Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Have Credit Card, Will Do Charity

Hey, Dubya: don't let a little thing like being broke stop you from fixing all the world's problems:
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush signed legislation Wednesday that triples U.S. funding to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world.

The five-year, $48 billion plan renews a program credited with saving millions of lives in Africa alone and is widely seen as one of the major achievements of the Bush presidency.

Bush said the program, launched by him in 2003, "is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history."

The president signed the bill in the ornate East Room of the White House, surrounded by lawmakers and people affected by AIDS whom he met on his February trip to Africa.

The legislation is a rare case of relatively easy cooperation between the Democratic-controlled Congress and the White House. It passed the House last week by a 303-115 vote and the Senate earlier in the month by a vote of 80-16.

It renews Bush's original five-year, $15 billion program called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which was set to expire in September.

Some GOP conservatives questioned the new plan's sharp spending increase. But most on both sides of the aisle, and in groups that advocate both health initiatives and Africa, praised the U.S. aid for boosting America's reputation abroad.
Yes indeed, it seems that throwing some more spending on the national MasterCard™ unites our supervisors across those nasty old "party lines."

Or maybe there's really only one party? Ya think?

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Was Wondering How It Would Work

I was driving around in the rental car while on my trip last week, and the car had satellite radio, and I found an all-politics channel. I must enjoy pain, I guess. And there was Ol' Grampaw Angry-Pants, 'splainin' to us how he's gonna fix the mortgage crisis. I don't know how to link to a particular XM broadcast, so I looked on the official Angry-Pants web site to see if I had heard correctly. I did. Here it is:
How It Works: Individuals pick up a form at any Post Office or download the form over the Internet and apply for a HOME loan. The FHA HOME Office certifies that the individual is qualified, and contacts the individual's mortgage servicer. The mortgage servicer writes down and retires the existing loan, which is replaced by an FHA guaranteed HOME loan from a lender.
So let's see if I've got this right. Let's say I bought a McMansion a few years ago for, oh, let's say $500K. Today, through the magic of the fundamentally-sound 'Murkan economy, and compound interest and so forth, it's "worth" maybe $120K. So the lender is going to "write down" (how does that work?) and "retire" (that, too) my balance (which is probably about $499.9K at this point), and I get a loan from Grampaw for $120K, and I get to keep the McMansion. Let's see ... who takes it in the shorts? Me? Think again; I get a lower house payment and I get to keep living beyond my means. The lender? You must be joking; the lender's going to be paid the difference, or most of it, to facilitate all this "writing-down" and "retirement." The gummint? Well, it'll be gummint checks, all right, but the gummint doesn't take it in its own (nonexistent) shorts; it has to take it in your shorts -- the only shorts available.

So, if you bought "modest" housing that you actually are able to afford, you get to pay, in part, for my 3500-square-foot slice of paradise! Congratulations, and thanks for your generosity. Don't expect any dinner invitations, though; I don't want to see your old car parked in my sweeping driveway.

OK, it's all clear, now. And thanks to you, too, Gramps.

Announcing: the Winner!

William Grigg is hereby recognized as a Complete Genius by virtue of his winning the First Annual Chestnut Tree Complete Genius Award. To see why, check out his analysis of the bailout of our good friends Fannie and Freddie here. I did not realize, when I saw Reservoir Dogs, that I was seeing an extended metaphor of state "capitalism" in the U.S.

I'm really not looking forward to the scene where "Stuck in the Middle With You" plays. I just hate being taped to a kitchen chair when Mr. Blonde turns on the radio and gets out the straight razor.

I haven't decided yet what the prize is (that's awarded to Chestnut Tree Complete Geniuses). I guess maybe I don't have to decide unless Mr. Grigg shows up to claim it. If he does ... well, one thing I know: whatever it is, it's cheap.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hate Index

I threw a few increasingly-worthless Federal Reserve notes into the Ron Paul money bomb, but was never really on-board with him. I'm pretty sure that what ails America is not curable through the hopelessly-corrupt electoral "process." I'm fairly sure that what ails America is not curable at all, other than in the sense in which it could be said that the patient's death is what finally "cured" his disease. Still, I was happy to send in my hundred bucks for, basically, entertainment value; it was the same sort of money that some people, whose tastes run that way, might spend on lottery tickets.

Still, it occurs to me after completing my usual online circuit of reading and shaking my head at train wrecks that I still have to like Ron Paul. I figure, when you attract hatred from venues as apparently diverse as this one and this one, you're doing something right.

This underlines, I think, the meaninglessness of the whole left-right paradigm which serves so many of us as an easy substitute for a coherent political philosophy. No doubt, these two sets of Paul-haters would be horrified at the thought of having anything more than a time zone in common. But those who think state-ishly understand, on a gut level, that the real enemy is liberty, even in a mild and diluted form; and they do their hating accordingly.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Travel Report

Give or take a monsoon or two, it's all good in northeastern Mass. But there were several days of serious, serious rain, resulting in several losses of electricity at the company I was visiting. And there just isn't much that's done these days without a clean, steady supply of 115 VAC.

And I saw lots and lots of these:

In the little part of New England where I was lurking, you can pretty much stand in the driveway of any Drunken Donuts and hit an easy 6-iron shot into the driveway of the next Drunken Donuts. There must be some sort of regional law that requires the availability of the Ubiquitous Treat at intervals not exceeding 150 meters or so.

As a techno-tourist, I likes me some Boston; the people I worked with are competent, relaxed, and friendly. It is true that some of them talk funny. In fact, I casually overheard a break-room conversation in which one of them failed to understand the other. A lady was describing some sort of rural housing that lacked central heating, and the man, seeking clarification, was asking her (several times), "Did ya have heat?" The way it came out, the did ya have was compressed into a sort of hybrid combined consonant plus the short a, and the nice lady (who herself sounded plenty Boston to me) was very puzzled by her co-worker's repeatedly asking "Jap heat?" I could tell that it seemed rather rude to her. "You mean, 'Japanese?' " Finally, she got a slow enough repetition that all was clear.

It's good to go, and it's good to return. And now, I have some work to do.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Climbing Up the Topsail ...

... and I lost my leg! Therefore, I'm shipping up to Boston:

in order to find my wooden leg. I think I'll try to avoid the hooligan-rockers, and instead visit these folks, who are preparing to test a nice piece of optics that is of sufficient interest to my day-job employer that I'm exiled to New England almost all week. (I'm not leaving until early Tuesday morning, but tomorrow's going to be a little crazy, and I doubt I'll get online.)

So, Deo volente, I'll be back next weekend, and I'll make a full report on conditions in eastern Massachusetts, to the extent that I'm able to observe them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Revenge of the Nerds

I suppose it's irresponsible of me, but somehow, I just have to like this guy:
A San Francisco municipal employee is charged with hacking the city's computer system and creating a secret password that gave him virtually exclusive access to most of the city's municipal data.
Hey, wait just a minute: "a secret password?" What the hell other kind of password is there, anyway?
While in jail, held on $5 million bail, he still has refused to reveal the password that would give full access to the network back to city employees, city officials say.

Terry Childs, 43, will plead not guilty in court today, his lawyer told

Childs, an employee of the city's Department of Technology, was arrested Sunday and charged with four counts of computer network tampering.

"He was able to prevent other authorized users from being able to access the system, and at same time, put in place devices that gave him access to areas of the network which he was not authorized to access," said Erica Derryck, spokeswoman for the San Francisco district attorney's office.
If I'm that IT guy, I'm telling them: I'm not talking to you clowns. Go get Detectives Green and Fontana to interrogate me, then bring in Jack McCoy and a few of his attractive associates to negotiate my plea bargain, which will be: you get your password, and I plead guilty to, let's say, some "D" misdemeanor -- time served, and a $5 fine. Case closed, dudes, and next time, learn some CS instead of jacking around in law school.

Of course it's too much to hope for, but I'd like to see Mr. Childs's next job be with some part of the Fed'rul Gooberment. Ideally, in the Pentagon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just What We Needed -- An Aggressive, High-Risk Investment

What kind of idiot optimist ponies up the grocery money to buy Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock? Why, you and I do, of course. And if we don't think that's such a good idea, no problem ... we can just do it anyway. And like it. And smile. It seems that we have new managers for our portfolios: the chair-moisteners in DC.

Don't worry, though. I'm sure that even if it all goes wrong -- and it's hard to imagine anything going wrong with the prudent players in real-estate finance -- we'll all be taken care of, somehow. The taxpayers will bail us out!

Oh, yeah, wait, that's right ... sorry. Never mind.

Evil Speculators

Senator Reid has the answer:
Shortly following the president's 1:30 p.m. EDT speech, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Congress should focus instead on curbing the role financial investors have played in driving up oil prices.

"We need to crack down on excessive speculation," said Reid in a press conference, which was broadcast.

By Wednesday, he said his Democratic colleagues planned to introduce a bill that would target oil speculation.
I wonder how excessive speculation will be defined, legally? For that matter, I wonder how speculation itself will be defined, legally. Somehow, I doubt that the visionaries who supervise us from Mordor-on-the-Potomac will let niggling details of that sort slow them down. I imagine Sen. Reid, for example, would reply if asked that that's what regulators, and the courts, are for.

Of course, no responsible person will suggest that most of the speculation in oil would no longer be occurring if the U.S. would remove its legions from the Middle East and stop picking a war with Iran. That wouldn't be responsible, not at all.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

So: the U.S. Senate has once again demonstrated that it's as bad as the House of Representatives, this time by the razor-thin margin of 69 to 28. Yet, in some quarters, there continues to be great exultation about the coming Democratic Party sweep into undisputed power, legislative and executive. Hmmmmm ... anybody think 21 Senate seats will change hands? And, even if we lived in some parallel universe in which that would happen, anybody think 21 "better" Democrats would be elected? Yeah, me neither.

And yes, of course Senator Change We Can Believe In was among the 69. And yes, of course his vote will join the growing collection of his vile words and deeds that Democratic partisans will explain away as clever bits of election-year subterfuge, which the real Obama will immediately reverse and repudiate on gaining office. That is, of course, if everyone will just believe hard enough and clap loudly enough.

The terrifying truth is that most "progressives" are just fine with the anti-constitutional FISA secret-court system; they're just miffed because now AT&T won't be getting sued. Most "conservatives" are, obviously, wildly enthusiastic about the explosive growth of the authoritarian Surveillance State. Our supervisors took false oaths to look after the constitution, and they deserve to be shot for the way they've wiped their large and smelly asses on those oaths; however, 99%+ of Americans are getting nothing worse than the "government" that they so richly deserve. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the party's nearly over. All that remains to be seen is how ugly the last few minutes of it will be. I'm doing what I can -- which is to say, praying for mercy.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Sedition from brazen insurgents:
... We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security ...
'Nuff said.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Change You Can Believe In

With emphasis on you, that is. I'm not feeling particularly credulous today. The AP has performed a minor public service by assembling a number of "statements" from St. Barack on his plans for the American military presence in Mesopotamia after he's elected (and he will be ... I can't see my fellow 'Murkans installing Ol' Grampaw Angry-Pants as their new Dear Leader). I was looking into this business after hearing a piece on the subject on NPR as I was leaving the day job yesterday afternoon. My interest was tweaked by one of those block phrases that we all hear so often that they become, effectively, single words that aren't really heard at all: "combat troops." The Obam-ster was being quoted as insisting that he wasn't really drifting hawkish, not at all: he was still going to be pulling a brigade of combat troops out of Iraq every single month, leaving no combat troops at all after 16 such months.

So I got to thinking ... why the combat distinction? What other sorts of "troops" are there? Truck drivers? Driving one of the Legion's trucks has to be one of the more dangerous things you can do in Iraq. A statement from the Obama web site (cited in the AP story) seems to make a comforting suggestion:
Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats ...
But then, something a little less warm 'n' fuzzy:
if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.
Later on, it gets even more Dubya-esque:
In a March speech, he said: "We will have to make tactical adjustments, listening to our commanders on the ground, to ensure that our interests in a stable Iraq are met, and to make sure that our troops are secure."

- In June, on MSNBC, he said: "I've also consistently said that I will consult with military commanders on the ground and that we will always be open to the possibility of tactical adjustments."
Ah, yes, the infallible commanders on the ground that the current Decider invokes at the drop of a supplementary funding authorization. I wonder who Obama's Petraeus will be? Don't be too quick to assume it won't be, simply, Petraeus; I have no reason to think that a good, tame, photogenic, political general -- with a Roman-style name, no less -- is all that easy to find. Obama may have to get used to the idea of eating leftovers.

I also did some math. Obama can get all the combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months, at a "brigade" a month. That must mean there's 16 brigades of combat troops. So, what's a "brigade?" Being a mere softass civilian, I had to do a little research. Fortunately, the internets make that easy:
A brigade is a military unit that is typically composed of two to five regiments or battalions, depending on the era and nationality of a given army. Usually, a brigade is a sub-component of a division, a larger unit consisting of two or more brigades; however, some brigades are classified as a separate brigade and operate independently from the traditional division structure. The typical NATO standard brigade consists of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 troops.
Let's suppose St. Obama's talking about a "standard NATO brigade." For 4,000 to 5,000 people, let's use the middle of the range: 4,500. Sixteen times that is 72,000. And we currently have, let's see, something like 140,000 "military personnel" in Iraq, give or take a surge here and there. The result: Obama, the antiwar candidate, the peace candidate, wants to remove half the Americans from Iraq, and he wants to take a year-and-a-half to do it. And that's assuming that the commanders on the ground don't advise him otherwise in the meantime.

Tu - tu - tu - tu - tu - turn to face the strange ... changes ... look out, all you rock-and-rollers ... Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What Did He Mean By "Around the World?"

Didja hear the one about the confused sex-industry worker? No? Well, it seems that there was this "escort" who accepted a hundred bucks from a guy after making a vague verbal agreement that they would subsequently "party." But then she had to give the money back. Turns out that she thought "party" meant that they would enjoy some chit-chat and light refreshments in the company of a like-minded group of partiers, and that she might choose to give the guy a firm handshake at the end of the evening; he, on the other hand, seemed to expect that they would go somewhere private, just the two of them, and do ... well, some highly private sorts of things. Well, all right, it wasn't very funny. I never could tell jokes right. It does, however, remind me of some "churches" who may not have understood what jumping into bed with Uncle might involve:
But Mr. Obama’s plan pointedly departed from the Bush administration’s stance on one fundamental issue: whether religious organizations that get federal money for social services can take faith into account in their hiring. Mr. Bush has said yes. Mr. Obama said no.

“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion,” Mr. Obama said. “Federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs.”

Mr. Obama’s position that religious organizations would not be able to consider religion in their hiring for such programs would constitute a deal-breaker for many evangelicals, said several evangelical leaders, who represent a political constituency Mr. Obama has been trying to court.

“For those of who us who believe in protecting the integrity of our religious institutions, this is a fundamental right,” said Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. “He’s rolling back the Bush protections. That’s extremely disappointing.”

Early in his first term, Mr. Bush issued executive orders expressly allowing religion-based groups receiving federal money to consider religion in their employment decisions, although confusion often remains in this area because of conflicting federal, state and local laws.

Martha Minnow, a professor of law at Harvard University who has written about religion-based initiatives and has advised the Obama campaign on the issue, said Mr. Obama would move to “return the law to what it was before the current administration,” in other words barring the consideration of religion in hiring decisions for such programs that receive federal financing.

“I don’t think there’s anything too controversial about that,” said. “Any religious organization that does not want to comply with that requirement simply doesn’t have to take the money.”

But evangelical leaders said not allowing religious groups to hire based on their beliefs would strip them of the very basis for religion-based programs.

“If you can’t hire people within your faith community, then you’ve lost the distinctive that is the reason why faith-based programs exist in the first place,” said Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Well, Mr. Cizik, I can certainly understand your extreme disappointment at finding that your childlike faith and trust in "the Bush protections" was poorly invested. But then, I'd suggest that any religious institution that employed someone with a title like vice president for governmental affairs has already well and truly forfeited its so-called "integrity." And, Mr. Land, my sympathy for your desire to maintain the distinctive of the Southern Baptist Convention is rivaled only by my queasy curiosity about why so distinct an organization even has a public policy arm, much less why they pay you a no-doubt-handsome salary to head it.

O Church, you're supposed to be the bride of the Christ (Ephesians 5:25 - 30). Wouldn't it be just a little bit more becoming for you to refrain from hopping into bed with the various princes of this world?

Meanwhile, Doug Newman is just sounding more and more prophetic; after all, he wrote It's the End of the Church As We Know It back when Bush II was new. Have a look, and see if his analysis isn't being borne out by subsequent developments.