Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Musical Interlude

Because sometimes you need one. So there.

Another View of the Jindal Speech

As usual, The Rude One has his teeth in this, right down on the bone. Read on.

The Rudeness? You're soaking in it!

The Ghost of Reagan Wept

I watched President Obama's speech before the two houses of Congress last night. He was forthright, inspiring and touched on the problems we're having as well as the opportunities we face to make things better. He refuted the talking points that had the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as being bad for everyone, and he reminded Americans that the deficit and economic morass were inherited.

He seemed a touch irritated by all the applause, at least to my perception. His rhetoric soared, he spoke in complete sentences and he didn't condescend or talk down to people.

Shortly thereafter, the Republican Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, stepped out from behind his state flag to give a possible rebuttal. He seemed rather stiff and wooden, and he ... well, here's a transcript of his speech below, with some comments from me in boldface. Judge what he had to say on its own merits:

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American president stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall to Gettysburg to the lunch counter and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Yes. Get on with it.

Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the president's personal story -- the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, who grew up to become leader of the free world. Like the president's father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4-½-months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a "pre-existing condition." To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery, so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.

A distant land - just come out and say it, Bobby - India. You know, the country that houses all those call centers?

As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country, and they instilled in me an immigrant's wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: "Bobby, Americans can do anything." I still believe that to this day: Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we can't overcome.

As the president made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.

Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don't care what party you belong to, if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.

So you offer the same "better ideas" that got us into this mess in the first place?

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina -- we have our doubts.

Let me tell you a story.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: "Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!" I asked him: "Sheriff, what's got you so mad?" He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, "Sheriff, that's ridiculous." And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!" Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people.

Um, Bobby, I don't think you help your case by citing the greatest domestic disaster of the Bush (i.e., Republican) administration.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

Last time I checked, the government of the United States was made up of American people, not the Lizard People of Vitvodle IX.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and not to just put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you, the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.

That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families, cutting taxes for small businesses, strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers, and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.

Ahh, tax cuts. The only way to solve our problem is to continue to hamstring and stunt government. Will we hold bake sales for any new Air Force jets? And it's rather odd that the GOP talks big noise about small businesses when the Bush tax policies favored the people who make obscene amounts of money.

But Democratic leaders in Congress -- they rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a "magnetic levitation" line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called "volcano monitoring." Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

Outright lie on the trains for the loss, Bobby. The $8 billion is for nationwide high speed rail development. And you may feel that Louisiana doesn't need volcano monitoring, but people who live in certain parts of Wyoming, California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii might argue with you.

Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. To create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times -- including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences -- we worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, D.C.

And how are things going for those areas ravaged by Katrina? Has the state population rebounded and poverty gone away?

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation, increase energy efficiency, increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels, increase our use of nuclear power, and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

"Drill, baby, drill!" Oh, and never mind the fact that it'll take ten years to have all that oil hit the pumps and only lower gas prices by pennies. Just think of all those rainbow-colored waves and the great view from the tar-spattered beaches!

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage -- period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage. What we oppose is universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not by government bureaucrats. We believe Americans can do anything, and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.

Gov. Jindal wants health care decisions made by insurance-industry and medical-industry bureaucrats, in keeping with the Victorian free-market values of the conservative wing of the GOP.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system, opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it shouldn't take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

No, it shouldn't, and I'm pleased you didn't mention school vouchers. Of course, you did masquerade it as a scholarship program, but I suppose that's in the spirit of Mardi Gras.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana was said to be half under water, and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, D.C., so we can rid our Capitol of corruption and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen.

I couldn't stop chuckling at that. Louisiana's politics are corrupt, and I'm not certain it can be so easily stopped. As Rep. Jefferson, Rep. Cao and Senator Vitter about that.

As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops. America's fighting men and women can do anything. If we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive, defeat our enemies, and protect us from harm.

I don't recall seeing or hearing anything about that - apart from getting rid of overpriced shit that we needed for fighting the last war or for refighting the Cold War against the Soviet Union (which no longer exists). And where was the GOP when American troops were dying from inadequate armor? Jindal makes a glancing case for the Perpetual War so beloved by the neocons.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington -- they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and to create jobs.

How is giving money to the states increasing dependence on the Federal government? It's our money.

In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear -- our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust -- and rightly so.

And you want us to go back to the GOP's philosophy. I think we decided that direction back in November.

Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say this: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share, the principles you elected us to fight for, the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.

With GOP leaders like Bunning, Brownback, Cantor, Steele, Good luck with that.

You know, a few weeks ago, the president warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said "we may not be able to reverse." Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover. Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery, overcame the Great Depression, prevailed in two World Wars, won the struggle for civil rights, defeated the Soviet menace, and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man, and the American spirit will triumph again.

He said September 11th! Take a drink! Obama laid out the truth, and some people can't take that. While he might have painted a somewhat lighter image, he corrected that in his address.

We can have confidence in our future, because, amid all of today's challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens, the most abundant resources, the most resilient economy, the most powerful military, and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Thank you for listening. God bless you. God bless Louisiana. And God bless America.

And with the waving of the flag and standard boilerplate at the finish, Governor Jindal fades from view. Somewhere in some quiet lacuna in Hell, the ghost of Ronald Reagan weeps as he realizes that the rhetorical torch has passed to the Democrats and the GOP may not have much to offer except obstruction for the foreseeable future.


It's rather interesting that an MSNBC snap poll stated that Gov. Jindal's speech was not well received, with 79% saying that he didn't offer any real alternatives and, in one commenter's words, "talked to us like we were three-year-olds."

As a Republican, I am thrilled to see the GOP sink further, and wish Obama all the best.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Things to Watch

There's a lot of news today that should have sensible people watching and right-wing pundits exploding, and all of it out of Asia. So let's go over the ground and take a peek.

Israel wrapped up their elections to the Knesset last week, leaving the centrist Kadima Party (headed by Tzipi Livni) only one seat ahead of the right-center Likud Party (headed by Binyamin Netanyahu). Neither party has a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, so the rush was on to find acceptable coalition partners.

When the third-place finisher Avigdor Lieberman of a far-right anti-Arab party endorsed Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres had no choice but to invite 'Bibi' to form a government. This will be the second time Netanyahu's been PM, and he's going to find his freedom of action regarding the Palestinians severely curtailed by the far right and ultra-religious parties that are posturing to join the coalition. Lieberman's list of cabinet ministries is mind-blowing (among them, Public Security and the Foreign Ministry). Part of Lieberman's platform included requiring all Israeli Arabs to either take a loyalty oath or forfeit Israeli citizenship. Stay tuned to this one, folks; it's gonna get nuts.

Moving east, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has disclosed that Iran enriched a lot more uranium that it had first estimated. By itself, that's not a big thing - but if Iran runs what it has through the centrifuges a while longer it will have enough oralloy (HEU, or highly enriched uranium) for at least one device.

By 'device,' read 'atomic bomb.'

Now, just because you have the ability to make something does not mean you are going to - witness South Africa, which became the first country to have the capacity to build the bomb and instead walked away from it, dismantling all its facilities under international surveillance and destroying all documentation. But Iran wants to recapture a bit of its former greatness as a world player, and the Bomb guarantees them a seat at the table if they play things right.

Lurking in the wings, however, is Israel, the Israeli lobby in the US and the US itself, which time and again has shown itself to be the Jewish State's bottom bitch. How will the incoming Netanyahu Government react to this?

Predictably, of course. We must remind ourselves that, official denials to the contrary, the Federation of American Scientists estimates that Israel has an arsenal of some 100 weapons of variable yields, all air-deliverable.

Now let's take a peek at the next troublesome little nuclear power in the continent. This will be number three, Pakistan. The Pakistani Government recently signed off on a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, and the Taliban have stated that one of the terms of the agreement will include the imposition of Islamic law in the area.

Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal (although most of the attention in that area is directed toward India), and with the rise of Islamic extremism, the Taliban, the Lashkar e-Toyba and al-Qaeda all in the country, the civilian government's looking a bit weak around the ankles. And, we must remind ourselves, the nuclear weapons and their release authority is vested in the military - civilian command and control is rather shaky.

Which leads one inexorably to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Little Kim set off a pony bomb back in 2006, which made me laugh out loud when I heard the estimated yield (500 tons, not kilotons or megatons, but tons). North Korea might have enough oralloy or plutonium for two to five weapons, but if they're prone to fizzle like the 2006 test, they might not get used. North Korea is also dead-set on testing its Taepodong-2 missile again. This thing has the range to hit Alaska, but is prone to blowing up.

And while we're in the Worker's Paradise, let's talk a bit about Little Kim. It's widely rumored that he's had a stroke and "isn't all there," and he recently sacked his Defense Minister. Speculation is centering around his third son, Kim Jong Un, taking over when Daddy retires or dies (the latter is far more likely, in my estimation).

Of course, how the two older sons will react is an open question.

North Korea has recently started rattling its saber again in the direction of South Korea, which has Seoul rather edgy and Tokyo and Beijing worried.

Remember: The DPRK has about the second-largest army in the region. The US forces along the demilitarized zone aren't sanguine about their chances of holding off a million-strong avalanche, and they may not get much help as the US forces are stretched thin and tired out after spending nearly eight years at war.

So! Lots of stuff to watch. Get out the popcorn and have the remote handy. The Slave Media will probably devote all of its coverage to a missing twenty-year-old white girl.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Could It Really Have Been That Easy?

As you know, the CIA and the rest of the world's intelligence agencies have been searching high and low for one particular man for the past eight years or so.

That fellow is Osama bin Laden, or Osama bin Missin as I like to call him.

Now, a team of geographers from UCLA have weighed in, saying that by using two scientific theories from their field (geography), they think they've managed to narrow Osama's hiding places down to exactly three buildings in the same town in Pakistan's Kurram Agency region.

By using readily available data and by using these theories (known as distance-decay theory and biogeography theory), the team says that there's a strong likelihood that the most wanted man on Earth can be found in one of those three places.

(Of course, they suggest that the CIA investigate before carpet-bombing the crap out of the area, just in case they got their sums wrong.)

Which brings this to mind:

This Probably Won't Change Peoples' Minds

A fellow named Muzzamil Hassan had an idea.

He would set up a TV station in his hometown (Buffalo, NY) and start broadcasting English-language programming to the Muslim community there as a way to build a bridge between Muslim culture and the American way of life.

Well, he probably won't win many popularity contests, as he turned himself in and confessed to murdering his wife, who was found beheaded in the TV studio. The pair had filed for divorce and there are police records of domestic violence complaints from the household.

There's no word yet on whether the TV station (called Bridges TV) will go off the air or not, but this certainly can't help. But at least they weren't replaying Farfur.

Was It Colonel Mustard Who Done It?

I was doing my usual early morning trawl through the news (you never know what you'll come up with) when this caught my eye:

"A 16-year-old girl was found dead and another girl was found unconscious in an Army barracks at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, during the weekend, a base spokesman said Monday."

The dead girl's undergoing an autopsy and the unconscious girl was taken to the hospital, leaving wide open like a gaping wound the simple question of what the hell they were doing in a barracks at 3:30 in the morning in the first place.

A soldier who was an acquaintance of one of the girls has been questioned, but no arrests as of now.

The funny bit was an Army spokesman for the base saying that the presence of two underage girls in a barracks so late at night was "likely" a violation of the base's visitor's policy.


Monday, February 16, 2009

New GOP Role Models - Foreigners!

Yeah, if you can believe it.

The Base, the rancid cream of the Republican Party, must be a tad confused by their Party's leadership and their elected representatives. What must be confusing their tiny little minds is the fact that instead of searching out acceptable American role models to re-brand and re-inspire the Party faithful, the leadership is looking toward foreign exemplars.

I'm not of The Base, so I can understand why the Party leaders are reluctant to try and find acceptable domestic role models. I mean, be fair - who are they going to find? Nixon? Reagan? Hoover?

First we have Representative Eric Cantor (R-Asinine), the Minority Whip. Cantor talks to Newt Gingrich the way some people speak to God, trying to get some pointers on how to turn the clock back to 1994 and resurrect the GOP majority in the House. He must be bogarting the Imodium to keep from shitting himself at the prospect that the stimulus bill may actually succeed in restarting the economy.

But Cantor also looks to Winston Churchill as an inspiration, particularly his role in leading Britain's Conservative Party during the late 1930s.


Leave aside the fact that Churchill wasn't American. The fact is that Churchill switched parties a number of times in the course of his political career (from Conservative to Labour and back again) when he saw a greater opportunity for advancement in one party over another. As First Lord of the Admiralty (in a Labour Government) he excoriated the Conservative Party leadership over events in Ireland.

The fact also remains that Churchill seconded Neville Chamberlain's nomination as Prime Minister and it was Chamberlain's policies as Chancellor of the Exchequer that started to pull Britain out of the Great Depression. Churchill was regarded as a bit of a crank, a fact that helped keep him out of government for most of the 30s until he became First Lord in 1939.

The GOP will harp upon Churchill's stance against appeasement, but he had kinder things to say about Hitler in the early 30s than he had to say about Stalin (it must be remembered that he advocated strangling the nascent Soviet government in its cradle back in 1919).

So much for Rep. Cantor and his Churchill fetish.

Now we hear from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Creep), who has gone on record as saying

"Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban . . . And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes."

Yeah, you have to hand it to the Taliban insurgency. They do a bang-up job of disrupting and changing a person's entire processes.

Usually by beheading them, or blowing them up with high explosives.

To be serious for a moment, Rep. Sessions' remarks were odious on their face. I'm certain that no one in this country (apart from maybe the Aryan Nations) wants to be associated with the gaggle of unwashed troublemakers currently infesting Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, Sessions could have helped to erase that insurgency - if he and his Party's leadership under the benevolent command of President George W. Bush hadn't taken their eyes off the Taliban, let them go, and attacked a country that posed no imminent threat and hadn't attacked us (indeed, had had nothing to do with 9/11).

But as long as the GOP leadership are happily coming up with entirely new ways to sabotage themselves and shoot themselves in the feet, I'm quite content to watch the GOP become even more marginalized and irrelevant.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some Weekend News

One thing I enjoy doing on Sundays is reading news websites from places other than the United States. It's a great way to find out what other countries are thinking and sometimes you find things that are a bit odd, or thought-provoking.

So, let's go globe-trotting!

An interview in Japan's Asahi Shimbun covers the intention of the People's Republic of China to develop and build two aircraft carriers starting next year, and two nuclear-powered carriers starting in 2020. China wants to be able to project its power beyond its littoral, with one defense line running as far east as Guam. The US is going to have to be aware and acknowledge the changing power realities, both regionally and globally.

An article in China Daily covers the efforts of a Hindu fundamentalist group to proselytize. The way they're doing it is rather, um, odd - they're making a fizzy soft drink out of cow urine.

Also out of India, an abusive husband woke up after beating his wife, doused her with kerosene and set her alight. The wife wrapped him up in a bearhug, and both died of their injuries. It's a bit funny, in a very macabre way.

Finally, this little bit out of Tanzania (by way of the BBC) describes what one district education commissioner chose to do to solve the problem of his district falling behind in the national education standards. He had nineteen primary school teachers caned by police to punish them for tardiness. The injured teachers and the union are complaining, loudly, and at least one teacher is wanting financial compensation.

Had a few laughs in the news, and some food for thought.

How was your weekend?


"I found out the way your mind works and the kind of man you are. I know your plans and expectations - you've burbled every bit of strategy you've got. I know exactly what you will do, and exactly what you won't, and I've told you exactly nothing. To these aged eyes, boy, that's what winning looks like!"
- Henry II, The Lion in Winter

The Great Stimulus Battle is over.

Obama won.

He made his gesture and reached out to the Republicans, who decided to take their toys and go off into a corner to sulk like whining little children. And all this despite Obama swallowing his pride and adding tax cuts and cutting back on some things in order to make it palatable. He made his gesture for true bipartisanship, and it was rebuffed.

Representative Pete Sessions (R-Dumbass) crowed about how the GOP was going to become an insurgency and held up the Taliban as exemplars. Really, Pete? How about calling a spade a true spade, and compare the Republican Base to al Qaeda?

(Of course, 'the base' and 'al qaeda' are synonymous.)

So, the stimulus battle is over, and Obama won. Will the stimulus work? Not instantly; something like this current recession has developed so much inertia that it will take time to counteract its worst effects.

What's up next? Well, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-Pass the Smelling Salts, I feel Faint!) feels that the banks should be nationalized on the Swedish model from the 90s. This would enable the government to comb out the nasty bits and reprivatize the banks as solvent and effective businesses. Of course, nationalization is a dirty word to Republicans - Nationalization equals Socialism equals Oh My God The APOCALYPSE!

I can toss the talking points, you see.

Obama is expected to go to Phoenix, Arizona this week. Phoenix is one of the hardest-hit areas for home foreclosures and Obama's expected there to outline a bailout plan for homeowners. Of course, it's the stomping ground of his rival in the 2008 campaign, Senator John McCain (R-Geritol).

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary TIMMUH! Geithner had a sit down with some of the G7 finance ministers and a couple said that they think the US is on the right track. A global approach to solving the recession was also one of the topics, and that's important. You must recall that the Great Depression left a lot of people poor, desperate and hurting, and therefore very receptive to the allure of ideologies or malevolent charismatics that promise a better life.

History is our example, and we must pay attention.

But getting back to the win this past week, as long as the Republicans insist on being children we can expect more victories in the Congress.


What happens if this stimulus plan succeeds?

I'm sure that GOP Chairman Michael Steele and GOP True Leader and Chief Ideologue Rush Limbaugh wake up in cold night-terror sweats every night because they can't face that eventuality. A stimulus-driven turnaround of the economy, however small, would call into question every aspect of the current GOP position and if the rest of the Democratic policy plan works it'll completely invalidate the GOP worldview.

And if you think you're seeing heads explode now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Darwin Day!

Today is a double anniversary - it is the 200th birthday of the English naturalist Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

In short, the theory of evolution. The idea that all life developed over time from less complex forms dates back to some of the ancient Greek philosophers and the Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius, and despite the downward pressure on the idea by the Christian Church over the centuries it has persisted. Darwin's voyage aboard the HMS Beagle started to crystallize the theory in his mind, and he sought evidence to buttress the theory.

He was still deciding whether or not to publish when word reached him that another naturalist, a fellow named Wallace, was working on the same line from a different angle. Darwin was persuaded to publish his work, with results we are still seeing today.

Now, there were things that Darwin didn't know and, indeed, couldn't know, based on the scientific advances and technology of the times. Gregor Mendel, the monk who first described the laws of heredity (the theory that traits such as brown hair and blue eyes are inheritable; passed on from generation to generation) labored in obscurity and Darwin had never heard of him.

I personally think that Darwin would have been enthralled and excited by the advances made in the past 150 years. Advances in genetics and in all aspects of chemistry and biology, as well as the discoveries of transitional fossils have added to the body of evidence that buttresses the theory of evolution.

Stupid people constantly harp on whether a person "believes" in evolution, as if scientific endeavor, theories and facts required faith. When a person asks me whether I believe in evolution, I begin my reply by pointing out the fallacy in their reasoning. It never fails to get things off on the right foot.

For all those people who still have trouble accepting the landmark role and impact the publication of Darwin's work has made on biology and on science in general, I say this:

Evolve. Catch up to the rest of us.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Trouble with In-Laws?

In certain parts of eastern and northern India, it's not a really good idea to marry outside of your social caste or socioeconomic station.

In Bhagalpur region, 21-year-old Ratan Mandal eloped with his eighteen-year-old sweetheart. In most areas of the world this would scarcely be cause for comment. But Mandal's family was poor and young Kanchan Kumari's family were wealthy.

So, you ask?

So the bride's family lured the groom's family into a trap on the pretext of settling the dispute between then, shot and beheaded eight members of the Mandal family and threw the bodies into the river.

I suppose that's one way of settling the dispute, as well as making sure there are no uncomfortable moments with the in-laws at family reunions.

Fifteen people, mostly members of the bride's family, are charged with the murders.

This is the Result of the Right-Wing Media Machine

Read it.

And weep.

Then I Guess the Department of Commerce is a Communist Front ...

I got into an argument at work a couple of days ago.

Not really unexpected; I get into a lot of arguments at work, on topics ranging from working conditions to the clientele to politics to religion to social problems to what makes for good rock and roll. We're an eclectic bunch at work.

This argument centered around that Evil Socialist Barack Obama, who was out to destroy the entire United States with his Evil Plan to "stimulate" the economy. The coworker opined that the only thing that would be stimulated was what he called "The Liberal Agenda," and stated the rest of the right wing's talking points with sufficient brevity.

Fox News ... is NOT your friend.

Now, he knows better than to pick arguments with me on politics - or he should know better. I'm Republican and can throw the talking points straight back at him, even to ratcheting the rhetoric up to the Palinesque extreme (although I have to wash my hands afterward). I also come prepared with counterarguments, as I am trained and educated to study all aspects of an issue. In regard to my Party affiliation, I had my dogma put down a long time ago.

In regard to his stated premise that the government cannot create jobs, I asked him if he got his job as a result of Federal grant money to law enforcement (he didn't, but it's fun to watch people goggle at me). I also asked him if the people who search my shoes at airports are just doing it for the hell of it, and pointed out that the Transportation Security Administration is part of the government.

He huffed at me and then spewed another talking point: That spending cannot revive the economy.

I directed him to the graphic seen here:

(Graphic care of Devilstower at Daily Kos.)

The graph shows that the Gross Domestic Product sank starting in 1929 under the Hoover Administration, reaching its lowest point in 1933. By 'lowest point,' we may safely assume that GDP growth was zero or just under the line into negative growth.

Now, look at the graph again. FDR started the New Deal, with an avalanche of government spending on roads, dams, infrastructure, the Tennessee Valley Authority (which enabled millions in rural areas to enter the Twentieth Century), etc. In 1937 FDR cut the New Deal spending in order to balance the budget and the resulting downturn was the Recession of 1937.

Still, study the graph. Take a good long steamy gawk at it. After the recession ended, GDP resumed its upward march until the start of the Second World War.

I made my point to my coworker, who huffed at me. He then started going on again at how Evil Socialist Obama was being an Evil Socialist by wanting to cut CEO pay for those companies that take Uncle Sam's money.

Well, I'm one of the taxpayers who feels that if you take my money you godsdamned well better do what I say, and those companies that don't want to play, don't have to accept a penny and can sink or swim on their own merits (and don't give me that "too big to fail" bullshit). I asked El Coworker if governmental freezing of wages and prices makes one Socialist.

He said Yes, and I pointed out that the Nixon Administration did exactly that - and call him what you will, you could never get away with calling Nixon a lefty on anything.

He then brought up the Recession of 1981 and Reagan's tax cuts. I pointed out that in addition to cutting taxes Reagan also slashed social programs and jacked defense spending up to astronomic heights. But, said El Coworker, defense spending doesn't stimulate the economy.

I gave him my Pitying Look (CDT 19.4-a) and asked him where all the sparkling new tanks, planes, guns and bombs came from as a result of Reagan's defense budget. I rather doubted that they came from Israel - or maybe we bought them from the Soviet Union, and just repainted them? I then said that even defense spending provides jobs - even though by GOP Chariman Michael Steele's criteria, soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen don't qualify as "workers" with actual "jobs."

El Coworker stopped huffing at me and started grumping at me, called me a Liberal and walked away.

Time elapsed: About thirty minutes.

Winning another argument: Priceless.


Read it again.

President Obama made the best effort he could, hosting parties and reaching out to the disgruntled obscurantists in the GOP and trying to impress upon them the need for the economic stimulus bill.

The House Republicans voted No en bloc; the Senate slashed enough funding to persuade three Republican Senators to turn coats.

Yesterday, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-Lisping Manchild) had the cast iron gall to blame the Obama Administration for not reaching out and said that the President was acting as if he could do what he wanted.

Senator Graham apparently has amnesia, or at least short-term memory loss. For the past eight years he and his partisan cronies let the Bush Administration run roughshod over the Congress and basically allowed a spendthrift wastrel to do whatever the fuck he wanted. Bush never had a mandate.

Contrast that with a President who sailed into office with 57% of the popular vote and a stultifying 2 to 1 margin in the Electoral College, along with opinion polling that indicates that the majority of Americans are totally fed up with the economic theory that you can cut taxes for the richest Americans and expect that to revive this moribund economy.

Take Rush Limbaugh's tiny penis from your lips, Senator Graham, and wake the hell up. While you're at it, you might want to let the rest of your compatriots know that continuing to screech the way you have about advocating the same failures that got us into this mess will almost certainly guarantee that the GOP remain a marginalized regional party for years to come.

Obama made his gesture, and it was batted away. Fine.

Time to let the grownups take over.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Two days ago, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) completed four months of maintenance at its home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It set out on a shakedown cruise.

It never returned.

Oh, don't worry; it didn't sink. It ran aground on a shoal just offshore - interestingly, the shoal was both manmade and known to the Navy. Which begs the question as to just what the hell a billion-dollar, 9600-tonne warship was doing in 22 feet of water.

The Navy has lightened the ship by taking off some personnel and fuel, and it's hoped that they'll be able to tow it off the reef today, three days after it initially ran aground.

But that won't help the captain of the ship, who will likely lose his job or any hope of further career advancement. The Navy's a tad unforgiving (and rightly so) toward anyone who takes a capital ship and gets it stuck.

James Whitmore, RIP

James Whitmore, US Marine Corps veteran and noted character actor in movies, television and the theater, passed away last Friday. He had a good feel for any role he played and truly loved acting.

He won an Emmy and a Tony and acted in one-man shows (even being nominated for an Academy Award for the film version of his show about Harry Truman), but for me his best role was an early, as the tough police sergeant in the 1954 science fiction movie Them!

He was 87.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I'll Take My Schadenfreude with Chocolate Sauce, Please

This just made me smile (which is a great accomplishment, considering the hordes of influenza viruses storming through my system like the hosts of Timur the Lame):

Murdoch's NewsCorp Posts $6.4 Billion Loss

That's for last quarter, and while it was expected it's probably still a hard pill for Australian-born Murdoch to swallow. Of course, to look at this withered old poofter's maw you'd think he could swallow the Chrysler Building with room left over.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Coming SOON ... to a website near You!

[Shot opens in total blackness, with the exception of a portly wolf who
can be seen from the chest up in the distance. He is dressed very
elegantly in a suit and tie, and his white pawkerchief is gleaming
where it resides in his breast pocket.]

[MUSIC: Brief, sinister fanfare]

[The wolf raises a paw, and beckons toward the camera.]

Leonard Allworthy: Come closer!

[The camera moves in closer as the wolf continues to speak.]

[MUSIC: muted, sinister tones as Lord Leon speaks.]

Leonard Allworthy: I want to talk to you.

[The camera stops with a closeup of the wolf. He speaks to the
audience, his gaze shifting from right to left as he talks.]

Leonard Allworthy: I’m going to tell you a story of astounding stupidity. The story of the Giant Gnat of Sinatra. For years, the Giant Gnat has carried the mystery of fabulous talent under its grotesque wings. I could tell you a thousand tales of the mels and femmefurs who have hunted… this strange bug. But every story has the same ending: humiliation. Listen to these incredible furs, all consumed by their passionate greed for the Giant Gnat of Sinatra…

[Cut to….]

[Screen Title: WHO IS THIS FUR?]

“Urp . . .”


“Did you know you have flies in here?”


Up early, saddled with an Aussie lunatic and poking through a rain forest . . .


I shrugged. Wasn’t polite to tell him he needed to use his larger brain more often.


Roxie’s old cheerleader’s uniform did fit Les pretty well, actually. Well, maybe not in the chest.


Leslie duCleds: Uuuuuuuhhhhhhh.


Willow Fawnsworthy: Boop boop diddem daddem waddem.


Random Mink: “Here's the late edition of the Fillydelphia Bulletin, quoting me as saying ‘ow.’"


[CUT TO: Cover of a book reading: “THINNER THIGHS IN THIRTY DAYS!”]

Rosalie Baumgartner: You little SCAMP!












[Shot of Italian restaurant.]


The story trailer's based on this little piece of film noir: