Saturday, October 29, 2011

This is Hardly Surprising


Raise high the BOHICA image, because Here It Comes Again!

A year or so ago, the Republican National Committee determined that the 2012 convention to determine the Party nominee for President would be held in the city of Tampa.

Which is in Florida.

This gladdened the hearts of many business owner, hoteliers and restaurateurs in Brandon, Tampa, and in neighboring Pinellas County. After all, a national party convention means big bucks flowing into the local economy - hotel rooms, meals, diversions, theme parks and other attractions. I expect the two big strip joints on Tampa's Dale Mabry, Mons Venus and 2001, will do a great business as all of these delegates, aides, lobbyists, fixers, family members, press people and assorted hangers-on look to have a bit of fun.

You can say a lot about former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He may be a hack and a fool, but he and his Committee on Arrangements set things up right. Contracts were drawn up and agreed to, then duly signed.

Fast forward to this past week.

The new RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus (the only man whose name sounds like a social disease) sacked Steele's arrangements committee practically the day he took over the top seat.

Which brings me to this article from the St. Petersburg Times.

The RNC breezed into Tampa to have a little chat with the various hoteliers who had signed contracts with the Committee for room rates and fees to cover the Convention - and promptly told them, in not so many words, that their contracts are about as useful as toilet paper.

For starters, the room rates? Too high, the RNC wants them lower.

Second - those fees. The fees are paid by the hotels to the Convention, and the RNC wants them increased, from $30 per room to 10 percent of the bill.

If the hotels knuckle under and acquiesce (which they probably will), the 100 or so hotels who have committed some 15,000 rooms for the week-long convention will see a drop in the revenue they can realize from this shindig. The Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach could see a decrease of $150,000 in their projected earnings for the convention.

While this is hardly surprising, one has to wonder why the RNC won't honor the contracts that they've signed in good faith with the hotels.

Or, to put it more simply:

Why does the Republican National Committee hate small business?


Friday, October 28, 2011

Lack of Perspective

A guy in Albany, Georgia went to the local Taco Bell and ordered, Cthulhu help us, something called an XXL Chalupa. When he bit into this abomination, he discovered - to his horror! - that there wasn't enough 'meat' in it.

After first demanding a correction, then using the vaguely-worded threat of "redecorating" the establishment, someone firebombed the store. The guy with the shitty Chalupa is in custody on suspicion of arson.

I bet jail food's better for him than some kind of disgusting, gods-forsaken bastardized Tex-Mex abomination from a fast-food franchise.

Actually, were he a clear-minded thinker, he might have simply thrown the Molotov Cocktail first, instead of throwing away his money on an XXL Chalupa. But such are life's little ironies.

The guy's guilty of a complete lack of perspective.

Halloween Hijinks

I think Stephen Colbert's right about this one:

One commenter pointed out that no one was demanding "Braaaaiiinnsss" over in Judea back in the day.

But, nowadays, they do ask for brains. Just go to any Christian church - they ask you to check it at the door. Makes things easier, you know.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Rebuttal (and Rant)

Back on October 24th, a gentleman wrote an editorial letter to a local newspaper. In that letter, he suggested that the New York City Police Department use water cannons to "cut loose" on the OWS protesters in Zucotti Park. He added that it might be salutary to wet down the protester's camping gear along with the occupants.

I'm certain that he was probably applauding the police action in Oakland, California several nights ago. One of the park occupants there, an Iraq War veteran, was hospitalized in critical condition after being struck in the forehead by a police projectile. He has since been upgraded to fair condition. That should teach him, huh?

I would like to appeal to Mr. Jones, the writer of the aforementioned letter, that the Oakland PD didn't go far enough. Police departments have automatic weapons now - maybe he'd much rather see the police start shooting until all of the protesters are dead. Men, women and children, the old and young, healthy and infirm - all dead.

That'll teach them a lesson, will it not?

In fact, Mr. Jones, it will send a harsh but necessary lesson to all Americans, and that lesson is: Keep your head down, don't dissent, obey, stay in line, don't make waves, don't rock the boat, you can't fight The Man, dissent is anti-American, disagreeing with the wealthy is treason.

Distilled, Mr. Jones, the lesson you want to impart is Americans are slaves and should keep their mouths shut and know their place.

And it'll teach a lesson to the next person who dares raise their head in this democracy and has the unbridled temerity to ask, "Isn't there some way to make things better?"

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Have No Sympathy

The Wall Street Journal, that apologetic rag now owned by the Murdochs, has a sob story to tell:

The Siegels' dream home, called "Versailles," after its French inspiration, is still a work in progress. Its steel-and-wood frame rises from the tropical suburbs of Orlando, Fla., like a skeleton from the Jurassic age of real estate. Ms. Siegel shows off the future bowling alley, indoor relaxing pools, five kitchens, 23 bathrooms, 13 bedrooms, two elevators, two movie theaters (one for kids and one for adults, each modeled after a French opera theater), 20-car garage and wine cellar built for 20,000 bottles.

At 90,000 square feet, the Siegels' Versailles is believed to be the largest private home in America. (The Vanderbilt family's Biltmore house in North Carolina is bigger at 135,000 square feet, but it's now a hotel and tourist attraction). The Siegels' home is so big that they bought 10 Segways to get around—one for each of their eight children.

After touring the house, Ms. Siegel walks out to the deck, with its Olympic-size pool, future rock grotto, three hot tubs and 80-foot waterfall overlooking Lake Butler. Her eyes well up with tears.

If this doesn't fit the definition of "wretched excess," I'm not certain what does.

The WSJ article goes on to tell the rest of the Siegel's sad story, mainly as defense to their argument that the second-tier rich are so overextended on their credit that the slightest hiccup in the economy sends them over the edge to bankruptcy and liquidation.

In a final coda to the sob story, Mrs. Siegel relates how they had to give up their Gulfstream private jet and - gasp! Quelle horreur! - take a commercial jet.

Too fucking bad, lady. You probably went first class. Sit back in coach with the rest of us proles.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This Won't End Well At All

Twenty-three thousand inmates at 36 Texas prisons are now getting only two meals a day on weekends.

Now, that may not sound like that much of a hardship, but people who are in the corrections field tell me that about 90% of disturbances in a prison start over the food - how much is served, what's served, and the quality of the food.

The Texas Democrat who proposed it suggested the standard boilerplate response - if the inmates don't like it, they need to stay out of prison.

I suppose that means that if a riot breaks out, he'd be glad to go down to the prison and share his philosophy with the inmates.

Just what the fuck is it with Texas?

This Way to the Egress

The war in Iraq was over.

George W Bush said so, under a huge banner that read "Mission Accomplished."

Of course, he was wrong, as he'd been so wrong on so many things. The war in Iraq - touted as a neat, fast military adventure that would be relatively bloodless and paid for by the Iraqis themselves out of their oil revenue - has cost us over 4400 American lives and went a long way to crippling our economy.

Last week, with combat operations halted, we still had 45,000 troops in Iraq.

We were negotiating with the government there over a Status Of Forces Agreement, or SOFA. There were a few sticking points, notably how many troops will remain behind to help train the Iraqi Army.

Those talks foundered last week, and President Obama is calling the troops home.

Why did the talks cave in?

Well, the nice comfy SOFA the US was asking for included a clause granting immunity from prosecution for US troops stationed there. We've had similar clauses in other countries, but in this case Iraqi PM al-Maliki's guys put their foot down. To be fair to the Iraqis, I'd put my foot down as well.

What we'll be left with in Iraq after the last soldier, sailor, Marine and airman leaves is a couple hundred troops to safeguard our Brobdingnagian ziggurat of an Embassy - oh, and about 5,000 'contractors.'

For 'contractors,' read 'mercenaries in the pay of the US State Department.'

But we must rejoice.

The war in Iraq is (finally!) over.

Who won?

Iran, of course.

And what kind of welcome will our troops face when they come home?

I'm SO glad you asked!

Unemployment is still high, thanks to the economy that was crippled in part thanks to financing two wars with borrowed money. Lawmakers are considering cutting veteran's benefits -

Wait! What?

Yes, you heard me. Lawmakers are considering cutting veteran's benefits. For a Congress that has fetishized the military since 9/11 (HE SAID 9/11! EVERYBODY DRINK!) this move is particularly odious. 53,000 Americans were injured physically, and many more were doubtless injured mentally by what they've had to endure.

Once again, we'll have a Lost Generation, but they won't be talking about Vietnam. They'll be talking about Iraq.

Friday, October 21, 2011

In Right-Wing Utopia ...

It's the job of Government and the media to keep you afraid of The Other, whether it's spooky foreign people who don't speak the same language or worship the same tribal deity, or if it's your own neighbor just because he or she may not agree with you.

It's the job of Big Business to keep you afraid that you'll lose your job, enabling them to keep you working until you drop dead for low wages and few real benefits.

It's the job of Wall Street to keep you afraid you'll lose what little money you have, while they get richer.

It's the job of The Churches to keep you afraid of anything that might be considered enjoyable, while at the same time keeping you stupid.

Any argument with this?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Hollywood Types Should STFU

My cousin sent me a link to a video featuring actor Jon Voight, in which he makes certain assertions in defense of the Tea Party.

Primarily, he asserts that government should not spend the people's money in an economic crisis.

I'd be willing to agree with Voight - if his assertions weren't completely flawed.

I draw your attention to the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it was in late 1932. It was in negative numbers, meaning that there was no growth, period, and millions were unemployed with zero safety net at all for them. Roosevelt (Franklin, not Teddy) was inaugurated in March 1933 and decided that Hoover was wrong: Private industry wasn't doing anything to restart the economy. To be plainly honest, private industry was hiding in a corner waiting for things to get better.

So the Federal Government started spending what private industry didn't have - money.

It threw money at a variety of programs - the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, etc. - that put Americans back to work, paying them wages and allowing them to spend money to get the economy going again. Coupled with these programs were laws and regulations designed to make certain that banks can't gamble with our money again. And guess what happened?

The national GDP went up!

After the 1936 elections, FDR tacked to the right under pressure from the Republicans and conservative Democrats, and started a series of austerity measures to curb the deficit. Result? The Recession of 1937, where GDP fell again. This caused the Federal Government to start spending money again - and I'll concede that the rise of Fascism in Europe helped FDR persuade the Congress to allow the money to be spent.

Fast forward to the past 20 years. One of the key bits of the FDR regulatory machinery - the Glass-Steagall Act - was repealed by the GOP in a veto-proof majority over Clinton's objections. Banks and other financial institutions were free to start gambling with our money again, and invented the so-called mortgage derivative. Housing boomed, and (just as in 1929) it was widely assumed that we'd never see an economic downturn ever again. Until 2007.

Moral: Sometimes, government spending and government regulation are Good, if not Necessary.

As for Voight's career in Hollywood, his portrayal of FDR in "Pearl Harbor" was his cinematic obituary. That movie stunk.

I'm Waiting ...

... to see when Mitt Romney finally gets fed up with Rick Perry and draws the straight razor I know he's hiding in his sock.

Yes, I believe that the Mormon former Governor of Massachusetts is capable of cutting a bitch, especially an uncouth blowhard like Rick "I Balance My State Budget using Federal Money" Perry. Based on his expression during the "True Housewives of Beverly Hills"-style circle jerk that passed for a debate last night, it won't be too much longer.

Now, what else did I take away from that gabfest?

1. Herman Cain has literally no idea what he's talking about. He started using an apples and oranges analogy when describing his Inverse Number of the Beast Tax Plan, but he can't dodge the simple fact that not only will you and I be paying his taxes (which, he concedes, may rise) but also the state and local imposts (which can also rise).

2. Michele Bachmann's getting even farther into The Crazy.

3. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich should not have been up there on that stage.

4. Ron Paul stepped over the line by bringing up Ronald Reagan's actual record, and not parroting the sugar coated and well-glossed-over standard GOP boilerplate about Saint Ronnie. What caused the pin-drop silence in the room was an airing of Cain's earlier comments in which he stated that he would consider negotiating a swap with al Qaeda in order to free an American soldier taken hostage (as Israel did with Hamas to free Gilad Sharit). Score one for Paul, although his stands on almost everything else shows that he'll never make President.

5. The final thing I took away from this sorry spectacle is that it desperately needed topless chorus girls to distract the audience away from these rubes.

I look forward to the first GOP primaries - which, based on their current internecine strife, will probably start next month.

Restaurant Review - Bosphorus Turkish Kitchen

Yesterday was my birthday (yeah, yeah, I know - yay me) and in honor of making it fifty years without serious mishaps I decided to go celebrate. Being a contrary sort, I treated my immediate family to dinner.

I chose the Bosphorus Turkish Kitchen, in Lakeland on South Kentucky Avenue.

There were two Turkish restaurants in Lakeland; one of them, the Istanbul, has gone bust. I was resolved to try out the Bosphorus before anything happened to it as well.

The place is small and cozy, and run by a single family. The cook, an older man, came out from to welcome us and help his son get us seated.

We started with appetizers: Lavas, hummus, and fried feta cheese rolls. Lavas is bread, made fresh on the premises and cooked when you order it. It's topped with sesame seeds and a drizzle of butter, and came to us piping hot from the oven and puffed up high. You're supposed to tear it up, and the dough is soft, sweet and chewy. The hummus was very tasty, flavored with garlic and olive oil, and the bread only got better as you dipped it in the chickpea spread. The feta cheese rolls are the staff's answer to mozzarella rolls - seasoned feta, wrapped in phyllo and fried. Tasty.

Now time for the main course!

I ordered the Special Chicken Adana for $14.99. What I got was wonderful - chopped chicken mixed with spices and cheese, cooked on a skewer and served on a bed of rice, with a green salad sharing the plate with it. The dressing on the salad was tasty, but the chicken! The chicken was perfectly seasoned and delicious.

My brother had the lamb Adana Kebab. The lamb, prepared pretty much the same way as the chicken, had a nice spicy kick to it (we swapped a bite each of our entrees). My mother had the Iskender Kebab, a nice combination platter that featured chicken and lamb doner (a mixture of lamb and spices, shaved off a rotating mass as it roasts).

Absolutely delicious.

Dessert consisted of one order of Kunefe, shared between me and my brother. Kunefe is phyllo, shredded very fine and baked with unsalted cheese, then topped with ground pistachios and sweet syrup. Very tasty and rich.

Drinks? I had a glass of Yakut Kavaklidere, a full-bodied red with a bit of oak to it and a solid finish. It made an excellent counterpoint to the chicken. Dessert was served with Turkish coffee, which came in a small cup and lived up to the old proverb that coffee must be "black as night, hot as hell and sweet as love."

The verdict?

I give the Bosphorus Turkish Kitchen four stars. The staff are attentive and friendly, the setting is clean, and the food is well worth the trip and reasonably priced (the most expensive single item is the Mixed Grill, at $19.99). Parking may require a bit of a walk, but you'll need a bit of exercise after dinner anyway.

Check the place out when you're in Lakeland!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Advisers" Sent to Uganda. Oh Joy.

Back on Friday President Obama sent Speaker John Boehner a letter.

And what may be our next war front has been unsealed.

You see, gentle reader, war teaches us geography. Seriously: Would any of our geographically illiterate schoolchildren ever know about Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, El Salvador, or Vietnam if we hadn't sent troops to fight and kill people?

But we're doing it very subtly this time. We're sending only 100 combat-armed troops as "advisers."

We started our war in Vietnam by sending advisers. After a while they started tagging along with the ARVN on combat missions, then started taking part in combat missions, then started leading combat missions. Then we sent combat formations, and finally half a million combat troops.

That's what the danger is, but we musn't fool ourselves. The Lord's Resistance Army, operating in Uganda and the African Great Lakes region are not a nationalist organization like the Viet Cong, or the Sandinistas, or the Bosnian Serb Army. They're a terrorist army of religious fanatics that impress children into their ranks and commit horrific atrocities. The advisers are there to help the local troops liquidate the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony, and his chief lieutenants.

Whether they'll succeed or not remains to be seen. But the thing must be watched carefully to prevent a Vietnam-style mission creep that could drag us into yet another quagmire.

(It might also be edifying to see what religious organizations in the region are tacitly supporting the LRA with money sent to them by megachurches here in the USA.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

fashion fail - The Evidence Is Indisputable
see more Poorly Dressed

Black Snow, or Why Sometimes Regulations Are A Good Thing

Once upon a time, in a faraway place called Rumania, there was a town called Copsa Mica. Copsa Mica was a place with only two major industries that provided steady employment for its citizens. One made carbon black, for industrial uses (carbon black is useful in making tires), while the other was an industrial melting smelting operation.

It wasn't a very healthy place to live, mainly because of metal ash and soot. Sometimes, the snow that fell in the winter would be stained black by the stuff in the air. Back in the 80s and 90s, Copsa Mica earned the distinction of being the most polluted city in Europe.

Were there regulations by the government, to control the factories and safeguard the health of the citizens?


The government in power believed in industry, to help its economy and its exports. Regulations would simply get in the way. The government did provide health care - of the basic, proletarian Rumanian Communist sort - to the people under the effluent plume.

Let's go north and east a bit now, to a nice place called Siberia.

Up in Siberia there's oil - lots of oil. Companies are subsidized by the government to drill for oil, pump the oil out and ship it to refineries. If there are a few lakes of toxic crude mineral slime lying out from drill blowouts, pump failures and pipeline breaks, who cares? It's not like anyone who, you know, really matters lives out in the Wild East and drinks the water that this oil seeps into and contaminates.

Now, gentle reader, please bear these two tales in mind as you read or hear about A Certain Political Party that wants to do away with all regulations in the interest of business.

They don't care if your food isn't safe.

They don't care if your water isn't safe.

They don't care if your water bursts into flame when you open the taps.

They don't care if the air isn't fit to breathe.

Everything must be sacrificed on the Altar of Business.

Black snow for Christmas, anyone?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Future of Armored Warfare?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Smart Panzer!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Pity Party!

It's a bad time to be a Modern Republican.*

You have a field of political candidates that make the famous 'Seven Dwarfs' look like real balls of fire, and every time they open their gaping pieholes you just want to cringe in anticipation at what might come out.

For example:

Michele Bachmann actually blaming the Obama Administration for the Arab Spring uprisings that have toppled ruthless dictators in the name of democratic reforms, then following it up with some kind of unhinged screed about the terrorist group Hamas stationing missiles in Cuba.

Herman Cain ragging on Rick Perry for the quite obviously racist name of a hunting ranch, then taking the breathtaking stance that African-Americans have been "brainwashed by the liberal plantation" (whatever the hell that means). He then blamed the unemployed poor for being unemployed and poor.

See what I mean?


But through it all, the Modern Republicans* hoped. Somewhere, somewhere, they reasoned with ever-growing desperation, there had to be The One. The One who could beat Obama, The One who could defeat the bad economy with a casual flick of his brawny wrist, The One who oozed charisma from every pore and who would make the world safe for the Koch Brothers.

They thought they had found The One, in Chris Christie, the fin-de-siecle William Howard Taft lookalike who is the incumbent Governor of New Jersey. Much to their disappointment, Christie said that 2012 "wasn't his time."

Of course, being Governor of New Jersey is a little bit like being Governor of Louisiana - you have to be nearly as crooked as a screwworm in order to get that high. I'm originally from the Garden State, and say "a little bit" as the government in Trenton and the counties is corrupt, but still gets things done by and large.

That left only The One from the last go-around. The Magilla from Wasilla. The Grizzly Mom. The Maverick. The Rogue.

Sarah Palin.

It's greatly to her credit that The Half-Term Governor managed to keep her name out there for so very long, milking her bus tours and book deals and TV shows for all they were worth in order to subsidize her and her family. Roger Ailes of FOX went almost suicidally honest when he declared earlier this week that he hired Palin because she was "hot" and could draw in viewers.

(I hope he meant "hot" as in popular, as she's not very attractive.)

To a fanfare of kazoos and bongos, Sarah Palin announced today that she will not be running for President.

And you could hear the groans come up from the gaping maws of the Modern Republicans* as The Grifter became The Quitter once again. Her lust for money, it seems, has managed to outweigh her Potomac Jones - practically the only thing that can serve as an antidote to that most potent lure.

As it stands now, the best chance the Modern Republicans* have is Mitt Romney. The Romneybot, The Mittens, The Dogboy.


*I am not one.

Feckless Tales of the TSA

I went up to Memphis last month to attend a furry con. In my carry-on luggage I had a tube of antifungal cream.

A metal squeeze tube.


The TSA screeners never noticed it, never asked me about it. They passed me through with no trouble.

'Twas a different story when I was on the return flight. The inconsistency astounds me.

Second story: There's this guy I know who lives in Arizona, but he's originally from Iceland (yeah, yeah, I know - one extreme to another, right?) and he flies back to Iceland to visit family about twice each year.

He got back to the United States and discovered that some roguish japester had concealed a box of shotgun shells in his carry-on bag. Not the first time, either. And the alert TSA screeners in Boston and New York completely failed to notice. Of course, so did Customs at Reykjavik.

Carlin was right. It's all just an illusion.