center in Tel Aviv, Israel and started shooting. Three people reported dead in what the police are terming a hate crime.

Bet you anything the shooter's an ultra-religious nutjob.


From our "No Shit, Sherlock" desk:

It seems that the changing racial landscape of America has a lot of white people scared.

Not really surprising. Change scares a lot of people, and the looming fact that by 2040 or so Caucasians will be a minority in the United States is enough to scare people shitless.

So the screeching we've been hearing, the Birther conspiracists, and the increase in white rightist hate groups are only natural.

White power elites have two choices. One is to embrace the change and bow to the shifting power realities. That's hard, so it probably won't be the option used.

The other choice is for the power elites to try and curb the demographic trend. Anti-immigration policies are one manifestation of this. An extreme option would be for the imposition of apartheid in the United States.

Which would precipitate a holocaust, perhaps, but I doubt it.


Last week India christened and launched its first-ever nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant, notable because it was built entirely in India. With its arsenal of torpedoes and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, it could pose a destabilizing threat to the balance of power in Southern Asia. Pakistan has already said that it could start an arms race.

Maybe this is what Senator Coburn was blathering about when he said that we needed the F-22 fighter to face the threat from India.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Weirdness YouTube Time!