Monday, December 29, 2008

"One President at a Time"

Yes, and it hardly matters which one it is, does it?

The Izzies are again playing "Final Solution" with their Pals:

The toll of Palestinians killed by Israel's three-day bombing campaign in Gaza today rose to at least 325 as Israeli jets bombed a university's science laboratories and hit the interior ministry in a widening series of air strikes.

The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak - who has already said his government does not want another ceasefire with the Islamist Hamas movement - said his army was fighting a "war to the bitter end".

Israel declared the border area around Gaza a closed military zone which, together with preparations for a call-up of thousands of reservists, could suggest a large ground invasion is planned next. Barak said the military campaign would be "widened and deepened as needed".

The number of civilians killed in the fighting continued to rise. The UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees and has large programmes in Gaza, said it believed at least 57 civilians were among the dead, but described that as a conservative estimate.

The overall number of injured is thought to be as high as 1,400, although Gazan hospitals are so overcrowded and short of medicine and equipment that they are turning away all but the most seriously wounded.
No doubt, we'll all be surprised to hear that the Chimperor is very much on board with his masters:

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — The Bush administration called Monday for an end to the new flare up in Mideast violence, saying Hamas has "once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization" with attacks on Israel.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the Hamas organization had chosen not to renew a six-month cease-fire agreement arranged by Egypt. At the same time, he said the United States has asked Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.

The spokesman declined to respond to questions about whether the United States believes Israel is ready to launch a ground attack on Gaza, but said the ultimate goal of Israelis is "for their people to be able to live in peace."
But while the Wee Emperor's replacement is supposed to represent Change, well, you know ... meet the new boss, same as the etc., etc.:

Since his election, Mr. Obama has said little specific about his foreign policy — in contrast to more expansive remarks about the economy. He and his advisers have deferred questions — critics could say, ducked them — by saying that until Jan. 20, only President Bush would speak for the nation as president and commander in chief. “The fact is that there is only one president at a time,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, reiterating a phrase that has become a mantra of the transition. “And that president now is George Bush.”

Mr. Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, talked to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday. “But the Bush administration has to speak for America now,” Mr. Axelrod said. “And it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to opine on these matters.”
Now, really -- who's going to pretend to be surprised about this? If Mr. Obama had been in any significant way unsatisfactory to the corporate powermasters who have pulled the strings on Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton and Mr. OlderBush and Mr. Reagan and ... well, then, Mr. Obama wouldn't be where he is today. He'd be sitting around with Ralph Nader and Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich in Hypothetical-Land. The mere fact of his having obtained power under the modern American system establishes, firmly and unmistakably, that he cannot possess a soul.

And, speaking of not pretending to be surprised ... the world isn't completely blind. Everyone knows that when the Chosen People do what they do with their arsenal, all paid for check-kited by the American taxpayer borrower, with General Dynamics and General Electric nameplates on all of it, there isn't so much as a nanometer's separation between the actions of Greater Israel and those of Imperial America. So, the next time we get a faceful of blowback, 9/11 style, let's not be hearing anyone asking "why they hate us." And no, it won't have the slightest thing to do with our fast-evaporating "freedom" or our alleged values. It'll have everything to do with the oceans of blood even now being spilled by our bitter-end-seeking proxies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Isn't Just Political Campaigns Any More

These musicians ... how fussy they are! Imagine getting upset just because your work product is used by our operatives to torture prisoners:
(12-09) 20:58 PST GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) --

Blaring from a speaker behind a metal grate in his tiny cell in Iraq, the blistering rock from Nine Inch Nails hit Prisoner No. 200343 like a sonic bludgeon.

"Stains like the blood on your teeth," Trent Reznor snarled over distorted guitars. "Bite. Chew."

The auditory assault went on for days, then weeks, then months at the U.S. military detention center in Iraq. Twenty hours a day. AC/DC. Queen. Pantera. The prisoner, military contractor Donald Vance of Chicago, told The Associated Press he was soon suicidal.

The tactic has been common in the U.S. war on terror, with forces systematically using loud music on hundreds of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the U.S. military commander in Iraq, authorized it on Sept. 14, 2003, "to create fear, disorient ... and prolong capture shock."

Now the detainees aren't the only ones complaining. Musicians are banding together to demand the U.S. military stop using their songs as weapons.
Now, here's somebody with an idea I could get behind:
Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, has been especially forceful in denouncing the practice. During a recent concert in San Francisco, he proposed taking revenge on President George W. Bush.

"I suggest that they level Guantanamo Bay, but they keep one small cell and they put Bush in there ... and they blast some Rage Against the Machine," he said to whoops and cheers.
Entirely appropriate, I'd say.

Monday, December 08, 2008

How Do You Like Your War Now, Conservatives?

As I've already bored you once or twice by expounding, American "conservatives" cheerfully sacrificed everything else that they claimed to cherish -- liberty, free markets, opposition to legal abortion, the whole bundle -- to their true first love: war. They were happy to "pay any price, bear any burden" to discomfit the Commies or the Islamofascists or any other convenient enemy at whom their synthetic anger could be aimed, like a gun, by their supervisors ... as long as stealthy aircraft would rain Shock & Awe™ on the swarthy ones; as long as Abrams main battle tanks buried Eye-rackies in the sand; as long as the wrap-around-shades legionaries kept their boots firmly planted on towelhead necks. During the last couple of years, though, some hint of the scale of "any price" and "any burden" have begun to manifest, a little, as energy prices soared (until the leading edge of the current Really Great Depression has made them plunge) and the first rumblings of the economic meltdown have put tremors of panic and nausea into even the most jingo-"patriotic" of bellies.

Well, conservatives, you've had your war. Sorry it wasn't an especially good one for you. Now, taste of the price:
Congressional Democrats were drafting legislation Sunday for tight government control of the crippled American auto industry, including the possible creation of an oversight board made up of five cabinet secretaries and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and led by an independent chairman or “car czar.”


President-elect Barack Obama, whose transition team has been involved in the talks, made starkly clear in an interview and at a brief news conference on Sunday that any aid to the Big Three auto companies should not come without significant concessions.

“They’re going to have to restructure,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And all their stakeholders are going to have restructure. Labor, management, shareholders, creditors — everybody is going to recognize that they have — they do not have a sustainable business model right now, and if they expect taxpayers to help in that adjustment process, then they can’t keep on putting off the kinds of changes that they, frankly, should have made 20 or 30 years ago.”

Still, the bill seemed likely to stop short of authorizing the broad powers that some lawmakers had urged to allow what could have amounted to an out-of-court bankruptcy proceeding, in which the automakers’ creditors could be forced to accept reduced payments, labor contracts could be rewritten and executives could be summarily dismissed.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the chairman of the banking committee that is drafting the legislation, called for the dismissal or resignation of Rick Wagoner, the chief executive of G.M., which is the most imperiled automaker.

“I think you’ve got to consider new leadership,” Mr. Dodd said Sunday in an interview on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “If you’re going to really restructure this, you’ve got to bring in a new team to do this, in my view.”

Asked specifically about Mr. Wagoner, Mr. Dodd said: “I think he has to move on.”

A G.M. spokesman, Steve Harris, said that the company was grateful for Mr. Dodd’s assistance and that it was willing to accept tough oversight, but that it retained confidence in Mr. Wagoner.

“We appreciate Senator Dodd’s support in trying to provide some assistance for the industry, but General Motors’ employees, dealers, suppliers and the G.M. board of directors feel strongly that Rick Wagoner is the right person to continue the transformation of the company that he began and has presented plans to Congress to continue and accelerate,” Mr. Harris said.

All of the proposals made clear that Congressional Democrats and the White House, furious over the need for another huge corporate bailout, intended to make the automakers pay a price far greater than the 5 percent interest on the emergency loans.

Congressional Democrats said that if any of the companies failed to meet government requirements by the end of March, the emergency loans could be called in for immediate repayment.

At the news conference in Chicago, Mr. Obama affirmed his position that it would be unacceptable to allow the auto industry to collapse. But using somewhat tougher language than he had before, he said it made “no sense for us to shovel more money into the problem” if the companies are unwilling to reorganize.
I think the most amazing thing about the economic debacle to date is the blinding speed with which "conservatives" have run from the idea that there might be something wrong with the Sovietizing of what's left of American industry. I mean, a year or two from now, we're going to be reading about the Car Czar's bold new Five-Year Plan under which the new SUX-6000, designed by a committee consisting of Pres. Obama, Sen. Dodd, and Sen. Shelby, will be produced in record numbers of 5,000 units per year; and then when fewer than 200 are built, and they won't start, we'll read about how that represents a "heroic overfulfillment" of the Plan. It's going to be funny, which is good, because we'll all need something amusing to help us pass the time while we're queued up half the day to get the day's ration of black bread and borscht at the local State Commissary.

I don't particularly blame "progressives" for all this. They're supposed to be socialists. No, I think the blame rests primarily with conservatives. They had to have their war, no matter what. I wish there were some way for them to eat the results by themselves -- but there isn't. I'll be studying "100 New Recipes For Old Cabbage" right alongside them. Yum, yum.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Deer Hunter

Muzzleloader season opened today. At the ripe old age of 54, it's my first time hunting with a muzzleloader. In fact, it's my first time hunting deer. In fact, it's my first time hunting anything. Fortunately, a friend at the day job has taken me under his wing and is showing me what's what.

For the time being, I'm only out for bucks -- so the two big, beautiful does who flew by about 20 yards from my position were safe, as was the undersized doe who did the same thing a little later. Those were all the deer I saw today. Saw a lot of cold, cold wind and snow, though.

The score so far: Bambi 1, me nuthin'. I have a couple of vacation days (or "PTO" days, as we now call them) left. I think I'll try to slip off one day this coming week and even the score.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

In the Wrong Business

Truly, it's very, very strange out there these days. The central government, which is officially in $6.4E+12 of debt, is beseiged by a quickly-increasing array of other corporate/banking/insurance/financial entities (CBIFE hereafter, for brevity) for "bailouts," which seems to mean huge chunks of money. Why you go to someone who's not only broke, but six and a half trillion bucks in the hole, for funds is, well ... very, very strange. Bizarre, even. And, as we've all heard many times by now, something like one trillion mythical dollars have been flushed into the maws of these CBIFE mendicants already, with dark hints of much more to come.

All of this gives me several causes of longer-term wonder and conjecture, such as: what is the "money" anyway, that a manifestly bankrupt entity like Mordor-on-the-Potomac can nevertheless firehose it onto favored beneficiaries in such amazing quantities? Are our exalted leaders borrowing it from someone? Maybe ... but why anyone would be lending to Uncle in these latter days is deeply mysterious indeed. Maybe they're just printing it? I daresay that's closer to the truth, although "printing" seems like such a quaint, 20th-century concept now. I'd guess that the amount of paper currency in circulation now is the merest filmy crust atop the ocean of "money" which is just ones and zeroes bouncing around in various computers: agreements amongst beggars. But that's for another post. Today I'm amused by a peculiar cultural aspect of what I hope is the beginning of the economic wreck of the Empire.

Today, I'm reading about how representatives of the Formerly-Big Three U.S. automobile manufacturers journeyed to the main theives' den on the Chesapeake Bay, traveling by car and wearing burlap bags as befits men working for a buck a year, to beg Uncle for something like $34B in order to continue their operations:
The Big Three automakers renewed their plea for an emergency federal bailout, as the head of General Motors Corp. told a deadlocked Congress the industry has made some wrong turns and economic forces have pushed it “to the brink.”

GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said time is running short and his company could be out of funds by the end of the year. “We’re here today because we made mistakes,” he said in written testimony to the Senate Banking Committee in Washington. “And we’re here because forces beyond our control have pushed us to the brink.”

Wagoner, Chrysler LLC Chief Executive Robert Nardelli and Ford Motor Co.’s Alan Mulally are asking for as much as $34 billion in federal aid. “I am sorry to be asking for this support,” Wagoner told reporters before the hearing began.

The three men are trying to recover from their appearance before Congress two weeks ago when they were ridiculed for arriving in Washington in separate private jets to plea for funds and left empty-handed. They demonstrated contrition today, pledging to work for $1 a year, traveling to Washington by car and providing specific plans for viability.
So, how were their pleas received?
The senior Republican on the panel, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, said he still opposes a bailout. “Each of the automakers have based their plans on what I believe are optimistic sales forecasts,” he said.

Democrat Senator Carl Levin, from the carmakers’ home state of Michigan, said “it’s essential” that President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama “become more active” in talks to rescue the carmakers.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it is up to the automakers to show that their plans for revamping their companies will work.

“It’s too early to give these plans a grade,” Perino said. “The linchpin of our support has been that we would not provide taxpayer dollars unless they could prove viability.”
Let's see: these guys are asking for slightly over three percent of what's already been laid at the feet of the CBIFE community. The banksters pretty much told Our Glorious Leaders to fork over the money and do it right the hell now, and the Leaders pretty much said, "sir, yes, sir!" and forked it over. But let actual manufacturers, who actually make something physical, rather than shuffling money debt around, hold their hands out, and suddenly our supervisors are cautious, responsible stewards and shrewd judges of character. They're not going to give anybody a damn thing until they've seen every detail, and I mean every detail, nosirree Bob!

You can see that the banksters and the hereditary officeholders are members of a tribe, and these corporate manufacturers, while wealthy and privileged, are from a different tribe. A carmaker, no matter how nicely he's dressed and how lavish his compensation might be, has dirt under his fingernails. He smells like cutting oil and hot steel chips on the machine shop floor. He'd best know his place.

Mind you, I don't want to see any kind of auto industry bailout from the gummint; nor would I favor that even if the gummint actually had any money. But then, I'm at least consistent in that I also don't want the banksters seeing a dime. And if that makes "the system" collapse, so be it; I'm pretty sure it's nothing but organized crime anyway, really. To Hell with it.

Meanwhile, even my own polychinned "representative" in Congress has had his brainless say:
"What I want to hear is how they propose to pay the loan back. How not to come back again and how to have a long term strategy. And this doesn't meet the logic test, but how many dealers they need to reduce. Which brands, how they do it. Whether there should be 3 companies or 2 companies or 1 major U.S auto company is not something that congress is trained to do. But the question is, you can look at what they did and say, 'This isn't a plan.' "
Please excuse me while I go sneak off somewhere and die of embarrassment. And, speaking of embarrassment, can you believe that the Democratic Party around these parts actually failed to remove this clothespin-on-nose-talking dunce from his congressional sinecure even in this year in which Indiana went Democratic in the presidential race? Stupidity doesn't begin to explain it -- the donkey's on the payroll, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To One and All:

... a very happy Thanksgiving Day. I myself will be out of town for a few days, after which I hope to increase the posting pace a little, at least to my usual sloth-like levels.

I was thinking, at church this past Sunday morning, about the persistence and the ubiquity of the love of God. Try as we might -- and we do! -- to avoid it, hide it, ignore it, drown it out, and distract ourselves from it, it's there, just because that's the way He is. This seems to me as good a theme as any for a Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Double-Dog Dare You, Infidel

Now, I'm not wanting to say that the Osama bin Laden crowd is necessarily overjoyed when our supervisors are baited into flushing whatever wealth remains in the Empire -- not to mention the odd Troop here and there -- down the proverbial toilet of unwinnable war and perpetual occupation. But how else do we explain an effort by the current al-Qaeda Number Two, of which there seems to be an inexhaustible supply, to get The Chosen One (all-glory-to-his-name) riled up?
In a message purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda deputy called Mr Obama a "house negro" - a demeaning term implying he served white people.

Mr Obama's plan to bolster the US military presence in Afghanistan would fail, Zawahiri said.

If genuine, the message would be the first acknowledgement by al-Qaeda of the president-elect's victory.

The audio message appeared on militant websites.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian by birth, is often referred to as Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man and the chief ideologue of al-Qaeda.

In the short message he warned Mr Obama of failure if he followed Bush administration policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

He also criticised Mr Obama - whose father is Muslim - for abandoning his Islamic roots.

"You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand with the enemies of Muslims," he said.

On Sunday, in his first television interview since his 4 November election win, Mr Obama reiterated his commitment to shift more US troops to war-torn Afghanistan.

Stamping out al-Qaeda "once and for all" was a top priority, he said, and capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden was "critical" to US security.
Memo to the presumptive president-elect: even if Chief Ideologue Zawahiri calls your mother bad names, don't do what your enemy wants you to do. Even if he says Michelle is ugly and your daughters lack charm. Even if he says your new shelter puppy has fleas. Your enemy has reasons for baiting you into renewing and intensifying your war fury. Don't do it. Do something else instead. If an attractive alternative does not occur to you, feel free to leave a comment ... I have several alternatives, ready and waiting. No charge, either. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cruelly Deceived!

The news today reveals that our lawfakers are unhappy:
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and members of Congress clashed on Tuesday over the best use for the $700-billion financial bailout fund, with lawmakers demanding money to stem a national wave of mortgage foreclosures.

At a House of Representatives Financial Services Committee hearing where he was grilled over his handling of the program, Paulson said the bailout plan wasn't "a panacea for all our economic difficulties" and would be more effectively used by investing in financial companies to shore up the system.
Yes, shockingly, it turns out that the former executive of Goldman Sachs is more inclined to pour out the federal largesse on well-connected banksters than on Joe the Unwisely Mortgaged Plumber. Who would have suspected it? Apparently not our Congresscreatures, who clearly think the best of everyone.

But how sharply disappointed they are! Check out Baaohw-ney Fwank:
Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the panel, lectured Paulson, telling him mortgage relief was spelled out as an option under the bailout passed by Congress.

"The fundamental policy issue is our disappointment that funds are not being used out of the $700 billion to supplement mortgage foreclosure reduction," Frank said. "There, I believe, is an overwhelmingly ... powerful set of reasons why some of the ... money must be used for mortgage foreclosure."
Equally devastating is the realization that the financial "industry" is in line for all the swill it can eat, but other industries -- not so much:
Paulson was also pressed about possibly tapping bailout funds to help distressed U.S. automakers but again ruled that out. He said any solution for automakers, who are pressing their case in Congress on Tuesday, should be one that helped them to re-tool to make more energy-efficient vehicles, and that wasn't what the bailout fund was set up to do.

Well, Illustrious Representatives and Senators, it is true that Lurch is pretty much telling you to go get bent. I have to ask you, though: what did you expect? I can't say it any better than Slacktivist did:
When in the course of human events a purportedly democratic official demands that the people give him $700,000,000,000 -- no strings attached, by week's end, or else -- then the duly elected representatives of the people have one and only one responsible response: Say "No."

Better yet, say "Hell no."

$700 billion. Seven hundred billion dollars. Dollar sign, seven, 11 zeroes.

Seven. Hundred. Billion.

You could never count to 700,000,000,000. You could never count to 700,000,000,000 by thousands.

If you were to take $700,000,000,000 in $100 bills and lay them end-to-end, well, it might turn out to be a better use of the money than if you just gave all those bills to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in exchange for nothing more than his promise to put all that money to good use if we'd all just leave him alone.
You know, I don't think our Congressfolk are stupid. In fact, I daresay they average a good bit more intelligent than does Homo Americanus as a whole. For that reason, I have to suspect that all the "outrage" faced by Lurch Paulson today was highly synthetic in nature. I suspect it would be fair to characterize it as posturing. As I suggested a while back, there is much about the unfolding meltdown of Mammon that yields nicely to a good old-fashioned Bolshie class analysis. Hey, I don't like Commies either ... but even a blind squirrel finds the occasional acorn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meet the New Boss

In about nine weeks, The Chosen One (peace-be-upon-him) will assume office, and expectations are high:
The public thinks it's likely that Obama will improve race relations, improve economic conditions, bring stability to the financial markets, make the U.S. safer from terrorism, reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, reduce global warming, win the war in Afghanistan and remove U.S. troops from Iraq without causing a major upheaval in that country.
Well, personally, I think the public is selling His Wonderfulness (may-he-live-forever) rather short. I expect him to not only take care of those things, but also to see to it that the streets are paved with solid gold bricks, grouted firmly in place with a thick paste made from the finest cocaine, and also provide daily showers of kittens, puppies, ponies, butterflies, and winning lottery tickets. And if Himself (may-success-attend-his-every-step) fails to hook us all up with every bit of that, I'm going to be seriously miffed.

So why do The Anointed (may-the-hair-on-his-toes-grow-ever-longer) and the Wee Emperor both look so bummed out? Maybe one is beginning to realize that he should have demanded a recount, and the other is looking forward to a retirement spent perforce in Crawdad, TX, where he knows he's at least not likely to be arrested by Interpol and spirited off to face justice at the Hague. Or maybe they've just heard the latest off-the-cuff trillion-dollar improvisation by Lurch Henry "Call Me 'Hank' But Keep Forking Over the Dough" Paulson.

As my old Dad (among others) used to say: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Trouble With Symbolic Communication

The trouble is, it doesn't work very well.

I get the local morning newspaper in its old-school, dead-tree form on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This is because my owner wants the supermarket ads, coupons, etc. So, I picked up today's paper and my eye was caught by this:
None of this attracted much attention until, shortly after Tuesday’s election, Townsend hoisted the flag, which has long flown in front of his shop, in the upside-down position, a distress signal protesting the election of Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.

It didn’t take long for the reaction to come. A 17-year employee told Townsend he was quitting. The phone calls started, about 300 in the past few days.

Almost all have been in support, Townsend said, but some clearly weren’t. Shortly after noon Friday, a woman called to raise hell with the employee who answered. There was no mistaking what the call was about.

No, the female employee said, it has nothing to do with the fact that Obama is black. It’s about abortion. Obama is a supporter of abortion, and the business owner is absolutely opposed to it, period.

The call dragged on for several minutes, and it wasn’t friendly.
Now, at my first glance at the headline ("Decatur abuzz over flipped flag"), since we're talking about Decatur and all, my initial assumption was that the source of Mr. Townsend's unhappiness was probably Sen. Obama's non-Caucasian ethnicity, and that goes to the point I'd like to make here: that we're lazy and/or post-literate, and we want to substitute symbols for a sufficient number of carefully-chosen words that, while laborious, offer a chance of communicating ideas that may be complex, conditional, subtle, or nuanced. Fly a flag, or maybe fly one upside-down. Wear a flag lapel pin. Wear a crucifix necklace. Display a "peace symbol." Affix a magnetic "ribbon" to your car. Wear gang colors. All of these are much less work than writing down a few coherent paragraphs, or speaking the equivalent; but they are also easily misunderstood, and it does seem to me that all such misunderstandings are really the responsibility of the symbol-displayer.

To a substantial degree, I agree with Mr. Townsend's expressed displeasure with Mr. Obama as the presumptive president-elect ("presumptive" because the Electoral College has not met to discharge its duty yet, as far as I know). What's mysterious to me is why Mr. Townsend would only now be getting around to inverting his flag, given Mr. Bush's clear identification with the American death culture. I certainly don't think that American babies should be hacked apart and vacuumed from their mothers' wombs; but I also don't think there's any excuse for Muslim babies being ripped apart by American high explosives. And, while Mssrs. Bush and McCain were allegedly "pro-life" (at least where American babies are concerned), even there it's easy to see how low a priority their supposed "convictions" had in terms of influence on policy and agenda: none. As I have observed in this space before, the god of contemporary American conservatives is war. They absolutely insist on "getting their war on," no matter what else has to be abandoned in order to get on with that. Well, guys, you got your war. Now pay for it ... and quit whining.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Not Votin'

In the comment thread of a recent post here, two people for whom I have vast respect took me gently to task for its content -- specifically, I think, for the sarcastic tag line that I used in closing: "Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things." Both commenters imply that I'm suffering from apathy.

I don't want to be misunderstood: apathy (1 : lack of feeling or emotion : impassiveness; 2 : lack of interest or concern : indifference) is not my problem in the American political context.

Apathy is why I don't go online and vote for the newest "American Idol." Apathy is why I don't send in a ballot for players to be named to the major-league basball all-star team. These are things that I don't care about at all, and that do not affect me.

The buffoons, the wannabe tyrants, and the real for-sure tyrants who infest positions of political power in America: those folks do indeed have a great, and baleful, effect on me. They rob me materially; they usurp my liberties; and they commit mass murder in my name, making bitter and dedicated enemies for me all over the globe. Then, adding insult to manifold injuries, they seek to subvert my will through childish sales tricks. Rather than simply ask, do you want to buy the car?, they instead ask, would you rather have it in blue or green? We're never asked whether we consent to the hypertrophied welfare/warfare state; instead, we're asked which of two essentially-identical managers we prefer.

And I would like to suggest that, each time we make that choice, we're seen as endorsing the basic system. We're giving it a spurious legitimacy. Suppose that there's a miraculous 100% voter turnout tomorrow. Whichever of Oh-Bomb-'Em or McInsane is elected, he'll be able to claim a mandate.

I think a much more useful outcome tomorrow would be a zero-percent turnout. To me, that would be an eloquent statement that we the people have no further interest in the rancidly maggot-corrupt "two-party system," and that we correctly regard it as illegitimate. Next would be a general refusal to pay taxes, serve in the armed forces or police, or to heed any orders or instructions from any who do participate in the State's uniformed murder gangs. I don't think there'd be much bloodshed. I think the hollow and rotted corpse of the state would pretty much collapse soggily in place.

Not that I think any such thing's going to happen this year, or next ... I don't. But, as the economy collapses into the swamp of debt, the chances are getting at least a little bit better. Meanwhile, I'll do what I can: I'll tell the truth as I see it; and I'll make fun of our supervisors as the opportunity presents itself, which is practically all the time. And I'll deliberately, intentionally, and passionately refuse to play my assigned part -- one of the 300 million or so "extras" -- in Tuesday's farce. Not that I'm any better than those who do vote -- far from it; I've voted, oh, something like half a hundred times myself. But, like smoking, it's a bad idea; and I do believe I'm quitting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Glorious Two-Party System

I guess you have to be a natural-born American to appreciate the Charles-Atlas-style dynamic tension between the plutocrats of the Republican Party and the Commie-pinkos of the Democratic Party. Alexander Cockburn, poor limey that he is, sure doesn't get it:
Obama invokes change. Yet never has the dead hand of the past had a "reform" candidate so firmly by the windpipe. Is it possible to confront America's problems without talking about the arms budget? The Pentagon is spending more than at any point since the end of the Second World War. In "real dollars" – an optimistic concept these days – the $635bn (£400bn) appropriated in fiscal 2007 is 5 per cent above the previous all-time high, reached in 1952. Obama wants to enlarge the armed services by 90,000. He pledges to escalate the US war in Afghanistan; to attack Pakistan's territory if it obstructs any unilateral US mission to kill Osama bin Laden; and to wage a war against terror in a hundred countries, creating a new international intelligence and law enforcement "infrastructure" to take down terrorist networks. A fresh start? Where does this differ from Bush's commitment on 20 September 2001, to an ongoing "war on terror" against "every terrorist group of global reach" and "any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism"?

Obama's liberal defenders comfort themselves with the thought that "he had to say that to get elected". He didn't. After eight years of Bush, Americans are receptive to reassessing America's imperial role. Obama has shunned this opportunity. If elected, he will be a prisoner of his promise that on his watch Afghanistan will not be lost, nor the white man's burden shirked.
And maybe I don't get it either. But I have been getting some chuckles out of watching each set of corporatist-fascists warn the great Amur'kan public about the profound evil and imminent disaster represented by the other (identical) crew.

Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things.

No, Really, Officer, It Was This Way ...

Let's see if I've got this right. The United State attacks one foreign country from another, occupied, foreign country, and it's ... what did you say that was?
U.S. cites self - defense in raiding Syria from Iraq

By Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker Published: October 28, 2008

WASHINGTON: A raid into Syria on Sunday was carried out by American Special Operations forces who killed an Iraqi militant responsible for running weapons, money and foreign fighters across the border into Iraq, American officials said.

The helicopter-borne attack into Syria was by far the boldest by American commandos in the five years since the United States invaded Iraq and began to condemn Syria's role in stoking the Iraqi insurgency.

The timing was startling, not least because American officials praised Syria in recent months for its efforts to halt traffic across the border.

But in justifying the attack, American officials said the Bush administration was determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries' consent.
Don't worry, though; the Syrians say that not more than half a dozen children were killed in this heroic raid -- hardly enough to be worth mentioning.

Perhaps you, like me, are still not clear on how this is "self-defense." Leonid Dubya Brezhnev explains it all:
Administration officials pointed Monday to a passage in President George W. Bush's speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month as the clearest articulation of this position to date.

"As sovereign states, we have an obligation to govern responsibly, and solve problems before they spill across borders," Bush said. "We have an obligation to prevent our territory from being used as a sanctuary for terrorism and proliferation and human trafficking and organized crime."
Yep, and you dead kids will just have to try to understand that a Greater Good is being pursued here. No omelets possible without a few cracked eggshells, don'tcha know?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Crickets Are Tired of Chirping

Which is OK -- I was tired of listening to them. Last week, I sent a followup email to Mr. Montagano, allegedly a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, 3rd district:
Dear Mr. Montagano,

It’s been nearly a week, and I’ve heard nothing from you. This makes me wonder how serious a candidate you can be.

Why put a “mailto” link on your campaign website, and then not answer the mail? This makes me wonder how rational you can be … or, as I said above, how serious a candidate you can be.

Anyway, I do write a blog, and it gets its 20 or so hits a day, a good fraction of which come from the Fort Wayne area. I’d like to be able to report having heard from you, as opposed to what I’ve been having to report instead.

By the way, I am genuinely contemplating voting for you. I won’t do it in the face of such egregious disrespect, however. I answer my mail. You should, too.
Obviously, this got the same response as did my initial email.

You have to wonder about these folks. This should be their year. Either they simply don't care, or they actively don't want the seat.

Either way, fine by me.

There's travel, and then ...

... there's travel under the gun. According to the glorious Google Maps, it's 613 miles from my address to my son's new address in West Chester, PA. On Saturday, my son and my daughter and I drove that and then moved his worldly goods into said new address; then, yesterday, after sleeping six hours, my daughter and I drove back. Today, I'm taking the day off. I don't want to see any highway today, either ... interstate, "turnpike," or otherwise.

I am now officially too old for this stuff.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Perspective Restoration

Another 18 to 27 people don't have to worry any more about the "global liquidity crisis:"
At least 18 civilians have been killed in an air strike by foreign forces in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, reports say.

A BBC reporter in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah saw the bodies - three women and the rest children - ranging in age from six months to 15.

The families brought the bodies from their village in the Nad Ali district, where they say the air strike occurred.

A further nine bodies are said to be trapped under destroyed buildings.
That's 18 to 27 people, where the 18, at least, are women and children. That's 18 to 27 people who definitely aren't interested in the "democracy" supposedly being sown in Muslim lands by American deadly force. That's 18 to 27 people who have no opinion on whether the Dow-Jones Industrial Average is close to its bottom yet. That's 18 to 27 people who don't care whether Gov. Palin acted properly or improperly in getting that Alaska state cop fired. That's 18 to 27 people whose interest, if any, in the idea that Sen. Obama is a secret Muslim who had gay sex with his coke dealer has disappeared completely. That's 18 to 27 people who are supremely unexcited about which professional baseball team will win this year's World Series, who will get voted off of "Dancing With the Stars," or who will be the next American Idol. That's 18 to 27 people whose blood cries out from under the soil to God for justice (Genesis 4:10).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live-Blogging the Presidential Debate

Everybody else does it -- why shouldn't I? But I'm taking my game to the next level. I'm blogging the thing despite the fact that I'm neither watching it, nor listening to it, on the tee 'n' vee. Nor on the fancy wireless "radio" box, either.

Blah blah blah Main Street not Wall Street energy independence free us from foreign oil wind farms terrorists no one more devoted to Israel than I am Bill Ayers Keating Five negative ads robust debate politics end at the water's edge protect Americans from terror health care my plan your plan taxes on the middle class taxes on the richest 1% clean coal solar electric cars flying cars Iranian nuclear program get tough in Afghanistan get tough with Russia get tough on terror win in Iraq redeploy fight smarter war I was a POW blah blah blah ...

MSNBC: Obama rules! Fox News: McCain triumphant!

This time-saving summary is yours as a public service, with the compliments of the Chestnut Tree Cafe.

Crickets Chirping

That's the kind of peace that exists in my email inbox. It might as well be County Road 1100 South in Wabash County on a soft summer night, 2:30 in the morning. Peace prevails. The crickets are singing their lullaby. There's no "clang" of an incoming reply from Mr. Montagano, nor from any of his minions, if minions he has.

You know, if it's just that a Congressional candidate from a major-brand party is sufficiently a celebrity as to not want to take time to answer nosy questions from an individual voter (maybe), I can understand that. But that still leaves me with a couple of questions. Why bother to set up a website that doesn't give any substantial information about the candidate? And -- most perplexing at all -- why have a "contact us" page, with a mailto link to Mr. Candidate Himself, and then not answer the mail? Why tell your prospective voter, please email me, then not reply?

When Mr. Montagano loses, all the proggies will be sighing about what stupid bastards the voters are, re-electing Souder all the time. Doesn't anyone have at least a little blame to spare for the so-called "opposition" party, who habitually run candidates who do uncommonly good impressions of people who want to lose?

Why I Read Blogs

Really, there's a different reason every day for reading blogs. Today's reason is Will Grigg. Choose your favorite -- this one:
This morning (October 14), the withered little simian in the White House, who has a little less than 100 days left to ruin whatever still works in this country, emerged from his lair, squinted the eyes from which the light of intelligence has never shone, rummaged around in the cranium in which wisdom has never dwelt, and then spoke another of the lies that comes so easily to his sneering lips:

"The government's role will be limited and temporary. These measures are not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it."
Or this one:
Bernanke, who really deserves to be beaten savagely with the nearest available object (especially if that object is either Paulson or Bush), announced, in effect, that the "temporary" measures described by Bush will be in place in perpetuity: "We will not stand down until we have achieved our goals of repairing and reforming our financial system and thereby restoring prosperity to our economy."
Or, best of all, just go read the whole thing. Your favorite is probably one that I overlooked anyway.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Entry In the "Least-Heard Question" Sweepstakes

I wonder what first prize is? Maybe a few hundred thousand bucks of bailout swag? If so, I hope they send it to me quickly, before those crisp Federal Reserve Notes, still warm from the printing presses, lose what value they currently retain.

Anyway, as the nationalizations continue apace:
President Bush said this morning that the administration's "unprecedented and aggressive" plan to partly nationalize nine major banks was an "essential short-term measure to ensure the viability" of a battered financial system.

With the government poised to invest $250 billion of taxpayers' money into private banks, Bush and top economic policymakers tried to emphasize in morning remarks that the dramatic proposal was not meant to undermine the country's free market principles. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. called parts of the proposal "objectionable. . . . Today's actions are not what we ever wanted to do."
So, anyway, here's my entry:

What part of the text of the U.S. Constitution authorizes any of this?

Yeah, funny, isn't it? Hey, NRA members, remember one of your bumper stickers: "The Second Amendment is in case they forget any of the others?" I assume you're all out there with your weapons, busy deposing our false leaders, right?

Come on, folks, let's get this dead constitution decently buried, shall we? The stink's getting to be a bit much.

Monday, October 13, 2008

So Far, No Good

Checking the ol' Outlook inbox, the response from the Montagano campaign is fairly underwhelming so far.

Well, they've only had 70+ hours so far, and I did ask five questions -- which, if I were running for the office sought by Mr. M., would take me all of five minutes to answer. And maybe he's taking Columbus Day™ (Federal Employee Edition) off. We'll continue to stand by.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Silver Linings for Dark Clouds

What's that you say, Bunky? You say you're broke? You say there's no credit to be had? You say you're waiting for the food riots? Well, you're right: things are looking pretty tough. But look on the bright side -- your empire is broke, too!

Why's that good, you ask? Well, it offers at least the possibility that "your" government -- yes, I know you're not a Goldman Sachs big boy, so it's hardly "your" government, but don't try to get technical on me -- your government, I say, may become a little less aggressive with the rest of the world. After all, it will hardly have escaped their notice that they may well be needing The Heroic Troops at home pretty soon, to keep you and I in line. Don't forget that you Support the Troops™! Anyway, check it out:
The Bush administration announced Saturday that it had removed North Korea from a list of state sponsors of terrorism in a bid to salvage a fragile nuclear deal that seemed on the verge of collapse.

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said that the United States made the decision after North Korea agreed to resume disabling a plutonium plant and to allow some inspections to verify that it had halted its nuclear program as promised months earlier.

The deal, which the Bush administration had portrayed as a major foreign policy achievement, began slipping away in recent weeks in a dispute over the verification program. Just days ago, North Korea barred international inspectors from the plant.

The decision to remove North Korea from the terror list was a dramatic moment for President Bush, who had called the country part of an “axis of evil” and had only reluctantly ordered administration officials to engage in negotiations, saying that the United States had made deals with the nation’s leaders before without winning enough concessions.
Yes, I know it may seem like rather a non sequitur to declare that North Korea has ceased to be a "state sponsor of terrorism" because they've agreed to do something that pleases Goldman Sachs our government. But never mind all that. Anything that makes our supervisors back off their snarling makes sense, whether it makes any sense or not. If our going broke will save a bunch of foreign people from getting blown up, then hey -- I'll see you at the soup kitchen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Me: Glutton for Punishment

After my experiences two years ago (here, here, here, here, and here) with the feckless Tom Hayhurst, the contemptible Kevin Knuth, and the cowardly slug "Little Mitch" Harper, you'd think I'd know better than to ask a Democratic contestant for the Marky-Mark Souder Permanent Congressional Squat to give me a little information. But, how much fun would life be if we insisted on learning from experience and acting on the lessons? So, after visiting the campaign web site of this year's Souder opponent and finding it to be so much cotton-candy piffle, I made use of his "mailto" link:
Dear Mr. Montagano,

I am considering my decision about whom to vote for – if anyone – in the 3rd congressional district contest. I’d appreciate a brief summary of your thoughts on:

1. The occupation of Iraq: will you vote to continue funding it?
2. The occupation of Afghanistan: same question.
3. If an authorization for the next president to attack Iran comes before the House, will you vote “yes” or “no?”
4. The recent bailout/rescue bill: would you have voted “yes” or “no?” Ongoing or future bailouts: same question.
5. Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research: fund or not?

I regret asking you to spend your time in this way, but your campaign website is, frankly, not particularly helpful to me in discerning what your thoughts might be on these matters, which I consider a good bit more important than “fighting for veterans” or pandering about gasoline price “gouging.” I would like to vote for you. Please give me one or more sufficient reasons to do so.

Thank you,

Jim Wetzel
Once again, I'll pass along the result -- or lack thereof.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Constitutionalism, and Other Irrelevancies

I had email today from a fellow day-job sufferer, who was passing along something he had gotten from his son. Here's the part I'd like to share, with all due caution for the privacy of those involved:
I'm getting slightly annoyed at all of the presidential candidates. I'm getting annoyed that they keep claiming "change." I'm also getting annoyed at all the people who believe that the president can bring about "change." I wonder if they've ever read the Constitution of The United States of America. If they have, they should realize that the president only has certain, limited powers.

Here are the things that the president can do, has to do and what he is: The president is the Commander in Chief of all the armed forces. He can grant reprieves and pardons to anyone for offenses done to the United States (except in the case of impeachment). He can make treaties, provided the senate approves. He can nominate ambassadors, judges, other ministers and consuls, and any other offices that aren't listed in the constitution (provided, once again, that the senate concurs). He can fill up vacancies that happen when the senate is in recess (which expire at the end of the senate's next session). He has to give a state of the Union address from time to time. He can, in an emergency, convene congress. He can also suggest and decline bills.

I don't see anything in there about controlling/saving the economy, controlling/saving businesses, providing health care, making new laws, bailing out people who make stupid decisions, cutting taxes, increasing taxes, changing the source(s) of energy used, or anything the prevalent "issues" in the current presidential race.

I fear that the United States is becoming a nation of uneducated fools, especially when it comes to politics. We don't even know what our president can and can't do. He has never been, nor will ever be a unit of change. That's just not his job. If you want something changed, go to the legislative branch or judicial branch, NOT the executive.

Unfortunately, the presidential race has become a popularity contest. Rather, it should be a display of who can better be president. That doesn't mean promoting change. It means who can command the armed forces better, who can make better decisions about who to make treaties with, etc. In reality, the president doesn't have very much to do. In fact, the government as a whole, excepting maybe the judicial branch, has really overstepped its constitutional boundaries as to what it should be doing.
I like this young man's thinking, to a large extent. But what he doesn't see here is what most people, even the much smaller number who've thought about these things to any extent, don't see. And that is: what the Constitution says or doesn't say does not matter, not at all. Those who rule us ignore the Constitution essentially whenever it suits them. And they have more guns than "we" have (I'm very unsure who "we" are, in this matter), and they appear to have a monopoly on the willingness to use those guns. Dubya is supposed to have said that the Constitution is nothing more than a "goddam piece of paper," and we are outraged. But the trouble is: he's right; it is merely a divinely-accursed piece of paper. It's a document. Documents cannot enforce themselves. If we want to be free again, the price is blood. And it's not at all clear that we have that sort of interest in being free.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Surge Is Working ...

Not to distract you from your joyous celebration of our rescue from certain economic doom by the bipartisan coalition of theives, robbers, and tyrants in DC, but:
Turkish warplanes bombed suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey early Tuesday in new airstrikes responding to an attack that killed 17 soldiers at a military outpost four days ago.

The military said its fighter jets attacked 21 rebel positions in Iraq's Avasin Baysan region and Turkish mountains bordering Iraq. The prime minister indicated a new cross-border military incursion could take place.

It was the fourth round of airstrikes on Kurdish positions since Friday's attack when rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, fired mortar rounds and artillery from Iraq at the military outpost in a Turkish valley.

The attack touched off the deadliest battle between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels in eight months. The military said Tuesday it had recovered two more rebel bodies, raising the PKK death toll in the gunbattles on the ground to 25.

The military said it had not determined how many rebels have been killed in the airstrikes.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast since 1984. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people.
Aren't you glad we have ourselves a Middle Eastern province? Aren't you glad to be a subject of the Empire that's charged with the administration and management of so peaceful, prosperous, and profitable a subsidiary?

Heckuva job, Georgie. And major props to your enablers and financiers in the Congress, too, whether their mascots are pachyderms or jackasses. I tell you, it's an honor and a privilege to pay for your adventures with what's left of my liberties and my money ... and I'm sure that those Eye-rackies who are paying with their blood are also completely happy to be doing so.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Straight to the Horse's Ass Mouth

Since I'm sure the financially-troubled "news industry" will soon be taken over by Uncle, I thought I'd go straight to the source:
Signs Show US House of Representatives May Approve Financial Rescue Plan By VOA News 03 October 2008
Support for a $700 billion plan to rescue the U.S. financial sector appears to be growing in the U.S. House of Representatives, ahead of Friday's expected vote on the bailout package. The measure already has passed a preliminary vote on procedural issues.

Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers who voted against an earlier version of the plan on Monday now say they will approve the measure. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he thinks there is a "good prospect" the bill will pass.
Well, now I have the official version, so that's good. But I see that revisions are still needed. While in most places in the propaganda leaflet news story, the Cuddly Approved Nomenclature "rescue" is used (as it should be, world-without-end-amen), in one place the Ministry of Truth worker has slipped up and used the perjorative term "bailout." Doubleplus ungood! To Room 101 with him! Or her.

Seriously, I wish we had the same protection against repeated government/bankster assault that we supposedly have against repeated criminal prosecutions on the same charge. This certainly feels like double jeopardy. The rapist gets to try again and again, as many times as are necessary to finally achieve penetration.

Sorry about the crude metaphor, but: we're screwed, and there's just no pretty way to say it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Physics or Current Events?

I gave my students the first intermediate exam this evening in PHYS 218. Here's the third problem:
(3) 20 points. A corrupt congressman – or do I repeat myself? – stands at the edge of the roof of a tall building and throws a bag of $7.0 × 10^11 of your tax money away. He throws the massive bag of loot exactly horizontally with a speed of 5.5 m/s. The bag is caught by a debt-maddened and real-estate-crazed investment banker who is standing on the street below, 27 m away from the side of the building. Calculate the height of the building. (Assume there is no air resistance.)

The answer, in case anyone's curious, is 120 meters (to two significant figures). And 7.0×10^11 is 700 billion -- a nauseatingly familiar number, at this point.

Idiocracy II: The Return

Did you ever get that email that just won't quit coming? First one person that you know forwards it to you, then another, then another ... have you been getting the same one I've been getting over the past few days? I've just received it for at least the fourth time. It must be 500 or 1000 words long, but here's the "good" part:
I'm against the $85 BILLION bailout of AIG. Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a 'We Deserve It' dividend. To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bona fide U.S. citizens, aged 18+.

Our population is about 301 million counting every man, woman and child. So, 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. Now, divide 200 million, 18+ adults into $85 billion - that equals $425,000.00 each! Yes, my plan is to give that $425,000 to every adult as a 'We Deserve It' dividend.
Here was my reply:
Good Lord, but I wish people could do arithmetic. This is about the fourth or fifth time I've seen this basic email.

$85 billion, in scientific notation, is $8.5E+10.

200 million people: 2.0E+08

$8.5E+10 / 2.0E+08 = $4.25E+02. That's 4.25 times ten to the second power dollars. That's $425.

That said: by all means, tar and feathers is way the hell too good for the bailout pushers. A clean lynching is really a little too good. But still ... calculators are cheap and easy to use.
Look: I am a sick-minded cynic, thoroughly convinced of the futility of activism of any sort. So, I'll be a hypocrite as well, by recommending activity to my readers. Please, friends and neighbors, laugh at this wherever you see it. Maybe we can laugh this one right out of existence.

Yeah, sure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stay of Bailout

Looks as if we're safe for a couple of days, as the criminal community has failed to reach a division-of-spoils agreement. And now, as befits deeply observant Jewish people, they're taking a couple of days to contemplate repentance on the occasion of the Feast of Trumpets.

The news accounts have suggested that opposition to the robbery came from the supposedly opposed ends of the celebrated "political spectrum" -- conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. To the unknown extent to which this is true, it paints at least a slightly cheerful picture: people with principles of one kind or another rejecting the business-as-usual synthesis of crap being shoveled by the functionaries of the Mushy Middle.

Meanwhile, I was going to wax sarcastic about the idea of the hell-minions of DC feeling the need to knock off for a couple of days' worth of religious holiday. But, on second thought, what a good thing! Just because the supply of religious Jews in the Congress is undoubtedly very thin -- that's no reason for all our Congresscritters, Jew and Gentile alike, not to observe Rosh Hashanah. Let them all take some time off ... a couple of weeks, even! And even though they're 95% Satan-spawn, by all means, let every one of our rulers observe not only Holy Week, come Eastertime, but maybe an entire Holy Month! If anyone knows some good Buddhist or Hindu or Shinto holidays that could be the cause of some lengthy legislative absences, by all means, let's hear them. And why shouldn't the Congress knock off for Ramadan -- that's pretty much a whole month, isn't it? You see where I'm going with this. Let safety spread across the whole of the calendar!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Duh-mockracy on Stage

So, I'm sitting here typing the previous post and listening to Grampaw Angry-Pants and Sen. Yes-We-Can having a little one-up contest to see who is the more obsequious servant to Twelve Tribes™, Inc., and who hates Iran more. We have a murderous cokehead in the Oval Office now, and we will soon have either a murderous Alzheimer's patient or a murderous confidence man taking his spot. (Do you sense a theme here? What do these men have in common?) At times like these, a great big Imperial money meltdown sounds like not only a great idea, but a downright necessity if a whole 'nother raft-o-people are to escape slaughter.

Last second update: Grampaw has counted the number of letters in "KGB" correctly! Out-freakin'-standing.

Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things. My high-school "government" teacher told me so. On the other hand, he was a football-coaching moron, too, wasn't he?

Me: Wrong Again

Yesterday (and below), I claimed that the skids were greased and the deal was done. The money boys who own our supervisors already had their 5-feet-in-diameter supply hose inserted into the treasury, and El Presidente was about to close the switch to start the 50,000-horsepower pumps. Then, suddenly, the deal wasn't done, and everybody was mad; and today, there seems to be uncertainty:
Central banks step in as bail-out fears mount

By Norma Cohen, Economics Correspondent

The Bank of England moved on Friday to inject longer term cash into money markets as part of a co-ordinated effort with the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

The intervention came after White House talks over a $700bn bailout for the US financial system broke up late on Thursday without agreement.
Now, the Big D.C. Bustup may be nothing more than puppet theater for the edification of the rubes (us). It may be that the idea is to ratchet up the fear; the WaMu failure/seizure would serve admirably as one part of the set dressing in the Theater of Money Terror. That proves nothing, of course; with our supervisors being complete strangers to truth, and the corporate, complicit, etiolated remnants of the press being little more than our supervisors' publicists, we're reduced to guessing. It may be that the Great Financiers will be somewhat delayed in starting the pumps; it's even (faintly) possible that they won't get it done at all. I still think they will. If I'm wrong, I'll be glad -- oh, very glad! -- to say so.

We shall see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Done Deal

How many parties rule us? We have a how-many-party system, you keep telling me? Now I have to decide whether to believe you, or my lying eyes:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Warned of a possible financial panic, key Republicans and Democrats reported agreement in principle Thursday on a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry and said they would present it to the Bush administration in hopes of a vote within days. Emerging from a two-hour negotiating session, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee chairman said, "We are very confident that we can act expeditiously."
Now, there's something about which I can agree with Sen. Dodd. I, too, am very confident that they can -- and will -- act expeditiously.

Folks, we have "government" by the ruling class, for the ruling class, and they aren't going to get themselves off our necks. If we don't do it, who's gonna? And no, I'm not talking about voting Obama, either.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Do Love Our Wars

I saw something today that was excerpted from Kurt Vonnegut's unpublished papers. And, although we are of course completely preoccupied with how confidence in the markets can be restored, it's worth a few minutes to read. Here's a small taste:
It was a routine speech we got during our first day of basic training, delivered by a wiry little lieutenant: “Men, up to now you’ve been good, clean, American boys with an American’s love for sportsmanship and fair play. We’re here to change that.

“Our job is to make you the meanest, dirtiest bunch of scrappers in the history of the world. From now on, you can forget the Marquess of Queensberry rules and every other set of rules. Anything and everything goes.

“Never hit a man above the belt when you can kick him below it. Make the bastard scream. Kill him any way you can. Kill, kill, kill – do you understand?”

His talk was greeted with nervous laughter and general agreement that he was right. “Didn’t Hitler and Tojo say the Americans were a bunch of softies? Ha! They’ll find out.”

And of course, Germany and Japan did find out: a toughened-up democracy poured forth a scalding fury that could not be stopped. It was a war of reason against barbarism, supposedly, with the issues at stake on such a high plane that most of our feverish fighters had no idea why they were fighting – other than that the enemy was a bunch of bastards. A new kind of war, with all destruction, all killing approved.

A lot of people relished the idea of total war: it had a modern ring to it, in keeping with our spectacular technology. To them it was like a football game.

[Back home in America], three small-town merchants’ wives, middle-aged and plump, gave me a ride when I was hitchhiking home from Camp Atterbury. “Did you kill a lot of them Germans?” asked the driver, making cheerful small-talk. I told her I didn’t know.

This was taken for modesty. As I was getting out of the car, one of the ladies patted me on the shoulder in motherly fashion: “I’ll bet you’d like to get over and kill some of them dirty Japs now, wouldn’t you?”

We exchanged knowing winks. I didn’t tell those simple souls that I had been captured after a week at the front; and more to the point, what I knew and thought about killing dirty Germans, about total war. The reason for my being sick at heart then and now has to do with an incident that received cursory treatment in the American newspapers. In February 1945, Dresden, Germany, was destroyed, and with it over 100,000 human beings. I was there. Not many know how tough America got.

And seriously, folks: if we didn't love war so much, we wouldn't be contemplating this "economic meltdown" either. War, after all, is the polluted spring from which flows both material debt and ruinous destruction -- physical, mental, and spiritual.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just Say NO -- Or Maybe Something a Little Stronger

After listening to NPR during my morning travels, I was going to write yet another lunchtime post about this. But I see where Slacktivist has said it much better than I would have:
When in the course of human events a purportedly democratic official demands that the people give him $700,000,000,000 -- no strings attached, by week's end, or else -- then the duly elected representatives of the people have one and only one responsible response: Say "No."

Better yet, say "Hell no."
There's more; go read it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Woooooooo -- hoooooo!!!!!

It's official: I have arrived.

Friends, I think what this means is that I can spend all the money I have, plus a whole ton that I don't have, on insane "investments." When it doesn't work out, I know the gummint will force you all to bail me out. Because ... I'm too big to fail!

Ah, it's good to be the king.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Say What You Mean

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.

--- George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
The genius of George Orwell is again illustrated by today's words from Mr. Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury and one of the Chief Thiefs in Washington. (Yes, I know it's "thieves," but then you lose that nice internal rhyme.) Let's just listen to him talk:
The underlying weakness in our financial system today is the illiquid mortgage assets that have lost value as the housing correction has proceeded. These illiquid assets are choking off the flow of credit that is so vitally important to our economy. When the financial system works as it should, money and capital flow to and from households and businesses to pay for home loans, school loans and investments that create jobs. As illiquid mortgage assets block the system, the clogging of our financial markets has the potential to have significant effects on our financial system and our economy.
Well, that certainly paints a vivid picture: both money and debt are fluids (liquids or gases, we know not, but fluids in any case) that are supposed to flow through "the system" (plumbing, maybe?). But there's good debt and then there's bad debt: this latter is those pesky "illiquid mortgage assets," meaning loans that no sane person would ever make with his own money, nor would any honest person ever make with anyone else's money. These are assets only in the sense that the borrower's going to pay them back, which he's not -- so, they are really assets in the same way that the pile of fragrant turds that your neighbor's dog left in your yard are assets. They're the sort of assets bought voluntarily only by lunatics. So, anyway, these block and clog the system, so we're supposed to think of them as hairballs in the drain pipe, and be grateful to Plumber Paulson for removing them, or even heroically trying to remove them, so that your system flows again. Let's try translating Mr. Paulson into clear English:

It's very important that many people who have a lots of money be able and willing to lend it to both you, the American people, and to the U.S. government. This is very important because the American people consume many goods and produce very little, and thus their continued consumption requires that they borrow; and the same is true of the government, which produces absolutely nothing that anyone would willingly buy, and spends money at unbelievable rates; it must, then, either tax you at rates that you cannot and will not pay, or borrow, or print counterfeit money. Many of these people with money don't have it any more, because they lent it to many of you, whose declining real incomes (see the parts about "produce very little" and "print counterfeit money") make it impossible for you to pay it back. This is very bad. If the lenders don't have money, they can't lend it; and in an economy that runs on debt, there has to be lots and lots of lending going on.

Returning to Mr. Paulson:
As we all know, lax lending practices earlier this decade led to irresponsible lending and irresponsible borrowing. This simply put too many families into mortgages they could not afford. We are seeing the impact on homeowners and neighborhoods, with 5 million homeowners now delinquent or in foreclosure. What began as a sub-prime lending problem has spread to other, less-risky mortgages, and contributed to excess home inventories that have pushed down home prices for responsible homeowners.

A similar scenario is playing out among the lenders who made those mortgages, the securitizers who bought, repackaged and resold them, and the investors who bought them. These troubled loans are now parked, or frozen, on the balance sheets of banks and other financial institutions, preventing them from financing productive loans. The inability to determine their worth has fostered uncertainty about mortgage assets, and even about the financial condition of the institutions that own them. The normal buying and selling of nearly all types of mortgage assets has become challenged.

These illiquid assets are clogging up our financial system, and undermining the strength of our otherwise sound financial institutions. As a result, Americans' personal savings are threatened, and the ability of consumers and businesses to borrow and finance spending, investment, and job creation has been disrupted.
Again, we see money being metaphorically turned into other things in order to put a picture in our minds, so we won't notice what's really going on because we're mesmerized by the picture. Again, our system is being blocked and clogged by illiquid assets that are also somehow frozen and parked on balance sheets, and those poor banksters have a problem: they don't know what these assets are worth! I have a simple suggestion that can be useful to anyone with such a problem. If you don't know what something is worth, sell it. What the buyer will pay is what it's "worth." If no one will buy it ... guess what? It's worth nothing. Of course, that's not really acceptable information, is it?

And how is it that Americans' personal savings are threatened? Well, gee ... I wonder if maybe the banksters used other people's money -- yours, maybe -- to buy all these worthless loans? Bingo.

Moving along:
The federal government must implement a program to remove these illiquid assets that are weighing down our financial institutions and threatening our economy. This troubled asset relief program must be properly designed and sufficiently large to have maximum impact, while including features that protect the taxpayer to the maximum extent possible. The ultimate taxpayer protection will be the stability this troubled asset relief program provides to our financial system, even as it will involve a significant investment of taxpayer dollars. I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative -- a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets unable to fund economic expansion.
Ah, yes, remove these illiquid assets: another stupid metaphor (a spatial one this time). But actually, there will indeed be some removal going on. Your gub'mint is going to reach into your pocket and remove the swag necessary to make good the banksters' losses. Or, wait a minute: you don't have that swag in your pocket, do you? So they can't simply tax you for it. What they'll do, then, is to borrow some more from the rest of the world, meaning that it'll theoretically be your children's children's problem; or they'll fire up the printing presses and debase the currency still more (there goes even more of your real income, and here comes $5 or $6 gasoline).

I can't take any more of Mr. Paulson. Let's go back to Orwell:
Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
As my old Dad used to say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hope Is Where You Find It

O Weary Masses of the World, lift up your eyes and dare to hope! Look to America, the indispensable nation, the last best hope of mankind, the shining city on a hill! Open your eyes, and see your salvation approach!

The Empire may have maxed out its last credit card. The zero-percent-introductory-rate balance transfer game may just about be finished. Can't buy no bombs if you don't got no money, nohow.

As we paddle our canoe gently downriver, I'm thinking maybe I hear a soft-in-the-distance rumbling, roaring sound ahead:
The Federal Reserve said that it would make it easier for companies to access the central bank's cash by accepting a wider range of assets, including equities, as collateral for direct loans to investment banks.

The Fed, which is due to meet tomorrow to decide interest rates, also raised the size of the pool of available loans to $200 billion and suspended rules that prevent banks from using deposits to fund their investment banking businesses.
Hmmmm, that couldn't be a big waterfall up ahead, could it? Naaaaw, it must not be a waterfall. That would be bad.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Need to Feel Sorry for Americans

They're already feeling plenty sorry for themselves:
NEW YORK (AP) — Relatives of victims killed at the World Trade Center are observing moments of silence to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The ceremony at ground zero included moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. — the times that two hijacked jets slammed into the twin towers. Two more moments of silence were to be held at the times the towers fell.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the ceremony by telling the tearful audience: "Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken."

Other ceremonies are being held throughout the day around the country, including in Washington and in Pennsylvania. Barack Obama and John McCain are due at ground zero to pay silent respects.
Whether there was any big, officially-organized twentieth anniversary remembrance in Iran for the 290 passengers on the Airbus civilian jetliner that was blown out of the sky by the U.S.S. Vincennes, on 3 July 1988, I can't say; if there was, our corporate/government news sources either didn't know or didn't find it newsworthy. Given the prevailing conditions in Iraq, I don't suppose there's much in the way of organized self-pity over the million or so, give or take a few hundred thousand, who've been slaughtered as a result of fully-bipartisan U.S. foreign policy since 1990, from Bush War I through the sanctions regime of the Clinton years, which claimed hundreds of thousands of children, through Bush War II and the subsequent occupation/colonization. Besides, it isn't as though there's a single, particular day to point at there; our bellicose devotion to Iraqi Freedom™ overshadows the whole of the calendar.

In the terrorism of 11 September 2001, a total of 2,819 people were killed. That's about one-fifteenth of the total number of traffic-accident deaths in the U.S. that year (42,116). It's one-tenth of one percent of the 2,416,425 people who died from all causes in the US that year. Still, it pleases our mass-murdering supervisors that we should all be expected to wallow in a synthetic orgy of self-pity from time to time throughout this day.

To Hell with it, say I, and most especially to Hell with our supervisors. Seven years ago, 2,819 people were killed by a criminal conspiracy. The people who directly did it died in the act, and are thus beyond the short reach of imperfect human justice. No doubt they were directed, supported, and enabled by a relative handful of other guilty people, who would be appropriate subjects for some constitutional remedy such as letters of marque and reprisal. But that's not what happened. The fact remains that we are "governed" by war criminals for the benefit of corporate war profiteers and one particularly-favored Middle Eastern democracy ... and it must be the sort of governance that we deserve, since the US citizenry is too well armed to be so governed without at least its passive consent. No, we howled for this brutal and ruinous pseudo-war, and we begged our supervisors to take as many of our remaining liberties as might please them, in a futile and contemptible exchange for a nonexistent security that our supervisors cannot provide, and would not even if they could.

And there lies the true shame and sorrow of this day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

There's No Fool Like a Greater Fool

Well, well. We, collectively, are the Greater Fool:
The greater fool theory ... is the belief held by one who makes a questionable investment, with the assumption that they will be able to sell it later to "a bigger fool"; in other words, buying something not because you believe that it is worth the price, but rather because you believe that you will be able to sell it to some one else for an even higher price.
In this case, the "greater fool" theoretician-investors were perfectly correct in thinking that there would, eventually, be a corps of idiots available to populate the layer below them on the pyramid, because Uncle Sugar is able to draft you and I for the purpose:
Fannie and Freddie were chartered by Congress, and so historically, investors — especially foreign ones — have bought their debt because they believed it was backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, akin to Treasury bonds.

The takeover makes that guarantee explicit for the time being. Paulson said the issue of whether there should be a government guarantee would have to be resolved: "We're going to have to decide whether we want to have government support for private profit."
And that's a neat summary of state capitalism for you, right there. It combines the worst of both worlds: it's collectivist in the sense that every man's supposed property is "his" only at State sufferance; but it differs from full-up Marxism in that it provides explicity for the reaping of profits by private individuals who are favored by the State. Who are these favored folk? From my position in the dark recesses of the mushroom farm, I cannot say. It's clear, though, that the sources of the swag must be many, and the recipients few; otherwise, the game doesn't work. One thing that you and I, gentle reader, can be sure of is that each of us has a slot to fill in the bottom level of the pyramid. I'm no enthusiast for Brother Karl Marx, but I can't dispute that a lot of what we see around us is easier to understand in the context of a class analysis than in any other way. Leona Helmsley is supposed to have said, "Paying taxes is for the little people." However much (or little) truth may have been in that, I think we're going to see that ownership in the twin pigpiles of Fannie and Freddie is also going to be for the little people.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told NPR that the primary reason for the rescue was the discovery of a "capital deficiency that needed to be addressed." In other words, they didn't have an adequate cushion against further losses in the deteriorating housing market.

Paulson said that investors have become "increasingly jittery here and around the world" and unwilling to provide added capital for Fannie and Freddie. He said the action was taken to ensure the continued availability of mortgages and to protect taxpayers. Currently, Fannie and Freddie are providing financing for more than two-thirds of all mortgages originated in the U.S.
"Increasingly jittery." That's one way of putting it, I suppose; "smart enough to read the writing on the wall" might be another. Clearly, we're at a point where the available swag has already been looted, and few are foolish enough to voluntarily join the party. The hour has come for the Greater Fool to make his appearance.

Hello, fellow fool!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Local Puzzle Update

Now I almost feel bad for picking on the Disenfranchised One. (Speaking of which, I'm also kind of wondering: does she know what that word means?)

Anyway, she's changed her header image. I guess she figures it's better if it's interspecies:

Thing is, it's still a great big elephant, and its partner, while now a different kind of animal, is still little. I guess the subtext here is that Republican pederasty is fine, as long as the victim's a Democrat. Or a small(er) animal. Or something.

Any way you look at it, that's one skeevy pachyderm. (Look it up, Jennifer.)

As a lady I know from the message-board days asked one day, earlier this year: "Is there anyone left in the Republican Party who still makes love to women? Aside from the women, that is."

Pretty funny.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

National Puzzle

I have nothing profound for today. But Will Grigg does.

In his caption, he asks an excellent question:
Where do God and family fit if "Country" -- meaning the government -- comes first? Republican cultists perform on cue at the GOP convention.

Let me recommend the whole piece to you. Mr. Grigg offers an unusually thoughtful and nuanced take on the Palin Phenomenon in the context of Imperial twilight.

Purely-Local Puzzle

Sure, I'll admit it -- I might rubberneck just a little bit as I slowly roll past an overturned tractor-trailer that's spilled an enormous cargo of nasty little Indonesian-made rubber novelties all over the grass on the highway median. And I slide over [link removed -- she must not be proud of her work!] every now and then, too, just to see what's piled up on the shoulder of the roadway.

Look -- I get that she's a hater ... she says so herself, and who am I to dispute her? But I do have to wonder: she's a fully-automatic GOP-bot, right? Can it be that she really doesn't know what this little graphic refers to?

Hint for the "disenfranchised" one: the big elephant ... well, let's just say that what the big elephant is doing to the little elephant is neither wholesome nor attractive.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tuneful Interlude

From William Grigg at Pro Libertate, in turn quoting from Ron Paul's speech at the "Rally For the Republic:"
Aimee Allen sang the song “(The) Universal Soldier” for me because I asked her to do that. It talks really about the essence of decision-making. It talks about should you strike and not participate any longer.

It’s the universal soldier that allows the power-mongers around Washington to exist. It’s always done by getting the young people and making them feel that, if they don’t participate, they’re unpatriotic. I think of the story of the early days of WWI, on Christmas Eve, when the Germans and the British took a break and began singing Christmas carols. And then, on the morrow, the leaders came back and said, “You will go back to killing one another.”

As a young man, as a doctor, I was drafted. There were times that people were starting to resist, but I marched off and I was the Universal Soldier. What we need today is the Universal Champion of Liberty.

Everything Has Its Price

So, I'm on my way home from the day job last night, and it's going on 6 pm, and I'm listening to NPR. It would usually be "All Things Considered" at that hour, I think, and maybe it still was, but it was all Republican convention coverage. (Sorry, don't know that I can link a particular broadcast, and I'm too lazy to try just now ... maybe you heard it.) I happened to catch a live interview with Kansas senator Sam Brownback, who's all Christian-conservative and pro-life and all of that, and he was being asked about The Sarah Palin Thing. Now, here's where I wish I could link to the interview, because I can't quote him exactly; I was just doing the old-school driving and listening to the radio procedure. But I think I can paraphrase him fairly. What he said was: McCain really wanted Joe Lieberman, but, you know, it's a shame, but that just wasn't getting any support among the delegates when it was floated, and it just couldn't be done. Because, you know, there are some basic differences between Joe Lieberman and us on, you know, the social issues. I had a speech prepared to put his name into nomination, but it just wasn't happening, and it's a real shame, because, you know, he's really with us on security.

Well, I got to thinking: there the whole thing is, in a nutshell. Summed up so neatly. People like me, people who don't think it should be legal to kill babies, people who acquired criminal records back in the Operation Rescue days ... we're supposed to be supporting the GOP, and we're supposed to be tickled pink with "leaders" on the order of Sen. Brownback. In my mind, Sen. Brownback can usefully serve as a symbol for the whole GOP. He says he's "pro-life," and I have no reason to believe he's lying. I'm willing to assume that he is "pro-life," whatever he may understand that to mean. But, you know, he has his priorities. First of all, he's got to have his war. No matter what else, he's going to get his war on. The entire party: they may profess some mild interest in circumscribing abortion, at the margins. They may affect to think that the inverted fraternity getting all gay-married will weaken marriage (although their own serial adulteries apparently don't). They may nod politely to the idea of low taxes and small government (although, not lately). But first things first: they will get their war on. The rest of that stuff is, at most, boob-bait for folks like me.

Die, GOP. Go on ... die a little. You literally cannot die fast enough to suit me.