Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jeff Zeleny Is Not a Serious Reporter,
He's a Silly Goose

With emphasis on the word silly. I'm catching up on Obama's presser last night and, like a lot of people, was dumbstruck by the words that came out of the mouth of New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny.
During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?
Say, What!? I like Barack Obama more than most people do but I still expect White House reporters to ask tough, probing questions. That wasn't a softball question; that was a fracking cottonball, lightly scented, sent the President's way with a soft puff.

I like that Obama punished Zeleny by mockingly making him repeat his question piece by airy piece. It showed me that Obama expects more from the reporters covering him, too. That bit was better than the actual answer, which was standard pablum, the stuff any competent politician can recite in his sleep.

I kinda wish Obama had answered Zeleny the way Tommy Christopher suggests:
Enchanted? Um, I guess I’d have to say it’s the glass slippers the Secret Service puts on me every morning. Of course, they’re bulletproof glass, so that’s the troubling part.

Obama's Killer TV Ratings

Okay, I didn't watch President Obama's press conference. I never watch such things when I could be doing something else, like plucking out nose hairs. A lot of people did watch.

Obama Presser (ABC, CBS, NBC)
- 4.7 rating/15 share/18.9 million viewers

FOX (Lie To Me)
- 2.4 rating/7 share/7.88 million viewers

Viewers aged 18-49.

Poltroon Hannity Update

Sissy Sean continues to renege on his promise to be waterboarded for charity. His latest is hiding behind a woman's skirts. That caitiff Hannity is depriving the troops of more than just Keith Olbermann's $1000 a second offer, others are pledging what they can to the Waterboard Hannity effort.

There is even a petition circulating.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Republican Ying and Yang

I am amused by the differing reactions among Republicans to Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic party.

On one hand, I'll call them the Rationalists, there are Republicans who are dismayed by how this came to be. They are frightened that the Party of Reagan is quickly shrinking to Whig Party status. They are not so much angry at Specter as pitying him.

Then there is the other hand, the Radicals. They smell blood in the water and want more. They are enraged, the word traitor is getting bandied about. They see Specter's move as an opportunity to kick out all of the impure, the RINOs - Snowe, Collins, McCain, Lindsey Graham, and more. The list seems almost as long as the Republican Senate register.

'Tis fun to watch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reps Rid of Specter - in the Worst Way

Isn't this what you've always wanted?
Isn't this how you've saw the view?
Careful what you wish for,
It just might come true. ~ Careful What You Wish For by Meredith Brooks
Republicans hate Arlen Specter, they fervently hate him and want to get rid of him in the worst way. And that's just what they got. Specter switched parties on them. As a Republican Specter might have been defeated in a primary. As a Democrat there is no way Specter loses to rightwing loon Pat Toomey. By getting what they wanted Republicans have handed the Democrats their 59th senate vote and with Al Franken they will have a filibuster-proof 60 Democrats in the Senate.

Republicans are jonesing for a purge of the inpure from their party. They are taking names and making lists. They want to expel anyone who doesn't toe a radical party line. If the conservatives have their way, as I wish they do, then the 2012 Republican National Convention will be held in the Fayetteville Chucky Cheese.

Specter is far from my favorite senator but I shall welcome him into my party, albeit with a passionless air kiss.

For a laugh, RedState's reaction. David Waldman at DailyKos has the right idea on using Specter to force Republicans to seat Franken.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Four Horsemen of Republicanism

There before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hell was following close behind him. ~ Revelation 6:7
Given how religious Republicans claim to be and how attuned they are to Biblical prophesy, I'm surprised they haven't noticed how closely their politics parallel the heralds of the Apocalypse.

Red Horse - War: What is more Republican that war? The lust for war defines who they are as a people and a party. They will lie for it, torture for it, even kill for it.
You and me love war
Doesn't matter what it's for
Chop the tree down, burn the root
Vengeance can be such a hoot
Warriors love War, War, War
~ The Bitter Suite, Xena

White Horse - Pestilence: With the coming of the Mexican Swine Flu it is proper to remember that a scant two months ago Republicans demanded that funding to defended against pandemic flu be stripped from the stimulus package. Add in their opposition to universal health care and you have a political party that is as pro-disease as any in human history.

Pale Horse - Death: Which is the party of guns and the death penalty? Which party wants to allow concealed weapons in schools and parks?

Black Horse: The Black Horse rider carries scales and says, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"

Traditionally the interpretation of this horse is famine and, to be fair, Republicans are not particularly pro-famine. But there are other interpretations. The color black for Jewish scholars meant the absence of knowledge, ignorance. Republicans are well known for wanting to teach mythology as science. A better interpretation of the scales is poverty, people barely have enough money to feed themselves. This is a Republican core principle. From anti-unionism to their hatred of Fair Pay to efforts to eliminate the minimum wage to rich conservatives teaching that poverty builds character, Republicans may not be the pro-famine party but the are definitely the pro-poverty party.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Politics and Epidemic

In September 2008 when the world's economic structures teetered on the brink of collapse, Republicans played politics.

In April 2009 when the world faces a potential pandemic of a killer flu, Republicans are playing politics. President Obama's nominee for HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebellius, is being held up by Republicans for no reason except petulance.

Republicans - The Party of Death

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine Flu Query

With the swine flu appearing in Kansas and New York in addition to cases in California and Texas I wonder how long it will be for Republicans to forget their hatred of "socialized medicine" and start whining about the Federal Government not acting quickly enough?


There is a deadly strain of swine flu upon us.

Influenza (n) - From the Italian meaning "to flow in" and refers to illness flowing in from the stars. In other words, you are coughing and sneezing and have a crippling temperature because your astrological chart is all screwed up. From the same root as the word influence (obviously).

La Gripa (n) - The Spanish name for the flu. The 19th century common name for the flu in English was the Grippe. The root here is the word grasp and refers to the choking feeling the flu gives us. Interestingly, Influenza is the older word. The Grippe took over as the common word briefly, less than two centuries, before the word faded in English in the 20th century.
México cerró escuelas, museos, bibliotecas, y teatros estatales a todo lo largo y ancho de su populosa capital con el fin de controlar una epidemia de influenza porcina que según las autoridades ha cobrado la vida de por lo menos 20 personas --y quizás más de 60-- a la vez que ha infectado a casi otras mil personas. ~ Source
Translation: Mexico has closed schools, museums, libraries, and theaters throughout the capital to control the swine flu epidemic that, according to authorities, has killed at least 20 people - perhaps more than 60 - while infecting almost a thousand others.

The death toll is now 68 people in Mexico City in one week.

From Word of the Day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Will Hannity Be Waterboarded?

Won't happen.

Sean Hannity never struck me as much of anything except, perhaps Nathan Lane's evil twin.

<--Nathan Lane

Sean Hannity-->

Hannity is endlessly brave with other people's blood and pathetically cowardly with his own worthless life, I never spent much time thinking about that FOX News harpy. Charles Grodin has made Hannity marginally interesting by trapping him into volunteering to be waterboarded. Hannity said he would agree to be waterboarded for charity. Hannity didn't mean it, of course, it was just the sort of false bravado that the blabbering class on cable news say.

Now, Keith Olbermann has called Hannity's bluff. Olbermann has offered $1000 for every second spends undergoing the torture. Olbermann placed one condition on the event, that it must be available, live or on tape, to any interested network. There should be a second condition that the waterboarding be administered by an experienced professional with instructions to not hold back.

Hannity will back out, of course, when he learns that a doctor with an emergency tracheotomy kit will have to be in attendance. The weaseling by that weasel ought to be fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Other Stuff

While Where God Went Wrong has been moribund for quite some time, something about religious fanatics becoming mostly meaningless jokes recently, I have started another blog.

Word of the Day is my chance to play with the English language I love. I just hope I don't run out of words.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Criminal's Tale

Guido "The Pig" Sardocki, (mug shot at left) head of the largest crime family in Oshkosh, calls in his team of lawyers.

"I plan on robbing the First National Bank of Oshkosh and I want youse guys to write up some reason why that's perfectly legal, yeah?"

Most lawyers, after sitting down with their families and updating their wills, would gently explain to The Pig that he can do anything he want because he is the boss of bosses but there is no way they can make robbing a bank look legitimate. But, Guido is a wise crime boss. His lawyers are named Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury.

They advise The Pig that if he only takes half the money from the bank and leaves half behind then it wouldn't rise to the level of a "bank robbery." They advise that, rather than kneecapping the uncooperative bank teller, Guido should slam the teller against a wall several times, hit him in the stomach, and dunk his head in the toilet "taking care not to cause any permanent injuries." They advise that Guido, because he once stub his toe while entering the bank, is fully justified in any subsequent actions he takes under the doctrine of Self Defense. They reference the story of Robin Hood, getting all the material facts wrong, and tell The Pig if during the getaway he gives a tenner to the homeless guy on the street corner then Guido has fully justified his actions and, in fact, the bank robbery has become a noble act of self-sacrifice by The Pig.

Guido is overjoyed. In gratitude, he makes one of his lawyers a crooked judge.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Case Against Judge Jay Bybee

One of the authors of the Torture Memos is now a federal judge with a lifetime appointment to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He deserves impeachment.
  • His memos shows a lack of scholarship that indicates he is technically and intellectually unqualified to be a judge.
  • His memos shows a general disregard for both the law and common decency that disqualifies him for judgeship.
  • He lied (by claiming attorney-client privilege) through omission to the United States Senate during his confirmation hearing by not disclosing the content of his legal opinions authorizing the torture of prisoners held by the United States Government, information material to his confirmation.
  • By issuing legal opinions authorizing the use of torture he deliberately and knowingly violated United States law, treaty obligations, and the United States Constitution and suborned others to violate the law. He was, therefore, at the time of his confirmation an unindicted criminal.
The Nation makes the case for impeachment
Courage Campaign petition

Monday, April 20, 2009

Good-bye New York

This was once a place of possibility
You could make of yourself whatever you wanted to be

But now it’s not the town that I used to know

Goodbye New York City…I hate to see you go

Goodbye old New York…hate to see you go
~ Michael Vines
Say good-bye to New York. So long Florida. Ta-ta, Venice, you survived the Black Death but you won't survive this. Hope you didn't like the Bahamas too much.
The global rise in the sea level is accelerating and a fate that was once thought to be centuries away may now arrived in mere decades. As the seas rise they will swallow the world's coastlines and the homes of countless millions. The good news is there are still global warming deniers so you'll have company if you just want to bury your head in the sand. Just make sure the sand is at least 20 feet above current sea level.

P.S. It's over 100 degrees F here in Southern California this week. See also:
Sea level flood mapping.
National Geographic.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Evolution of Conservative Patriotism

Since before I was born (50+ years ago) conservatives claimed a monopoly on patriotism. They were all "God Bless America" this and "My Country Right or Wrong" that. Whenever liberals talked about making the country better they were condemned as pinko, commie, atheist traitors. Patriotism required unconditional allegiance - "America, Love It or Leave It." That was then.

American conservativism is a dying philosophy today and with it is dying the conservative concept of patriotism. This RedState posting is noteworthy because it tries to address the question conservative patriotism in this modern age. It's poorly written, the author is obviously nervous broaching the subject. Still, a few nuggets can be mined. The basic theorem is frightening, that democracy, described as a "dubious theory" by the author, must be opposed by conservative patriots.

The philosophy, as far as I could decipher it, is that if conservative candidates lose elections that the patriotic position is to tear down the entire political structure and impose a conservative government against the will of the majority. Patriotism, as now being defined by conservative Republicans, is no longer love of country but love only of political party.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Torture Memos

The Bush Torture Memos recently released (available at TPM) are not fascinating reads. As literature they are repetitive and soulless, more so than your average legal document. What was striking to me was the similarity in tone to the coldly efficient way the Nazis discussed their most despicable practices in their internal documents.
The experimental subjects were placed in the water, dressed in complete flying uniform, winter or summer combination, and with an aviator's helmet. A life jacket made out of rubber kapok was to prevent submerging. The experiments were carried out at water temperatures varying from from 2.5 to 12 Centigrade. In one experimental series, the occiput (brain stem) protruded above the water, while in another series of experiments the occiput (brain stem) and back of the head were submerged in water. ~ Dachau medical 'experiment' description

In this technique, the detainee is lying on a gurney that is inclined at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees to the horizontal, with the detainee on his back and his head toward the lower end of the gurney. A cloth is placed over the detainee's face, and cold water is poured onto the cloth from a height of approximately 6 to 18 inches. The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult - or in some cases not possible - to breath. ~ Waterboarding as described in the Steven Bradbury memo
Even the conservative legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy found the memo's subject matter 'grotesque.'

The current question is whether the people who carried out these tortures should be prosecuted. President Obama says no. The military and CIA officials were merely following orders in executing torture and are not to be expected to use their own calm, rational, moral judgment. This is the Befehl ist Befehl (Orders are orders) defense that was used during the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. While Americans did not accept that defense when it was used by Nazis it has been a very effective defense through the years when used by Americans.

The defense is that they asked Bush Administration lawyers and the lawyers said it was legal. Yet one Bush lawyer famously claims that crushing a child's testicles is legal and I am curious how many of these military and CIA officials would commit that act if ordered?

War crimes are prosecuted so that war crimes will not occur in the future. It is clear from these memos that the military and CIA officials wanted to commit torture and were only seeking lawyerly permission. If we cannot stomach prosecuting the torturers themselves then we should prosecute those who gave the orders. At the very, very, very least we must disbar the lawyers who tortured the law to justify acts of inhumanity.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Word of the Day: Secession

Texas Governor Rick Perry has begun talking about taking his state out of the United States of America.
Secede (v) - To remove yourself from an organization or communion. The word comes from Latin and means to go apart. Secession is the formal act of seceding.
The word in Latin, secedere, described the act of plebeians migrating from the city to compel patricians to address their grievances. In other words, the common laborers would leave town and let the rich folk to fend for themselves for a while. It wouldn't take long for the patricians to remember that they needed the poor folk more than the plebeians needed the rich folk.

The Texas secession movement is not alone. The League of the South, which considers Abraham Lincoln to be a domestic terrorist, wants to restore the Confederate States of America. South Carolina, which was the first state to secede back in 1860, has in 2009 introduced legislation that reads a lot like a secession bill. Like the 1860's secessionist movement in the South, this modern one turns the original origin of the word on its head. It is moneyed interests, patrician slaveholders then and tax complainers now, who want to leave.

Alaska has a secession movement, so does Vermont and Hawaii. Back when George Bush was president California had its own secessionist movement. As this guy points out, practically every state in the Union wants to secede.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Fears of Sen. Richard Burr

More and more Republicans are reminding me of field mice with tiny penises - they are timid, scared of the sound their own shadows make, and are overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is a case in point. The list of things that scare Richard Burr is towering:
  • Burr is terrified of the flu and even smallpox, even though that hasn't been a case of smallpox anywhere in the world for 30 years.
  • Burr's voice gets all sort of squeaky and tremulous over the thought a double amputee Iraq War hero working in the Veterans’ Administration. Tammy Duckworth is a woman and strong, smart women make Burr feel emasculated.
  • Burr is afraid to go into a park, or anywhere that might have wild squirrels, without hiding a gun under his coat.
  • Burr is frightened of banks; he apparently has never heard of the FDIC. Note to criminals: when burgling Richard Burr's house don't forget to take his mattress.
  • But, most of all, Burr pisses his pants every time he sees a North Carolina Democrat. Polls show there is not a single Democrat in the state who cannot defeat Burr come election time.
It must be a sad life, being Richard Burr and being so afraid all of the time and, worse, being such a wuss he has a right to be terrified all of the time. I pity him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Word of the Day Is Justice

Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales and five top associates (including John Yoo) over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo ~ Crooks and Liars

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Consequence of Wanting Failure

Republicans, as per their spiritual leader Rush Limbaugh, want the current government to fail. They have said so repeatedly. They want it to fail even when no sane mind desires failure.

So, while liberals were cheering, we have the spectacle of some Republicans disappointed, even angry, at the fact that Captain Richard Phillips was liberated alive from those Somali pirates. This little post on conservative National Review Online received a flurry of attacks from Republicans - how dare he approve the rescue. With all that criticism, including attacks from Rush, the NRO poster, Jonah Goldberg, reacted with typical Republican courage - he retreated with his tail so far between his legs it was rubbing his chin. Newt Gingrich was so disappointed he couldn't even pretend to be happy.

The consequence of wanting failure? Looking like a blooming idiot.
The Death of Blackbeard

See Also: Kel at Osterley Times
JCWilmore at Daily Kos

Republicans Plotting to End Universal Sufferage

It was probably inevitable after passage of the 15th Amendment. It became certain after their dreams of a Thousand Year Reich Republican Century went down in flames. Republicans are beginning to dream of a time when tens of millions of Americans are forbidden the right to vote.

They have been nipping at the edges of this dream for some time with their Voter ID proposals - force poor people to jump through onerous hoops to be able to vote. Texas Republicans are the latest to attempt this crime. Mike Huckabee was in Virginia earlier this month publicly advocating thuggery, physically stopping people from voting, calling it "the Lord's work." For several years now, conservatives have been threatening Democratic voters with prison if they attempt to vote. The reality is that if it were not for all these voter suppression efforts (Milwaukee 2004) Republicans would win very few fair elections.

Over at RedState there is a lot of chatter about making it illegal for anyone to vote who does not pay a federal income tax. This blogger goes one better and want to restrict the vote only to people who pay more in taxes then they receive in government services. Then there is this person who want to rebuild the Republican Party on a platform that only property owners may vote.

For balance, here is a little information about how well these programs worked back in Selma, Alabama in the middle of the 20th century.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Station Marines on Merchant Ships

Back in the day of wooden ships small contingents of Marines were stationed aboard ships tasked with boarding enemy ships or fighting off boarders.

While several countries, including the United States and China, are planning on using Marines against the Somali pirates they are thinking of large scale land operations or hunting the pirates down using warships.

There are no huge pirate land bases to attack and the Somali pirates hunt using skiffs launched from fishing vessels, they don't look like a threat until they attack. Traditional military strategies have failed and will continue to fail.

Eighteenth century tactics might work, however. If a platoon of Marines were stationed aboard a merchant ship as it transit the pirate waters attacking pirates would not be facing unarmed sailors but highly skilled warriors. Warships would be available as backup but the Marines would carry the fighting. As a ship leaves the pirate waters helicopters can transfer the Marines to another ship entering danger.

If the many nations with an interest in ending this piracy participate there would be enough Marines to protect nearly every vessel nearing Somalia. The pirating would end quickly if death becomes more common than booty. It worked against Blackbeard in 1718. It's worth a try.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Baby Steps Won't Cure the Economy

Hank Paulson tried giving money to bankers. Tim Geithner wants to play "let's pretend" and make believe that worthless bank assets have value. Paulson failed and Geithner will fail because both Treasury secretaries have been just diddling with the edges of an immense economic black hole.

When the leveraged investments bubble burst trillions of dollars disappeared in a puff of red smoke. Leveraged investing was a game of musical chairs where the money went around in circles so everyone could pretend to own it. Well, the music has stopped.

The hundreds of billions of dollars that have been poured into banks have had little impact because most of it is going into patching a few of the smaller holes in the banks balance sheets and very little is left to actually affect the economy. What is needed is some tough realizations.

One, most of the major investment banks are worthless hulks. They may be "too big to fail" but they have already failed and propping up their rotting corpses in the Big Kahuna chairs is simply poisoning the air around the smaller, more prudent banks that still have hopes of surviving. Businesses need active, living, banks to make loans.

Throwing out the dead bodies means that the Federal Reserve Banks are, for the next few years, going to have the cut out the middlemen and make loans directly to major businesses to facilitate economic activity. The Federal treasury is going to have to stop gifting money into Bank of America and her ilk while hoping that this will indirectly stimulate the economy. Instead, it has to start using its financial muscle to directly invest in America by loaning money to businesses that want to build things, to do things.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Return of Debtor Prisons

It's like something out of Charles Dickens, people being thrown into prison because of debts they cannot pay. In Florida, in Michigan, in Nevada, also Ireland and England, we are seeing a resurrection of the 19th century practice of throwing into jail people whose only crime is being in debt. This is part of a movement by usurers. In 2005 bankruptcy laws were tightened. Thus far, it seems, debtor prison is not wide spread and is reserved for people who owe money to local governments but it does mark another decline in egalitarian democracy and a return to a society dominated by an aristocracy.

On a related note, Utah ($40 a day) and Florida ($50 a day) and perhaps other states, charge prisoners a fee for the time they are imprisoned. If they fail to pay their Jail Debt they face being sent back behind bars, where they will fall still further in debt to the state.

Hat tip to piccup at Daily Kos. There is also this blogger who is either a font of information or a disgusting vulture, you decide.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

While I Was Sleeping

Last night while in that half-sleep/half-wake state, I had a brilliant idea, a profound revelation. I didn't get up to write it down because, of course, it was so insightful I couldn't possibly forget it. Ever.

I can't remember it. But it was brilliant. All I can offer is that old joke:
A writer, in a dream, wrote the greatest poem ever written. It summed up the whole of the human condition and the secret of life. He woke enough to quickly jotted it down and then went back to sleep. The next morning, he reached for that scrap of paper to look at what he'd written. It was this:

Hogamous Higamous,
Men are polygamous.
Higamous Hogamous,
Women monogamous.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Obama Bull Market

Remember way back to last month when everyone on the rightwing side of the political spectrum was screaming about the "Obama Bear Market." Fox News, of course, was using this meme. RedState was howling that after six entire weeks in office President Obama was totally responsible for the state of the economy, the previous administration being completely blameless. This yahoo, on March 10, even called for Obama to resign.

What a difference a month makes. The Dow Jones Average is up 1400 points, over 20%, since March 9 and as I write this is toying with the 8000 point level. This is the best 4-week run for the stock market since Franklin Roosevelt was president.

None of this means anything. The economy is still in the crapper, unemployment sickeningly high, and the stock market will continue to fluctuate wildly. Next month the Dow could be at 10,000 or 6,000. The short term doesn't matter. What matters is the state of the economy one, two, and four years from now.

At least one capitalist lunatic is still clinging to the old mantra. He is using this crazy chart to prove the theory. This chart, more than anything else, reminds me of that old Arlo Guthrie song, Alice's Restaurant.
They took twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Graffiti Worth a Thousand Words

Photo from the G20 summit protests in London. Nothing more need be said.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

The best April Fools story of all time was the 1957 BBC Swiss Spaghetti Harvest documentary.

In that staid manner that only the BBC, the old BBC, could pull off, the Brits produced a gem. Broadcast on the respected news program Panorama enhance believability, narration by the most authoritative in Britain, Richard Dimbleby, clinched the deal.