Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Classical Music

J.S. Bach is, IMHO, the greatest composer of what we call the classical era. However, no one can strike my emotional center as pointedly as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tea'd Off Politics:

On the whole, I liked the article by Christopher Hitchens, linked below.

Tea'd Off Politics:

I must take issue with two lines, however.

The first:
Ten percent unemployment, on the other hand, is rather a disgrace to a midterm Democratic administration.
Technically this is true. It is probable, in my estimation, that this is also practically true, insofar as a substantial number of voters believe the current economic climate to be the sole or significant product of President Obama's policies. It is not. To be certain, we're far enough in his presidency to hold him accountable for the results of his policies. But Hitchens, and I believe most Americans, miss a vital factor: Republican obstructionism. Wielding the anti-democratic power of the filibuster, the G.O.P. maintains effective control over the Senate, and has done so since they became the minority party there. I'm too lazy right now to keep looking for a list, but analytically, one must consider what came out of the Democratically-controlled House as the starting point for Obama's agenda. The final result, which was either a dead bill, or one watered-down so much as to be neutered (e.g., the "stimulus"), is the product not of Obama and the Democrats, but of Republican willingness to block any and all legislation (not to mention judicial appointments). The disgrace, contra Hitchens, is the single-minded focus with which the Senate G.O.P attempted (and largely succeeded) to destroy Obama's presidency, even where it harmed the very people they were (supposedly) elected to serve. I'm well aware of who their actual constituency is.

The second:
But does anybody believe that unemployment would have gone down if the hated bailout had not occurred and GM had been permitted to go bankrupt?
The "hated bailout" was a Bush administration policy. Granted, Obama supported it as a Senator. The issue, however, is the misconception that it was Obama's bailout. The thrust of my argument here is not whether Obama would have done it anyway, or his non-opposition to the bailout, but to the degree to which policies are not properly attributed to those who enacted them.

I agree with Hitchens' larger point, which is that the "bailout" probably averted a much larger disaster. But the sad answer to his question is, "yes." For a person like Hitchens, who has debated so well against Believers, to suddenly ignore the power of magical thinking is curious. Perhaps if he spent more time debating "free market" radicals, he'd realize that the answer to the question is obvious.

You May Begin Drinking Heavily Now

[via Balloon Juice]

Rape Victims First, Then Disabled Vets

"I’m waiting for the 'Kick an Orphan and Beat a Puppy Act of 2011,' which no doubt is in the works."

I try, Lord knows how I try. But shit like this just crushes any hope I have of disabusing myself of the belief that today's Republican Party is a one-part-stupid, one-part-evil cocktail that is going to kill this country.

The Challenger Explosion

[via this from LGM]

This analysis by the late Richard Feynman is long and detailed, but important to understand. It ends where I'd like to begin, with this quote:

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

It was 25 years ago today that the space shuttle "Challenger" exploded. I suspect conventional remembrances will include sorrow for the loss of life, celebrations of the bravery of the dead, and some sense that it was "worth it," because hey, space ships are cool.

My take is, we wasted a lot of money on a relatively useless program.  We also allowed ourselves to be fooled by those with a vested interest in promoting this waste. I realize that important things have come from the space program. But my values are closer to this:

One Cup Of Coffee

We all know the story. Some stupid lady drove up to a McDonald's, ordered coffee, and spilled it in her lap. She sued, and got millions for her carelessness. The law run amok, people being rewarded for being dumb, and a case study in the need for tort reform.

For those of us interested in facts and the real story, check this out. Make no mistake about it: Corporations manipulate the media to lie to you about things so they can influence your opinions. It is called propaganda, and the extent to which we fall for it reflects what a dysfunctional society we have.

Look Up To The Skies And See

Compare and contrast to this. Or, just appreciate the beauty.

Jake Shimabukuro plays "Bohemian Rhapsody" | Video on

Friday Funny

I was only recently introduced to this. There are others in this vein, but this is the best one I could find. For some reason, YouTube only seems to have this version to embed.

One Year Of Love (well, more like 14 months)

It was one year ago today, after having him for just 14 months, that we had to put Wally down. If you haven't had to make that decision, and take a beloved pet to a place to have its life terminated, and sit there and watch it die, then I can't think of a way to explain how excruciating an experience it is. I miss you, Little Bear.

My wife says this picture shows his soul. I agree.

I think he fell asleep licking the pillow.

Wally's literary appetite was insatiable. I've still never met a more well-read dog.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Hate Myself For Loving You

My relationship with the NBA began in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. The days of Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Riles, Chick, and the most entertaining pro basketball ever. Part and parcel of being a Lakers fan is having a deep and abiding hatred of the Boston Celtics. In those days, that meant D.J. (RIP), Ainge, McHale, Parish, and this guy:

As the years have passed, I have slowly come to realize that I didn't hate Bird (I hated the rest of them), I feared him. For good reason. Whatever shortcomings he has as a man and father, Larry Legend was one bad muther.


Tea Party SOTU Rebuttal

Michele Bachmann, bless her stupid little heart, graced the airwaves (thanks a lot, CNN) with a thoughtful, cogent, and chock-full-o facts response to the State Of The Union address from President Kenyansocialistfascistcommunistblackguy. Allow me to rerebutt, or rebut the rebuttal, or, OK, fine. I'm going to mock the moronic mendacious bint:
Bachmann: Good evening. My name is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota's 6th District.
I want to thank the Tea Party Express and Tea Party HD 
Tea Party HD: racism and historical ignorance in the sharpest picture you can get.

for inviting me to speak this evening. I'm here at their request and not to compete with the official Republican remarks.
 As full of shit as Bachmann is, she can't hope to compete with Ryan.
The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good in our national conversation, and it's an honor for me to speak with you.
If by "dynamic force for good" you mean "dynamic force for ignorance, racial animus, and bad spelling." 
Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our president, unemployment was 7.8%, and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion. 
In other words, "Look at the tremendous pile of shit my party was largely responsible for creating that he inherited." Also note that both numbers were trending upwards. Before he was President.
We wondered whether the president would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies.
Because if he did, we had a plan to thwart his every move. 
Unfortunately, the president's strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money. 
787 equals 1,000 in Bachmann's mind. Math is hard. I'm guessing that we'll find her attaching significance to number much smaller than her little rounding error of $213 billion*. Please note that $288 billion of the "spending" was in the form of tax cuts. If tax cuts are spending, well, the implications for Republican rhetoric are staggering. The "fueled by borrowed money" canard will have to wait for another post. I do agree, however, that the stimulus was unfortunate. Unfortunate because it was too damn small.
The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8%. 
Not really
Not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months, the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4%. 
Yes, in part because the stimulus was too small and focused too much on tax cuts. More importantly, three months?!? Is she serious? A massive economic catastrophe that he inherited and he failed to right the ship in three months?  Worst. President. Ever.
It hasn't been lower for 20 straight months. While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs.
Remember: Public sector jobs don't count. So that cousin of yours who works for the DMV who owes you money? Forget about it. Her job isn't even real.
Let me show you a chart.

Here are unemployment rates over the past 10 years. In October of 2001, our national unemployment rate was at 5.3%. In 2008, it was at 6.6%.
So it went up under Bush. Note that it was actually 4.8% in April, 2008. And it was 7.8% when Obama took office (3% higher), which she just said. Just said. She picked 2008, of course, because she assumes you are too stupid to realize that the rate in January of 2009 is what is relevant.
But just eight months after President Obama promised lower unemployment, that rate spiked to a staggering 10.1%.
So he failed to stop a runaway train in 60 feet. Some Messiah he is. Jesus could have done it in 30 feet. With nothing but his pinky.
Today, unemployment is at 9.4% with about 400,000 new claims every week.
So it has dropped. 
After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money that we don't have. 
The bailout was Bush's baby, and it hasn't cost us, to this point, $700 billion.  The actual cost is debatable, because it depends on how you measure it. One thing no one seems to mention is what the cost of inaction might have been. See, spending can actually have value. Earmarks are just allocations of money already "spent." (* Here it is!) They are relatively small ($15.9 billion), and they usually result in things being done. Everyone hates earmarks, except their own. The whole "spending money we don't have" deception is something I'll talk about elsewhere.
But instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt. It was unlike anything we've ever seen before in the history of the country.
Michele is an expert on history.  Somehow, that little thing we call World War Two escaped her attention.
Well, deficits were unacceptably high under President Bush,
Under Republican President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress. You know it is bad when the Republicans won't even lie about Bush's recklessness anymore.
but they exploded under President Obama's direction,
The President moonlights as Metallica's pyrotechnics guy.
growing the national debt by an astounding $3.1 trillion.
Due largely to Bush's policies. [UPDATE: My dad pointed out that the deficit/debt issue also involves Federal income, which was decimated by the recession. So it isn't just about spending].
Well, what did we buy? 
You mean aside from the bill of goods YOUR party has tried to sell us for 30 years?
Instead of a leaner, smarter government, 
So we did not buy that new Nordic Track, or Dr Kawashima’s More Brain Training on the Nintendo DS.
we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which lightbulbs to buy and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's health care bill. 
No, and not really.  And note the inflammatory use of the term "policing." Perhaps Michele thinks it should go unenforced? I thought the G.O.P. was the law and order party. Maybe they meant the show.
Obamacare mandates and penalties may even force many job-creators to just stop offering health insurance altogether, unless, of course, yours is one of the more than 222 privileged companies, or unions, that's already received a government waiver under Obamacare.
This is so chock full o'crap that I think I'll save it for another post. Note the novelty of a Republican talking about privileged business. Note the monotony of a Republican demonizing unions. The waivers, by the way, are temporary, and a nice feature of the law.
In the end, unless we fully repeal Obamacare, 
Insurance companies won't be able to deny you for a pre-exisitng condition or drop you for no real reason, you won't be able to keep your child on your plan as long, you won't enjoy a life-time cap on benefits, and several other wonderful features of our former system. How will you cope?
a nation that currently enjoys the world's finest health care
Not by any standard I can come up with. Unless you are really well-off. And isn't that what Republicans mean when they talk?
might be forced to rely on government-run coverage.
Health care and health coverage are not the same. Nobody is even seriously proposing we follow the United Kingdom into actual socialized medicine. Government-run coverage is the Canadian system, where the provinces administer payments, instead of for-profit companies. Except they have those there, too.
That could have a devastating impact on our national debt for even generations to come.
Or, it could reduce heath care costs and improve overall health. And make this a better society for the rest of us.
For two years, President Obama made promises, just like the ones we heard him make this evening, yet still we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices, and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing.
All of which are his fault. Bastard.
Well, here's a few suggestions for fixing our economy. 
From an idiot whith no economics training or background, who was part of a Congressional majority that helped drive this country off a cliff. This is going to be good. You might want to make popcorn.
The president could stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system. 
Did she listen to the speech? "Rather than promoting a cap-and-trade system for creating a market for clean energy—an approach that failed in the Senate last year—he suggested a goal that 80 percent of the electricity in the United States come from such sources as solar, wind, nuclear, "clean" coal, and natural gas."
The president could support a balanced budget amendment. 
And he could support National Silly Hat Day, which would be less stupid and less counter-productive.
The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
Drill baby, drill!  We don't have nearly enough energy reserves (oil) to make any dent in our use of foreign oil. Not to mention the dangers of drilling. Plus, oil is a global commodity. If we allow private companies to drill our oil, they sell it on the world market. It doesn't necessarily go towards our demand.
The president could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more. 
Which ones, exactly? As she doesn't cite anything specific, I can't address this specifically, except to point out that I am practically certain she's wrong about the costs.
And the president should repeal Obamacare and support free-market solutions, 
He can't repeal it. He can pledge not to veto the repeal. But he isn't going to allow the signature legislative accomplishment of his presidency to be thrown out. That's about as dumb as asking Michelangelo to slap a couple of coats of Kelly-Moore Bistro Brown on the Sistine Chapel.
like medical malpractice reform
Medical malpractice "reform" is right-wing speak for allowing doctors who commit malpractice (or really, their insurance companies) from paying the consequences. Sure, there is abuse of the tort system. But I've yet to see a proposal that doesn't basically screw over people who have been hurt by malpractice. See, you can't prevail in a malpractice suit without, you know, malpractice.
 and allowing all Americans to buy any health care policy they like anywhere in the United States.
Here is a piece on the general failure of the market in health care. There are specific dangers in the idea of allowing interstate health insurance purchases. In short, it creates a race to the bottom (ever wonder why credit card companies love South Dakota?) and strip the states' ability to regulate the industry. See this.
We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burden on job-creators. 
This will have to wait for another post, but she's wrong. "Making things" here is not good for us. And the fact that we have minimum wage laws, worker safety laws, and some semblance of waste/pollution controls are what make it expensive. Do away with those? Nuts.
America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.
Actually, the meaningful measure, effective rates, does not have us at number one. But no matter. She doen't want us to look further at why jobs are being exported because if you did, you'd see how badly you've been screwed by both parties. We give tax breaks to companies who move jobs out, and "free trade" has opened up the cheaper labor markets that we cannot hope to compete with, even if corporate taxes were zero. But as I said, cheap goods that other countries sell to us are a good thing.

But thanks to you, there's reason for all of us to have hope that real spending cuts are coming, because last November, you went to the polls, and you voted out the big-spending politicians and you put in their place great men and women with a commitment to follow our Constitution and cut the size of government. 
The Constitution says nothing, nada, zilch, about the "size" of government. The hypocrisy on this issue of Bachmann is staggering.  And thanks a whole lot, "you." "You" are an idiot who doesn't understand economics, so "you" and your ignorance are going to doom all of us to Japan-like economic conditions (or worse) for years to come. Fuck "you."
I believe that we're in the very early days of a history-making turn in America.
The end of an empire.
Please know how important your calls, visits and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. 
Think of them as little "liberty janitors."
Because of you, Congress is responding, and we're just beginning to start to undo the damage that's been done the last few years,
"Undoing" does not mean "increasing."
because we believe in lower taxes,
 And the Tooth Fairy.
we believe in a limited view of government and
Santa Claus. Anything to do with the military and the security state are exempt from this belief. "Limited view of government" generally means doing all we can to prop up big business while letting the peons starve.
exceptionalism in America. 
I think she means "American Exceptionalism," which is the lie we tell ourselves to justify all the horrible shit we do to other countries.  
And I believe that America is the indispensable nation of the world.
All the other countries have that little "recyclable" symbol on them. Really, what the fuck does that mean? I'm pretty sure other countries do not view themselves as "dispensable."
Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. 
Oh, fuck this shit. Now she's doing the God thing. First of all, there are no "miracles." Miracles are what stupid people call things they can't explain. And even if I grant Michele her obvious intended meaning of the word, she's still a moron. The colonists getting together, risking their lives, and getting bailed out by the French is NOT miracle. There was nothing divine about it. And calling it a miracle disrespects that actual hard work put in by actual people. A miracle will be if this nation survives with elected officials as ignorant and stupid as Michele Bachmann.
Who can say that we won't see a miracle again? 
Scientists. Because, thanks to them, we know there are no miracles. 
The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the Pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds,
Michele Bachmann and history: like letting your four-year-old drive. The battle against all odds was fought by the Japanese, dumbass.  18,000 Japanese, cut-off from supplies or air or naval support, against 70,000 Marines who were well-equipped and fully supported from sea and air.
and yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young GIs over the incursion against the Japanese.
What does that even mean? 
These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.
Iwo Jima was, and is, Japanese territory.
Our current debt crisis we face today is different, 
Ya think?
but we still need all of us to pull together. But we can do this. That's our hope. We will push forward. We will proclaim liberty throughout the land. And we will do so because we, the people, will never give up on this great nation.
So God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

What the flying frog fart does proclaiming liberty across the land have to do with anything?  We may never give up on this nation, but we'll certainly keeping riding her into a ditch via our ignorance and inexplicable tendency to put know-nothing fools like Bachmann in office, not to mention the fact that this tripe was broadcast by CNN.

Holocaust Memorial Day

I'm not going to try to say anything about the Holocaust directly. What could I possibly have to add?

However, something semi-related came up, and I thought I'd share. Last night, as if the universe was practicing foreshadowing on me, I learned about FORCES*. It is a pro-smoking propaganda group. What does this have to do with the Holocaust? You see, what I learned from my (wasted) time on the FOCUS website (hell no I'm not linking) is that the Nazis were big on anti-smoking. Who knew? You see where this is going? Because the Nazis created the anti-smoking movement (I don't know if this is really even true, just bear with me), smokers in American are just like Jews in Nazi Germany. Oh sure, the Nazis didn't actually round up smokers. But they used the canard of "public health" to issue a lot of Nazi-like decrees against smoking. Even thought they issued cigarettes to the military.

Therefore, the American "public health" conspiracy, which consists of doctors, public officials, the pharmaceutical industry, and the Teachers' Unions (OK, I made that last one up) are trying, in their best Nazi impersonation, the deprive smokers of their "right" to smoke. No shit Chet, no shit. The oceans of research telling us that smoking is a health risk: unreliable. The efforts by elected public officials to ban smoking in public : Gestapo-esque intrusions into "liberty."  The Founders: intended us to have the right to smoke. Milk: It does a body good (wait, no. Sorry.)

And so on. I'm relaying all this on HMD because I am so fucking tired of everything people don't like being called "Nazi." I know about Godwin's law and all that. But for fuck's sake, why is everything that the losers in our political game dislike suddenly the work of modern day Hitlers and Goebbelses? Especially when the "victims" of the "Nazis" are people who engage in voluntary behavior?!?!? Sure, valid analogies can be made to the crimes of the Nazis. But Obama isn't a Nazi. Bush, for all of his fascist tendencies, wasn't a Nazi.

And people who want to prevent other people from making public spaces unpleasant with their noxious habit are certainly not Nazis. If smokers start disappearing into camps, call me. Otherwise, chill the fuck out, light one up (in your own home), and quit it with the Nazi crap.

And now, a puppy:

And yes, it is a German Shepherd.

* I don't want to recount how I learned about FORCES, except to say that my advice to you is never make social network friends with anyone you don't know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Give A Little Bit

[via Balloon Juice]

If you are in a giving mood, this site claims to vet the charities found there, and they claim that 99% of your donation will actually go to the charity. In this day and age, I do not know how to conclusively vet any of this stuff. But it looks legit to me.

Wayne Gretzky

Today is The Great One's big five-oh. I'm not a big hockey fan, but this guy was other-worldly. Aside from all the records and awards and titles, he made L.A. care about hockey. Incredible. And speaking of records, one stat rises above all others, in my eyes:

Wayne Gretzky has more assists than any other hockey player has points. Damn, dude.

Happy birthday, very handsome Canadian man.

Magic Johnson

penetrating the lane like a bullet train
comes the magic blood a telepathic brain
knucklehead suckers better duck
when the buck comes through like a truck...

Etymology #1

I am fascinated by the origins of words, or etymology. Accordingly, in keeping with the randomness of this blog, I will from time to time post a brief history of words. For those interested, this is a neat resource.

To the Romans, lead was "plumbum." To the English, this means "one with a purple ass." Seriously though, as pipes were made of lead back then, people who worked on pipes became known as "plumbers."  Think of the periodic table, where lead is "Pb."

I shudder to think of the consequences of getting one's water from lead pipes...

Speaking of the Romans, they paid their soldiers with salt (or with an allowance for salt, depending on the source I use). As you probably know, salt is not only essential for human survival, but it makes things yummier. Considering the lack of availability of most of today's common spices, you can begin to see the value. Plus, salt wasn't so easy to come by then. These "salarium," or salt wages, are today's "salary." Now, back to the salt mine!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

She Turned Me Into A Newt!

This is my first foray into a style that several places, such as Gin And Tacos and World O'Crap, do way better than I ever will. But it looks like fun, so I'll give it a try. Those sites are always funny in their commentary. I might be funny, maybe even intentionally (?!?), but mainly I'll just share my reactions. 

Right-wing idea man Newt Gingrich spoke today in Iowa about his belief that the EPA needs to be eliminated and replaced. Don't ask me why it is necessary to eliminate it before fixing it, because I'm not as smart as Newt.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Tuesday for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency, which he wants to replace with a new organization that would work more closely with businesses and be more aggressive in using science and technology.
For starters, I think the word "Disgraced" should always precede the words "Former House Speaker" when referring to the man.  His is a solid idea, because Lord knows the Federal Government doesn't work closely enough with business these days. I'm not sure what aggressive use of science and technology looks like, but it brings this to mind:

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gingrich said the EPA was rarely innovative and focused only on issuing regulations and litigation.
In other words, doing its job. The EPA is there to administer the environmental laws passed by Congress. It isn't Livermore Lab. Innovation is the province of the private sector. The EPA is there to help make and enforce rules that curb the damage that the "innovation" of things like factory farming lead to. 
"What you have is a very expensive bureaucracy that across the board makes it harder to solve problems, slows down the development of new innovations," Gingrich said.
The EPA's requested budget for all of 2010 is $10.5 billion. I was unable to find the requests for hamstringing problem solving or ball-and-chaining innovations in the budget. I'm not sure how he defines "expensive," but that ain't much, given the size of this country and the broad range of issues the EPA is charged with addressing. I'll also point out that if slowing innovation means not destroying the environment, then I'm willing to take that trade. And so were a majority of Americans until the recent economic down-turn.
Gingrich, who has acknowledged that he's mulling a run for the Republican presidential nomination, was in Iowa to talk to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. He also met privately with Republican legislators, often a sign in Iowa that people are laying the groundwork for a campaign. The state has the nation's first presidential caucuses.
Meeting with Republican legislators is also often a sign that you are one of Satan's minions. Speaking of signs in Iowa, this:

Gingrich, who has made several visits to Iowa recently, said the EPA was founded on sound ideas but has become a traditional Washington bureaucracy. Gingrich had previously mentioned his desire to change the EPA, but Tuesday's explanation was the first time he made a specific proposal for replacing the agency, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said.

I thought Newt, being a conservative, liked traditional things. Also, Newt is famous for having the desire to change things. Like wives.

"We need to have an agency that is first of all limited, but cooperates with the 50 states," Gingrich said.

Methinks Newt has the whole "Federalism" thing backwards. The States, where the Federal Government has authority, cooperate with the Feds. It is that whole "supreme law of the land" thing. And what in the FSM's name is the significance of calling for the agency to be "limited?" Is he suggesting it is now some kind of unrestrained Godzilla-like Tokyo-smashing monster? Oh, yes, that's right. Buzzwords. Where would modern politics be without empty phrases and dog whistles? Oh, and speaking of empty phrases...
"The EPA is based on bureaucrats...
Bureaucrats, one of my personal favorites. Goodness knows you won't find any of THEM in the private sector.
...centered in Washington...
They are centered in Washington because that is where the Federal Government is. Did he not notice this during his time in that town?
...issuing regulations and litigation...
An agency issuing regulations and following up on them with the law? The horror!
and basically opposing things."
Opposing things: The stock-in-trade of the Republican Party since someone, hmmm, I should know this, was (now Disgraced Former) Speaker.
EPA spokesman Brenden Gilfillan in Washington declined to comment on Gingrich's statements.
 Brenden was too busy ruining our prosperity and coddling hippies to come up with a response.
Gingrich denied his proposal would result in environmental damage, saying he would replace the EPA with what he called the Environmental Solution Agency.
Oh, his proposal won't cause environmental damage. Proposals don't cause environmental damage. Businesses who would control the proposed Agency, well, that's a different matter. Incidentally, Gingrich's first stab at a name, the "Environmental Destruction Agency" didn't test so well in focus groups. Nor did the second try, the "Environmental Final Solution Agency." Third time's a charm, though.
"I think you have an agency which would get up every morning, very much like the National Institutes for Health or the National Science Foundation, and try to figure out what do we need to do today to get a better environment that also gets us a better economy," he said.
After taking a leak and having a nice breakfast, of course. Maybe even make the bed first. I believe a charge account at the D.C. Starbucks would help.
Gingrich also said his proposed agency would pursue the development of a clean coal and rewrite regulations governing the development of small nuclear plants.
What about a proposed agency for pursuing unicorns and fairies? Because they are about as real as clean coal. And much more important to children. Think of the children!
"There's a whole new emerging technology that allows you to build smaller nuclear plants, but all of our rules were designed for very complex, very expensive systems," he said.
Because we all know size is the determining factor in the complexity and expense of nuclear power plants. And goodness knows the EPA is too busy battling Mothra and Hedorah The Smog Monster to re-write the rules. Actually, the Smog Monster thing makes sense...
Gingrich's anti-Washington, pro-business theme was designed to appeal to the conservatives who dominate Republican precinct caucuses, which traditionally launch the presidential nominating process. Iowa's next presidential caucus is Feb. 6, 2012.
Gingrich also used a "Red Dawn" theme, sporting a shotgun, wearing a fur hat, and randomly shouting "Wolverines," because this too appeals to conservatives.
"The level of control that Washington bureaucrats want to extend over topics they don't understand and communities they don't live in is wrong," he said.
I too prefer local bureaucrats who don't understand things. It is also obvious to anyone who thinks about it that any non-locally residing government is wrong. That's why Newt is an anarchist.
"Having an attitude of getting up every morning and trying to stop the economy is just a very destructive attitude."
Newt's off-topic attack on current Republican Congressional members remains unexplained.

I've Gone International!

I suspect it is random internet noise or whatever, but I have 3 hits from the U.K., 1 from Denmark, and 1 from China. It should surprise no one who knows me, but the stats are the best part of blogging.


Judicial Integrity

I find this unacceptable. As a lawyer, I am militant about judicial ethics. I believe that a judge or justice is entitled to hold whatever personal political convictions they want. I also believe that when the wife of a Supreme Court justice has a financial interest in certain outcomes, this creates, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest. And the law agrees with me.

Appearances matter. Especially after the partisan tragedy of Bush v. Gore*, I think it is essential that our judges do everything they can to minimize the appearance of political favoritism. Thomas' actions (or in this case, omissions) are not only questionable, but his excuse strains credulity. When the wife of a Supreme Court Justice has deep financial ties to right-wing advocacy organizations, I think we have a problem.

* - Lawyers, Guns & Money has several excellent posts, including this one, about how this was an abomination.

Idiot Wind

The rising star of the Republican Party, Michele Bachmann:

Speaking at an Iowans For Tax Relief event, [Rep. Michele] Bachmann (R-MN) also noted how slavery was a "scourge" on American history, but added that "we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

Slavery, at least in the technical sense, ended via the 13th Amendment, passed in 1865.

Some of the Founders:
George Washington (slave owner) died December 14, 1799.
Thomas Jefferson (slave owner) died July 4, 1826.
James Madison died June 28, 1836.
Benjamin Franklin died April 17, 1790.

And so on. Not one of them lived to 1865.

My larger point, aside from mocking this moron, is that today's G.O.P. is not just ignorant. They seem to think ignorance is something to be proud of, (See, e.g., Palin, Sarah). Any functioning party would laugh such a person off of the public stage, not promote her as a leader. Although I disagree with their values, the old Republicans at least pretended to care about not being dumb.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Or Is This Just Fantasy?

Good stuff:

Queen was such an incredible band. As Robert Plant said, nobody could deliver a vocal like Freddie Mercury. And here we get another lens through which to view the brilliant composition and arrangement of this classic.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spinning Makes Me Nauseous

No link to the story, because I am not going to direct traffic to Politico, but you can find the original there. It is about California Governor Brown's efforts to deal with the budget crisis. What piqued my interest was this:

“The best part about California today is that the Democrats own it,” said Linda Ackerman, a Republican National Committeewoman from California.
“We do not control the Assembly and we do not control the Senate, so all the fallout is going to come down on the Democrats,” she said. “The Democrats own it, let them own. Let’s see what they’re able to do with it.”

This is "spin," or as normal people pronounce it, "bullshit." Technically, she's right. And, technically, she's a liar. You see, in California, because there was an epidemic of short-sighted idiocy in 1978, the good people of my home state passed Prop 13. One of the results is a 2/3rds super-majority in each House is required to pass a tax increase. Consequently, a minority of hard-line Republicans have hamstrung the state in the name of "no new taxes ever for any reason." Yeah, that worked out real well in Colorado Springs.

Ms. Ackerman's statement is misleading. It is the equivalent of the misleading line that the Democrats "controlled" both Houses of Congress from 2007-2010. Because of the filibuster, the reality is, Republicans "controlled" the Senate. And they control it as a minority, due to an antiquated procedural quirk, not the design of the Constitution. So much for the Founders' intent. Similarly, because they have (and given the way districts are drawn, will always have) at least 1/3rd of the California Legislature, the G.O.P. "controls" California, from the perspective of their ability to veto any tax increases or any attempts to close loopholes, including this one.

The bummer is, she's probably right. The deliberate attempt to keep people ignorant about things like how their government actually functions will once again inure to the benefit of the liars.

The Price Of Liberty Is Eternal Vigilance

This is not good. The right of a woman to make choices about reproduction is vital. That right is severely undercut in the face of the myriad efforts to curb it, as the link illustrates. The effort to exert control over those choices is oppression, plain and simple. And the oppression of women is one of the great shames of our society. 

"Pro-life" is one of the most irritating and hypocritical labels in today's lexicon. Two things are obvious to me:
1. Many "pro-life" people care more about punishing women for having sex than the life of the unborn. Thoughtful reflection about the compromises the "pro-life" movement are willing to make in the absolute prohibition of abortion under any circumstances should make this clear. If you think it is murder, why allow it to happen at all?
2. "Pro-life" people are, by and large, hypocrites. Anyone who wears the term "pro-life" and supports the death penalty is a hypocrite. Anyone who calls themselves "pro-life" and cheers for war is a hypocrite. Anyone who calls themselves "pro-life" but opposes science and its ability to save life is a hypocrite. This opposition to science includes a belief in Creationism.

This is not to say I support abortion in certain circumstances without some reservation. It seems to me that there are consequences to that choice. I'd like to see more of an effort to help stop unwanted pregnancy, and more of an effort to support women who might chose to have a baby and give it up for adoption. But, as a man, I feel I have no right to make that determination for a woman.

Abortions have always happened, they always will. We either accept that reality and deal with it as compassionate, sensible people, or we add to the problem.

Lastly, in some circumstances, abortion is a medical necessity. The animal who murdered Dr. Tiller effectively killed the women who relied on his expertise to save their lives. But I'm sure the murderer felt justified because of his "pro-life" beliefs.

Crypto-Fascist Metaphor For Nuclear War

I'm rooting for:




I don't really care that much, and I have no basis for picking sides. How's that for awesome sports-related blogging?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Afternoon's Alright For Blogging

This is a perfect song. I was really into it the weekend before we put Wally down, so it still makes me tear up sometimes at this part: "But if the silence takes you/Then I hope it takes me too."

I probably never would have known about this song but for my dear wife. I could devote an entire blog to how much she has made my life better. Love you, Little Monkey.

Dr. Strangeidea, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Debt

Let me first say that I am well aware of the dangers of a massive Federal debt. The title is a reference joke.

I came across this (note that it is from 1996) as I was trying to learn about how economics actually works, at the Federal level. I'm going to re-post each of the fallacies Vickrey addresses one-at-a-time, otherwise it makes my brain hurt.

Let me first say that we have a national discourse that is, to be technical, stupid. It is stupid because it relies on myth and legend. It is stupid because it does not include substantive analysis. It is stupid because we rely on the same set of people who consistently demonstrate that they have no idea what they are talking about. It is stupid because liberals think Keith Olbermann is a fair-minded, honest newsman, as opposed to the partisan hack that he actually is (which isn't to suggest he is always wrong). I won't even address the stupid on the Right side of the talking heads, because my life expectancy isn't 437 years. I'll be writing a lot in the future on the inanity that passes for news and analysis.

Fallacy One is often heard in the argument, "We need to balance the budget." This is called "fiscal responsibility" by some. Aside from the massive hypocrisy surrounding this issue, the premise is incorrect. I once, on a plane trip back East, subjected myself, in the name of being open-minded, to Fox News Channel. I think it was "Fox And Friends." The woman, after a story about the Federal debt, turned to the camera and said something to the effect of, "Well, it only makes sense. I mean, you have to balance your checkbook at home, Why shouldn't the government?" Here's why, twitty:
Fallacy 1
Deficits are considered to represent sinful profligate spending at the expense of future generations who will be left with a smaller endowment of invested capital. This fallacy seems to stem from a false analogy to borrowing by individuals.

Current reality is almost the exact opposite. Deficits add to the net disposable income of individuals, to the extent that government disbursements that constitute income to recipients exceed that abstracted from disposable income in taxes, fees, and other charges. This added purchasing power, when spent, provides markets for private production, inducing producers to invest in additional plant capacity, which will form part of the real heritage left to the future. This is in addition to whatever public investment takes place in infrastructure, education, research, and the like. Larger deficits, sufficient to recycle savings out of a growing gross domestic product (GDP) in excess of what can be recycled by profit-seeking private investment, are not an economic sin but an economic necessity. Deficits in excess of a gap growing as a result of the maximum feasible growth in real output might indeed cause problems, but we are nowhere near that level.

Even the analogy itself is faulty. If General Motors, AT&T, and individual households had been required to balance their budgets in the manner being applied to the Federal government, there would be no corporate bonds, no mortgages, no bank loans, and many fewer automobiles, telephones, and houses. 
A few thougths based on discussions I've had on this subject. First, some people do not understand the difference between "debt" and "deficit." Debt is the total amount owed. Deficit is the yearly shortfall between revenue and spending (including future obligations, like bonds). If I spend $1 more than I make in one year, I just ran a deficit of $1. I also, after one year, have a debt of $1. If I keep it up, I still have a deficit of $1 every year. In year two, I have a debt of $2, etc.

Second, ideology often clouds this issue (and every other issue). Some people think that government spending is almost always bad, per se. Some people think we can just throw money at an issue and solve it. These ideas are unhelpful.  HOW the government spends is the question that matters. To my mind, government investment, whether it be research, infrastructure, education, or other means, can be a decidedly good thing. These forms of investment have resulted , and I think will continue to result, in a multiplier effect (i.e., $1 spent on roads leads to increased economic activity that yields more than $1). Government spending in the form of bombs that explode and then return nothing to the economy, not so much. And so it goes, I think, with certain forms of social spending. Money given to people that incentivizes them to be unproductive and/or dependent is not only economically unwise, but harmful to the soul.

So what we have in our dysfunctional national discourse is one party who pushes, selectively, for a bad idea, namely "Balanced Budgets." Some of these ding-dongs want a Constitutional Amendment to mandate balanced budgets. This is idiocy, nothing less. We have another party who, despite being a supposed "opposition" party, buys in to the fundamental error in understanding. Many of them also think we can just tax and spend our way out of the problem. This too is foolishness, for reasons I'll elaborate on in another post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday night...

I work from home, but this still is my Friday night anthem:

The rules for discussion here

I will happily entertain discussion/debate on this blog. Conditioned on observing this (click to embiggen):

Please note that although this chart refers to debating Christians about Creationism, the rules are universal.

Giving it a whirl

So, I have decided to wade into the heavily saturated, often murky, sometimes amusing, and mostly pointless world of blogging.

I thought of the name while shaving. Originally, this was going to be called "Nick." But I wanted something punny. I'll assume you get the joke.

Part of the impetus for doing this is the realization that most of my facebook "friends" don't give a dingo's nut-sack about what I post there. Another is the potentially amazing/pathetic fact that as much as I throw up on facebook (I know what I just wrote), it represents a fraction of what interests me. Here, I think I can indulge myself/torture you at greater length and in more detail. Think of it as the Guantanmo Bay to facebook's battlefield detention center. Lastly, this will allow me to more fully elaborate on the topics I find interesting enough to share.

I know nothing about the technical side of this blogging business, so for now, at least, this is strictly no-frills, low-tech self indulgence. Any input or advice is welcome.

Welcome, thanks for stopping by, and most of all, a very fine day to you.