Thursday, July 28, 2011

Even in the Past

funny pictures history - So, 2 number 3's, no cheese.  Wouldst thou like fries with that?
see more Historic LOL

The Debt Crisis - A German View

I enjoy reading The Rude Pundit, because he doesn't mince words and uses his vocabulary at full, vulgar throat to express his displeasure with things as they are.

I also enjoy reading him for some of the links he tosses into his posts.

The German magazine Der Spiegel weighed in on the debate now raging in DC, collecting views from a broad cross-section of ideologies in Germany. This article was put up on July 15th, and here's what was said:

Bild: "Most importantly, the Republicans have turned a dispute over a technicality into a religious war, which no longer has any relation to a reasonable dispute between the elected government and the opposition." (Mass-circulation)

Die Welt: "The influence of the Tea Party movement … can not be overestimated. … The movement sees traditional politics as corrupt and regards Washington as a den of iniquity. … They see the other side as their enemy. Negotiations with the Democrats, whether it's about appointing a judge or the insolvency of the United States, are only successful if the enemy is defeated. Compromise, they feel, is a sign of weakness and cowardice." (Conservative)

Süddeutsche Zeitung: "The Republicans are playing with fire. Nobody can imagine what the repercussions might be if the unthinkable happens and the US is suddenly no longer a safe haven for investors." (Center-left)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "A US default and a lower credit rating would … send stock prices through the floor and could choke off America's economic recovery -- with global repercussions. The politicians in Washington are playing with fire." (Center-right)


Now, the BBC is reporting (July 28th) that the markets will basically force the government of the United States to knuckle under and get things done. It's going to be hard, with Boehner facing a near-open civil war within his own ranks and even the Chamber of Commerce starting to have a serious case of buyer's remorse regarding the Tea Party bums they supported back in 2010.

The rest of the world watches, and worries.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

First and Ten, Ball on the Twenty

We're getting closer and closer to a resolution to the collective bargaining kerfuffle between the National Football League and the NFL Player's Association, so a football metaphor is apt to start this post.

But we're not talking football, dear readers. No indeed.

I'm talking about the negotiations between the two branches of our government concerning the debt limit.

The House Republican caucus, clinging to the anti-tax dogma like fanatics clinging to Holy Writ, haven't really changed their position a bit, despite the Democratic attempts to edge them closer to a compromise by offering changes in Medicare and Social Security. Which is stupid, since Social Security has no impact whatever on the national debt and never did (Social Security is funded by payroll taxes - more about that a touch later).

House Speaker Boehner has gone so far as to offer a two-step solution - a short term hike in the debt limit now, with additional hikes and spending cuts to be determined by a special bipartisan commission. Recommendations made by that commission would be voted up or down by the rest of the Congress, with no amendments permitted.

Boehner's skin dye has obviously affected his brain here. How does he expect something like that to break the current deadlock if the underlying ideology of his Party remains so fatally flawed?

We may have to face facts here, people - we are a First World nation, beset by Third World political gridlock. To quote the British Business Secretary, Vince Cable, "right wing nutters" have taken over the GOP, with dire consequences for our nation and the world economy.

The deadline's August 2.

So we're at first and ten, ball's on the twenty, and we have a minute left on the clock. Do we continue to slog, or is it time for a Hail Mary?

(Now, regarding Social Security: Hey kids! Did you know that if you earn more than $106,800 or so a year you pay little or no payroll taxes into Social Security? It's true! If that ceiling were lifted, Social Security would be solvent for decades. Which is why, naturally, it won't even be considered.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Albany County Jail: Escape Attempt Set to "Yakety Sax"

Economic Terrorism

Or, why Grover Norquist should be wetting his pants.

Remember the USAPATRIOT Act? That draconian little bit of foofaraw the US Congress passed in a fevered panic in the days after September 11th?

(He said September 11th! Everyone take a drink!)

I wish to direct the reader's attention to Section 802 of the Act, which redefines "domestic terrorism." Specifically, Section 802 modifies Section 2331 of title 18, United States Code, paragraph (4) to include the following definitions of domestic terrorism:

`(B) appear to be intended--

`(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

`(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

`(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.'.

Now, if the activities, speeches, pontifications and literary musings of Grover Norquist fit the above definitions:

(ii) He has constantly sought to aggrandize the rich at the expense of everyone else by intimidating and coercing elected representatives of the people of the United States, including candidates for the Presidency, into refusing to face reality and increase taxes on those best situated to pay them;

(iii) He has sought to affect the conduct of the government by the mass economic destruction his ruinous anti-tax policies would cause.

(C) And all of this takes place right here in the good old US of A.

What should be done?

My opinion is that Mr. Norquist needs to take a nice vacation somewhere.

I hear that Guantanamo Bay is nice this time of year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Last Time

I was watching NASA TV, as Shuttle Atlantis descended to its final landing.

My house shook, twice.

I was momentarily startled, as I had thought that Atlantis was too far south for its transition to subsonic speeds to be heard.

This will be the last time that solid 'double-tap' sonic boom will be heard.

As I watched, the ghostly infrared image descended, getting closer and closer to its landing strip, and my heart ascended to my throat as it flared out, wheels extended ...

And it touched down.

Welcome home, Atlantis.

The Shuttle Transportation System program is over.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Last Imperial Funeral

I found this rather affecting.

Otto von Habsburg died last week at age 98. He was the Pretender to the thrones of Austria and Hungary (and many other states) since 1922.

A proponent of European federalism and a devout Catholic, Otto had what was probably the last Imperial funeral to be held in Vienna. But as the coffin, decked in the old Imperial flag bearing the family arms, neared the Capuchin Church of Vienna the doors were shut and locked.

A chamberlain announced him, giving his full Imperial style in pretense.

The monk said, "We know him not."

The chamberlain announced Otto again, giving his academic credentials.

The monk said, "We know him not."

The chamberlain announced Otto, "A mortal and a sinner."

And the doors were opened.

July the Twentieth

"Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind."

The Debt Ceiling and Executive Fiat

"The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, . . . shall not be questioned."
- United States Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 4.

A very long time ago, the United States had a debt problem. You see, it owed a boatload of money to the nations that had aided it in shaking off British rule - France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic - and was having trouble paying. The Secretary of the Treasury, a guy named Alexander Hamilton, hit upon an idea.

Embrace the debt, borrow money off that debt and set up a line of credit. In a trice, America had a functioning economy and was on its way to establishing a balance of trade with the rest of the world.

Okay, it's a gross oversimplification, but it gets the damned point across.

After the Civil War, we faced another debt problem. The Confederacy had borrowed money, and had racked up debts with Britain and France. Since these were states in rebellion, we didn't want to have to pay the CSA's debt back.

Hence Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment. The redacted bit in the quote cited above sets that exception in Constitutional stone - the traitors' debts will not be paid, and will not be considered valid. I'm sure it pissed off both London and Paris, but fuck 'em for backing the wrong horse.

So, let's fast forward to today.

We're facing a problem with the debt ceiling now. The US debt ceiling's an artificial line drawn in thin air and on ledgers, and is usually raised without a murmur by the US House of Representatives - which has the power of the purse anyway, so the Executive Branch has historically been quite happy to leave them to it.

During the Bush Administration, the Congress raised the debt limit three damned times, and Devil take the budget deficit. Vice President Cheney is even on record saying that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

So what's the hubbub now?

Two words. Tea. Party.

The Teabagger faction in the GOP has their collective testes resting on John Boehner's forehead right now. If he tries anything he'll face an open revolt in his own caucus as well as a possible coup by Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. So far, he's managed to stave off this denouement.

The House passed a Teabagger wad of phlegm yesterday that would cut social spending benefits, cap any possible tax increase (because Lord knows the richest 1% all need new Rolls Royces) and force a balanced budget amendment. The bill - passed on party lines, of course - now goes to that beehive of activity, the Senate. Obama's already declared he'll veto it.

So, the Legislative Branch is largely paralyzed by partisan gridlock.

Which leaves the Executive to act.

I forget who suggested it, but the legal precedent for the President to act by fiat and disregard the Congress of the United States was established by the legal lights of the former Administration. That would be the George W Bush Administration, by the way - the one that many conservatives would rather you forgot about.

The concept's known as The Unitary Executive. The door was opened; all Obama has to do is walk through it.

Bill Clinton actually said that he'd urge Obama to do it and let the courts hash it out. It'd be quite simple; a brief Executive Order directing the Treasury to raise the debt limit by such-and-such amount. The markets would breathe a sigh of relief, the rest of the world will be happy, and the Teabaggers will foam at the mouth.

Everyone wins!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"We have seen the best of our time:

Friday, July 08, 2011

Well, Duh ...

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, is a very busy man. What with two full wars and three JBE ('just bomb 'em') operations on his plate, there's probably very few hours in the day.

But he did make time to have lunch with reporters at the Pentagon - that five-sided Monument to Murphy's Law.

Admiral Mullen told the reporters that there is evidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran is supplying increasing amounts on increasingly more sophisticated weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq - weapons, of course, that these same militias are using to attack the American troops that are still in that country after combat operations have supposed to have ended.

One has to wonder if any of the reporters was heard to say, "Well, DUH" to the distinguished admiral.

Prior to 2003, the two biggest military powers in Southwest Asia were Iraq and Iran. Back in the Eighties we supplied Iraq with weapons in the hope that the Saddam regime would be a counterweight to the ayatollahs in Tehran. All that changed when we invaded and occupied Iraq.

I've said repeatedly, over the years, that the only real winner in this war was Iran. We can't stay there forever, and the al-Maliki Government in Baghdad is just as Shiite as Iran's. We have already strained our military and our economy to the breaking point and likely beyond even that, so we cannot continue to be the counterweight, nor can we reasonably expect the other powers in the area (Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States) to step up.

And no, don't even think of mentioning Israel. Saudi Arabia relying on Israel to protect it against Iran? Quelle idee! The Saudis have already announced their intentions to build nukes if Iran does, and Tehran's announced the construction of hardened missile silos.

All we can do is watch.

And listen to our military leadership say things that we knew years ago, and expect us to think that it's an original notion.

I Wept A Bit Today

Saturday, July 02, 2011

"Dyes and Gulls" - Chapter 2

Dyes and Gulls
© 2011 by Walter D. Reimer
July 15, 1938:
George hadn’t waited around.
As soon as the term ended he had all their equipment packed up and waiting. Laura checked it over, and even after setting aside some nonessential items it still looked like an impressive pile of gear. Everything else had already been arranged, and Robbie was at her sister’s house already.
The Qantas Empire Airways DeHavilland biplane circled the port city of Darwin before coming in for a landing at the small town’s airport. Visible in the harbor was their connecting flight, a brand-new Short flying boat that would take them to Singapore.
“Ah! Will you look down there, Laura?” George enthused. “There’s a fine piece of frontier town for ya!”
“Yes, just lovely,” she said. “I’m just thankful we’ll have running water and – maybe – no blowflies in the dunny.”
“Just remember your flyswatter.”
“I’ll give you a swat.” She gave him a gentle slap on the muzzle and the two kissed. It was hard to stay mad at him – she knew that from long experience. Fights and arguments between them were fairly common, which made making up all the sweeter.
Their itinerary was arranged around the flying boat’s schedule, and it wasn’t due to leave until the next morning. They already had a room reserved at the Commonwealth Hotel in the town for the night, and the airline transferred the bulk of their gear to the seaplane in the harbor.
It was just as well that they were spending the night. It started raining shortly after they arrived at the hotel, and showed no sign of letting up.
“Nice place,” George commented that night as they had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. He spoke around a mouthful of food, swallowed it and added, “Ain’t it?”
Laura sipped at her glass of beer. “I suppose so. But there’s no beating Sydney, dear. All the modern conveniences – “
“Ah, but here, Laura! The outback and the raw, pristine wilderness is right here!” George said enthusiastically. “All you have to do is step out and you’re in it up to your neck!”
She nodded, conceding the point.
Shouts and laughter from the hotel’s bar drew their attention, and Laura flagged down the eatery’s only waiter. “What’s going on in there?”
“Oh, I ‘spect it’s only the weekly contest, love,” the waiter said. The wombat hitched up his apron and added, “They’s always in here on a Friday. Pay night, y’see, but it’ll be orright.”
“Well, what are they doing in there?”
The wombat shrugged. “Same things they be doin’ every time,” and went about his business.
George tossed back the last of his beer and said, “I’ll go see. Coming with me, Laura?”
The ‘roo femme nodded. Exploration was all about being curious, and from the noises coming from the bar people were having a good time. They settled the bill and went into the bar.
The hotel bar was crowded with men apparently just done with work in the fields or at the various businesses in Darwin, dressed in faded dungarees and work shirts, a few wearing hats and all with pint glasses in their paws. There was a thick fog of cigarette smoke and musks in the air that gave the scene a slightly misty look.
There seemed to be two centers of attention (three if one counted the bar itself, which was doing brisk business); the dart board, and a small table where a large cluster of men stood, cheering and exchanging punches and wads of crumpled banknotes.
The two kangaroos bought beers at the bar and George walked up to the crowd at the table. He nudged another ‘roo about his size and asked, “What’s going on here, mate?”
The man turned and grinned at him. “Arm wrestlin’, mate. Lil’ Jimmy’s takin’ on all comers.” As if to punctuate his statement there was a sudden “Oof!” and the sound of flesh slapping wood, and the crowd whooped and cheered. “He’s won ten times inna row now.”
“All comers, eh?”
The ‘roo looked George over. “Care to try him out, mate?”
“Sure.” He fished a pound note from a pocket as Laura’s eyes went wide. She shook her head and walked back to the bar.
“Orright.” The ‘roo raised his voice. “’Ere, Jimmy, I got a guy here says he wants a go!”
Heads turned and the crowd parted a bit to revealed a stockily-built crocodile dressed in ragged trousers and a torn undershirt pausing in the act of downing another pint of beer. A stack of notes and coins sat at one corner of the battered table. The man belched and drew a scaly paw across his mouth before saying in a deep gruff voice, “Who is he, mate?”
George raised a paw and made his way through the crowd. “Name’s George Patagarang,” he said, offering a paw.
Jimmy looked at the paw and took it. “Jim.”
The two settled down facing each other, seated at the table. George took his shirt off and flexed a bit as the betting started.
The croc cracked his knuckles. “Ya ain’t from ‘round here, mate.”
“Right. Sydney.”
“Um, city boy. Promise I won’t hurt ya.” The two clasped paws and settled their elbows amid the puddles of spilled beer on the table. A few onlookers studied the elbows to make sure they were properly placed, and the match was on.
Standing by the bar, Laura was able to watch her husband as his back muscles flexed under his fur from the strain. Despite her doing all of the heavy lifting when they were on expeditions, George really was in excellent shape (which she could attest to, whether under oath or not). He was certainly holding his own against Jimmy, who was apparently unable to budge the kangaroo’s paw.
After several tense seconds of stalemate, George’s arm started to move forward as he bared his teeth. The movement was slow, but it was enough to make the hometown crowd start cheering on their favorite even as more money changed paws. Jimmy put on an extra burst of effort but all he succeeded in doing was bringing their arms back vertical.
Another few seconds and George started bringing his arm down again, fighting against the crocodile’s strength. One fur dropped to his knees and eyed the table, watching for any sign of knuckles striking wood.
A groan went up as the kneeling man signaled that George had taken Jimmy’s arm the rest of the way down. George released his grip and, massaging feeling back into his paw, offered a pawshake to the croc. “Good match, m – “
Jimmy slugged him.
The force of the blow sent the kangaroo staggering backward and through one of the bar’s windows, landing in a heap in the rainswept street amid a litter of broken glass.
Cheers arose as Jimmy walked to the window and said gruffly, “Yer fallen in the water, mate.”
The kangaroo that George had first spoken to said cheerfully, “Forgot to tell ya, mate. Jimmy’s a bit of a sore loser.”
Laura sighed, drained her glass of beer and started to hunt for the bar’s manager to pay the cost of the broken window.


The hotel very thoughtfully provided a strip of beefsteak for George’s eye.
But still charged the full replacement cost for the broken window. Laura paid it, and the next morning cabled for additional funds to be waiting for them when they arrived at the next stop on their journey.
Unfortunately, the weather was still not cooperating, so the Imperial Airways plane had to set down not at its usual destination but at the secondary landing dock at nearby Humapore. The representative for the airline expressed his regret at the delay, but assured the passengers that they would be leaving on time.
“Suits me,” Laura said as they climbed into a pedicab. George spoke to the driver in Malay, and the binturong started pedaling to their hotel. “Ever notice, George, we don’t seem to have much luck in Singapore?”
“Nonsense!” her husband declared. “What about that time I found that artifact in the jungles? Y’know, the one up in the mainland?”
“Yeah, there was that.” The artifact in question was a priceless piece of sculpture from an earlier Malay civilization. George had, as usual, gone after it like a bloodhound on a scent, leaving Laura much to her own devices.
Laura allowed herself a smile, thinking back to a rather humid tropical night and that well-muscled luak.
That, she reflected, had truly been a voyage of discovery.


Manila Bay passed beneath them in a haze of sunshine as the plane banked into its landing pattern. The harbor below was filled with shipping and warships lay at anchor at the naval base at Cavite.
“Looks a right smart place from up here,” George said, face pressed to the plane’s window.
“Looks like it, yeah,” Laura said behind him. Of course, she couldn’t see, not that it mattered. The flying boat had hit turbulence over Indo-China and her stomach still felt a bit woozy. “I’ll feel better when I feel good solid earth under my feet,” she added.
“That’s the spirit, love!” he said. “Always on the lookout for a new adventure!”
“Whatever you say.”
That night, with Laura feeling better, they took a cab south to the outskirts of the city. Not the largely American enclave of Olangapo, but the slightly wealthier suburb of Olangapo-Anfarawei, where (their hotel’s concierge had assured them) there was an excellent American restaurant.
Laura rather doubted that, having eaten in Gnu York City before trekking into the remotest Catskills with George in search of the Lost Mazel of Schlemiel. Items such as ‘hot dogs’ were a poor substitute for proper sausages.
Even with mustard.
Fortunately the menu included other choices like steak, and the restaurant’s amenities sported a full dance floor. While they ate, American and other military officers and their wives either dined or danced to tunes supplied by the Filipino band.
Laura was sipping at her wine when two paws abruptly covered her eyes. “Guess who?”
She put her glass down carefully as George chuckled and ran her paws over the ones covering her eyes. “Hmm, let me see,” she said. “I have it! You can’t be no other than Old Salty, from the Rusty Nail Bar! What are ya doing so far north of Sydney, mate?”
“Hah!” The paws were whisked away and she turned to see a short, stocky canine with black and white fur and wearing a cheap suit and tie. “Ya knew damned well who it was, Missy.” He kissed her cheek before shaking paws with George. “What are you two doing here?”
“Headed to Spontoon, Igor,” George replied. “How about you?”
The Anglo-Russian husky-terrier laughed. “I’m headed up into the mountains here on Luzon,” Igor Blymee said happily. “My guide Culio tells me there’s a village up in the mountains that worship strange gods.” The veteran member of PRICK grinned. “Nothing like the opportunity to expand our knowledge of the bizarre.”
Laura and George exchanged looks. Igor had recently returned from the Soviet Union, where his expertise in finding lost artifacts and civilizations was welcomed, along with his known Communist sympathies. He was, quite simply, black and white and Red all over.
Igor made his farewells and made his way out of the restaurant, edging past a Filipino Navy officer and his wife. The ship’s riband on his uniform announced that the commander was an officer aboard the Commonwealth’s biggest ship, the light cruiser Aguinaldo.
Several Americans, noses in air, signaled for their checks. Others led their wives out onto the dance floor as the bandleader announced a good old-fashioned square dance.
Laura’s ears hiked up as she watched the dancing. George was sipping at his beer. “Um, Skippy, love.”
“You might want to move yer chair, sport.”
“They’re dancin’ mighty close to the – “
She never finished the sentence as one burly U.S. Navy lieutenant, a buffalo, swung his partner, a thin mouse, with enough force to make her feet come off the floor.
Her heels struck George a solid blow to the head, and he flew out of the chair onto the floor.
A small crowd gathered as the dancers moved off to the side and the band played on.
Laura was out of her chair and kneeling beside her husband. “George? George! Speak to me, love,” she urged, patting his cheek.
“Mnngh . . . huh? What? Laura?”
She glanced up at the onlookers. “He’ll be orright. Take more than a mouse to the bonce to knock my husband out cold.” The crowd started to disperse and Laura helped him up to a seated position. “Trust you to lead with your head again, silly darling.”
“Did I at least win the fight?” he asked blearily.