Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Modern Internet Miracle!

Did you know that the latest digital video equipment has so much bandwidth, and such high sensitivity, that it can even record the subject's inner monologue? This will revolutionize politics -- soon every candidate will be an open book, as transparent as a perfectly-polished windowpane.

As a little bit of a "pilot project," let's find out what Senator McCain really thinks about his veep-candidate-designate:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Walk vs. Talk

IOZ nails it again:
Dahlia Lithwick is one of those smart, witty writers whose inability to grasp the nature of the country in which she lives, despite all the evidence splayed (flayed?) before her eyes, ears, and intellect persists. The Democratic Convention, just for instance, has locked down the affected portions of the city as if under martial law, complete with circling helicopters, as well as your favorite and mine, "free-speech zones." Razor wire, blast barriers, and more than four dozen "agencies" coordinating "security." The people protesting illegal detention are being illegally detained at the behest of the people Lithwick expects to address illegal detention. Must we point out again that when a gulf appears between talk and act, the acts reveal the true belief? Yes? Yes.

No Country for Small Plans

Sen. Barack Obama's a big man, with big plans:
You know, unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I'll eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will, listen now, cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East. We will do this.
It's amazing, the capabilities that one man has in his back pocket. Tax breaks bestowed on the deserving like the gentle rains from heaven. The cessation of tax breaks hurled like thunderbolts from the mighty hand of an angry god onto the vile heads of earthly malefactors. Love-from-above for "working families." Now, there's a term that keeps coming up in the words of Sen. Yes-We-Can -- that qualifier, working. Reminds me of "combat troops." Suggests that some careful parsing is in order. When the Tax Fairy defecates on your head, it'll probably turn out that your family's not a "working" one ... you're probably rich, you miserable faker. And when it turns out that a large fraction of the number of American soldiers that are in Iraq now is still there eight years from now, it'll turn out that they're not "combat" troops. God help us, they'll probably be designated "peacekeepers."

But, to continue:
Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and by the way John McCain's been there for 26 of them. And in that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil that we had as the day that Sen. McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.
Evidently not.

Okay, never mind any quibbling from me about how prosperous, industrial societies should be importing raw materials and exporting finished goods, and how that's the way in which wealth is built up. After all, we now import virtually everything and export essentially nothing, except for cultural crimes and whimsical promissory notes. I can't be bothered to think about that stuff; I'm lost in awe of the guy who -- without so much as an engineering degree that I know of -- just said he'll "find ways to safely harness nuclear power." All by himself! On second thought, considering that nuclear power is pretty-damn-safe right now and has been for half a century, maybe that's not such an ambitious promise. But consider Sen. Obama's prowess as a businessman. To start with, he must be fabulously wealthy: he says he's going to invest $150 billion in various energy enterprises. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of scratch kicking around in my pocket. And look what he'll do! With that investment, he'll create five million high-wage, non-outsourceable new jobs! Let's see ... divide $150B by 5M ... just a minute ... bring down the zero ... done. That says that a $30K "investment," one time only, creates a high-wage, non-outsourceable new job. To me, the term "high-wage" implies, well, easily more than that $30K, each and every year.

Amazing, I tell you, just amazing. Definitely not "small plans."

Now let's turn our gaze outward:
For while Sen. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face.
Gee, so did I -- but, in my case, what I was "knowing" was that it was monstrously wrong.
When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. You know, John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell -- but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.
Now, I'm no enthusiast for Ol' Grampaw Angry-Pants. But really, let's be fair here: hasn't Sen. Obama had just as much personal opportunity to visit with Mr. bin Laden -- in a cave or at Hell's gates or wherever he may really be -- as has Sen. McCain? And before moving on, let us note that Obama's no more honest in his language than anyone else in the War Party. When he's longing for the extrajudicial murder of bin Laden, he apparently can't say the simple word "kill;" instead, it's "take out." I wonder if Michelle O. appreciated her mortal danger, back when the Barackster first started courting her, when I'm sure he must have occasionally offered to "take her out" to the movies or somewhere. Let's continue, though:
You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances.
Folks, someone please tell me how this twaddle differs from the words of any other War Party propagandist? What is the purpose of America's armed forces? No, wait -- a truthful answer to that question is too depressing to think about. Instead, let me ask a related question: what should the purpose of those armed forces be? Actual defense of actual U.S. territory, maybe? Isn't Israel a foreign country? (Don't laugh -- I'm being serious, here!) Isn't Georgia?

"That's not the change we need!" I kept hearing that from Denver. It certainly is true of Sen. Obama's big plans.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Change You Can Believe In: Today's Update

And now ... representing the giant credit-card usurers of America from their home state of Delaware in the U.S. Senate ... Jo-o-o-o-ooe Bii-i-i-i-iiden!
Ladies and gentlemen, but today, today that American dream feels like it's slowly slipping away. I don't have to tell you that. You feel it every single day in your own lives. I've never seen a time when Washington has watched so many people get knocked down without doing anything to help them get back up.

Almost every single night, I take the train home to Wilmington, Delaware, sometimes very late. As I sit there in my seat and I look out that window, I see those flickering lights of the homes that pass by, I can almost hear the conversation they're having at their kitchen tables after they put their kids to bed.

Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as ordinary as they are profound, questions they never, ever thought they'd have to ask themselves.

Should Mom move in with us now that Dad's gone? Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars just to fill up the gas tank? How in God's name, with winter coming, how are we going to heat the home? Another year, no raise. Did you hear they may be cutting our health care at the company? Now we owe more money on our home than our home is worth. How in God's name are we going to send the kids to college? How are we going to retire, Joe?

You know, folks, that's the America that George Bush has left us. And that's the America we'll continue to get if George -- excuse me, if John McCain is elected president of the United States of America. Freudian slip. Freudian slip.

And, folks, these are not isolated discussions among families down on their luck. These are common stories among middle-class people who worked hard their whole life, played by the rules, on the promise that their tomorrows would be better than their yesterdays.

That promise is the promise of America. It defines who we are as a people. And now it's in jeopardy. I know it. You know it.
I'm sorry, Senator, what was that about your bankruptcy bill? Remember that one? At least it must have, uh, simplified some of those gloomy kitchen-table conversations, right?

But enough of that depressing stuff. What we Americans really like -- what would really perk us up -- is a war! But not a stupid war, like the one we made on Iraq (and the one Sen. Biden supported foursquare at the time ... but never mind, never mind, nothing to see here, move along). No, we need a brand-new war! Maybe we could pick a war with Russia?
Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years and in recent days, we've once again seen the consequences of the neglect -- of this neglect, with Russia challenging the very freedom of a new democratic country of Georgia. Barack and I will end that neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we will help the people of Georgia rebuild.
Now, I fully expect that Senator Yes-We-Can is going to be elected prexy, and Senator 29%-Penalty-Interest-Rate is going to become veep. It's not a cheerful thing that my best hope is that virtually everything they're saying is a lie.

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Week: The Democratic National Convention

During their convention week, Sen. Obama's likely to be getting most of the attention. Lately, I think he's gotten the lion's share of the attention at this blog, too, and that doesn't seem fair. Let's give Grampaw Angry-Pants a turn. Have you seen this gem?

I'm sorry I couldn't find a "straight" version of this on YouTube, but if you just listen, you get it. I guess when you (or your trophy wife) have so many houses you need staffers to count the damn things, you're naturally an open-borders guy: you really, really need cheap, compliant gardeners and pool boys and maids.

If I'm advising Sen. Yes We Can (which of course I'm not), I tell him: take every single "debate" with this ancient psycho you can get, and then needle him just a little bit. How quickly do you think we'd see a volcanic meltdown of truly bizarre proportions?

Physics Time Again!

Classes begin today at IPFW. I'm taking a belated day off from the day job, getting a few things done at home (I was going to take Friday off for my birthday, but I had something time-specific to do, so today's it). More to the point, though, PHYS 218 gets underway this evening at 6 pm, and I'll once again have Enhanced Excuses™ for not posting to my poor, neglected blog. I can't say I enjoy grading exams, quizzes, or lab reports, but I do loves me some teaching physics. I have 56 customers lined up for tonight, and I hope each and every one will get a good value for his or her money. (Not all of them will, so my fallback hope is that, for those who don't, it won't be because of something I did, or failed to do.)

Last week I had email from a former student who is now a day-job co-worker. The humor she passed along was something I'd seen before, but I got a smile out of it all over again. I share with you here a couple of alleged test items:

This person actually was well on his way to a correct solution to the problem; he correctly calculated the gravitational potential energy of the object at its starting point (mgh), and its elastic potential energy at its stopping point (0.5 * k *x^2). He should simply have equated the two and solved for x. For some reason, he elected to bag the problem instead. I'd have given him a few points' worth of partial credit; he really had most of the work done.

The next person: not so much.

Anyway, here's hoping for correct solutions from my students; and, failing that, I hope to see some funny ones.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Change You Can Believe In: Update

Sen. Yes-We-Can has, during his brief Senate career, consistently voted to fund the Iraq occupation which he also wants credit for opposing, sort-of kind-of. Now he's announced Sen. Biden as his selected VP nominee, thus underlining yet again his commitment to American imperial dominance of the world. In case you hadn't remembered, here's Sen. Biden in October 2002:
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said the country's new enemies -- terrorists and the nations harboring them -- warrant a new response. "The speed and stealth with which an outlaw state or terrorists could use weapons of mass destruction, and the catastrophic damage they could inflict, require us to consider new ways of acting, not reacting," Biden told the Senate.
Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things. That's what everybody says -- it must be so.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Self-Indulgence and Phone Fun

I took a political polling call a few days ago. It was my first ever, in fact, no doubt because mine is just about the reddest of red states. The call I received did NOT end with a disclosure of its organizational origin, so perhaps it was illegal. Alternatively, perhaps I was in Indiana, where the main generally-recognized crime is "being poor."

The young gentleman who interrogated me was left, I'm afraid, unsatisfied. Not only did I affirm absolutely that I would not vote for either Major Brand; not only did I insist that I was not "leaning," even slightly, toward either of same; I also identified my political philosophy -- quite truthfully -- as "Reactionary Utopian." (I was supposed to choose between "more toward conservative" and "more toward liberal.") My interrogator made the mistake of straying from the official script by asking me what that meant. When I explained that it meant I was consumed by nostalgia for something that never actually existed, some seconds of silence ensued before he moved on to the age- and income-demographic questions.

I can't really blame him for not identifying himself organizationally, though, because I lied to him, too. He asked for my name, and I responded by asking him how he had called me without knowing my name. He hesitated (I assume he was in doubt about whether he was allowed to reveal the use of a sequential dialer), and then when I suggested that a sequential dialer was in use, he confirmed that it was. So I decided to be "Benjamin Dover." Distressingly, it turned out that I had to spell it for him -- twice.

Truly, these must be the last days.

By the way, it occurs to me that a post that doesn't contain a single link is probably automatically an exercise in self-indulgence. Well, so be it; today is my birthday, a local holiday celebrating the completion of my 54th lap around the sun. A 55th now commences -- but who knows whether I'll live to complete it? I can't convince myself that it matters all that much; as St. Paul said, "to live is Christ, to die is gain," and so forth. The main thing, I think, is to try to get a little something done, and to enjoy it as it unfolds. So I'll get right on that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rice On the SOFA

Status Of Forces Agreement, that is. The BlackBush went to Baghdad to sort things out:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Baghdad to discuss the future of American forces deployed in Iraq.

Ms Rice is holding talks with Iraqi leaders including Prime Minister Nouri Maliki during the unannounced visit.

It comes after 10 months of difficult negotiations between Washington and Baghdad about the status of US troops on Iraqi soil.

Reports suggest a compromise draft agreement is being considered by both governments.

Negotiations have been held up by disagreement over the timing of the final withdrawal of US forces from the country and the immunity of US soldiers from prosecution under Iraqi law, says the BBC's Crispin Thorold in Baghdad.

Included in a draft Status of Forces Agreement being considered is a commitment that US troops will start to withdraw from cities across the country from next summer, moving to large bases, out of public view, our correspondent reports.
A few things:

(1) I wonder what kind of "negotiations" a conqueror and occupier has with the conquered and occupied? I'd guess they might be fairly similar to the negotiation that Uncle conducts with me, when payday rolls around, about whether he'll take as much of my wages as he sees fit.

(2) Why would The Troops need immunity from Iraqi law? The Troops, after all, are merely dispensing Iraqi Freedom™ and painting schools and so forth. It's not like they've been abusing and murdering innocent civilians, or running torture prisons, or anything bad like that.

(3) The Troops are going to be moving out of the cities, out of public view, to "large bases." I thought we weren't building any permanent bases in Iraq? That's what the Bush administration has said, repeatedly. I can hear it now: Well, that depends on what the definition of "permanent" is. Point taken: how can you call a base "permanent" when it obviously won't survive the heat death of the universe, scheduled for a few gazillion years from now? Sorry -- I shouldn't have brought up anything so silly.

Back to the news:
Other issues up for possible discussion include the status of some 20,000 prisoners held by US forces without charge and Iraqi electoral law.

A United Nations mandate for US troops to stay in Iraq expires in December.

Iraqi officials have said they would like to see US forces end routine patrols of Iraqi towns by the middle of next year, and withdraw all combat troops in the next couple of years.
(4) Status of 20K prisoners-without-charge held by the legions? That's easy: their status is that they can sleep and move out of their stress positions whenever the American dispensers of Iraqi Freedom™ say they can. Status of Iraqi electoral law? Also easy: obviously, Iraqi electoral law must furnish Iraqis with the same sort of elections we 'Murkans have: frequent, sopoforically entertaining, and totally free of any danger that anything will actually change as a result thereof.

(5) Oh, the UN "mandate" expires in December, does it? Ooooooh, impressive. As Joe Stalin might say, "How many divisions does a UN mandate have?"

(6) Iraqi officials have said they'd like to see US forces do this and that. Alrighty, then. I suppose most five-year-olds would like every dinner menu to consist entirely of ice cream, too. Wonder if that's gonna happen?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Etiology of Dementia

Observing the symptoms does not always allow the observer to specifically identify the disease process. I'm thinking today of our celebrated Secretary of State, one Condoleezza Rice, who's like a rock star on a worldwide Chaos and Crapola Tour, 2008. Based on her babblings as quoted in the news, there seem to be at least two possibilities: the complete loss of any ability to perceive irony, or simple fruitcake craziness. Either one might explain the data.

On her way to Brussels, she apparently managed to keep a straight face while saying this:
"Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used when it wishes to deliver a message. And that is military power. That is not the way to deal in the 21st century."
How a representative of a rogue state that's spent the last 30 years blasting the hell out of, oh, let's see, Lebanon, Libya, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Iraq again, Bosnia/Serbia/Kosovo/whatever, Afghanistan, Iraq still more ... how this person can keep from collapsing in a giggle-fit while accusing the Russkies of being addicted to military means of "delivering messages" demands an explanation of some kind. Tone-deafness or sheer lunacy: take your pick.

Now for another whack at them commies:
Rice's response was that Russia was effectively roping itself off from the rest of the world and in danger of destroying its case for integration into global institutions. "Russia is the loser here," she said.

"Does anybody really doubt that Russia could use its overwhelming military advantage to beat up on a small neighbor? Well, that's what they've done," she said.

The Russians had committed "wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure." They were also harassing people on highways and had closed the port of Poti, she said. Rice also cited "reports of the use of munitions that should never be used against civilians" -- an apparent reference to a human rights' group's accusation that Russia dropped cluster bombs in populated areas of Georgia. Moscow denied doing so.
Again, after what we've done to Iraq, how can a sentient person force her lips to utter these words without breaking into demonic laughter? The only failures of symmetry here are that (1) the Russians didn't have to go halfway around the world to fight -- they had only to cross their own border; (2) the Russians are at least arguably looking after a legitimate national interest of their own -- they could have called it "Monroe Doctrine East," maybe; and (3) as far as I know, the Russians have yet to be accused of running a torture/rape/murder facility like Abu Ghraib in either South Ossetia or Georgia.

Don't relax too soon, Ivan; Condi ain't finished with you yet:
WARSAW — Despite fierce opposition from Moscow, the United States and Poland signed a long-stalled agreement Wednesday to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory.

The Kremlin has leveled sustained criticism against the American plan, characterizing it as a hostile act near the Russian border. But American officials insist that the system will defend against threats from countries like Iran and would not target Russia.

“Missile defense, of course, is aimed at no one,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who signed the agreement in Warsaw with her Polish counterpart, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. “It is in our defense that we do this.”
Notice the construction of that sentence from the news story: " ... American officials insist that the system will defend against threats ... " Did "defend" just become an intransitive verb, and I missed the memo? Will defend what? Poland? Europe in general? North America? That last is the only legitimate use of our tax dollars, but obviously isn't the intention; you don't put a defense for location A against an attack from location B in location C. But Condi knows best, in whatever alternate reality she lives. Interceptor missiles in Poland are gonna defend Americans from ... something. Peace, probably.

None of this is really funny at all, of course. Our managers are working day and night to make the owners of many nukes, who also happen to be fully-competent missilemen, feel surrounded and besieged. Why, I don't know; that leads back to the question with which this overly-long post opened. In a practical sense, though, "why" may not matter much. When butts have to fry, those sizzling fundaments won't belong to the Continuity-of-Government types, hunkered down in their elaborate secret shelters. Care to guess which butts they'll be? Yep -- you're sitting on one. I'm sitting on the one next door. Good times.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hate Index Update: Still Rising

Note well: I am still not a true believer in duh-mock-risy, and I still scoff rudely at the notion that ballots cast within our dead, rotting, and stinking "system" for anyone will materially alter the Empire's meandering path to where all empires must mercifully go, sooner or later. That said, though, I still have to like Ron Paul fairly well. I noted a while back that hatred of Dr. Paul had united a couple of very strange bedfellows (this one and this one), and now a third -- and undoubtedly the strangest of all -- has checked in. Yes, the Miffed Caucasian is not amused by Rep. Paul, nor by his supporters. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

I swear: I do not think that being hated by mouthbreathers proves that someone is deserving of support. It absolutely proves no such thing. It might be pretty good circumstantial evidence, though ...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Well? Which Is It?

Can the Iranians build and fly a multistage rocket, or not? On the one hand, Ahmadinejad is a leading candidate, this year, for the prestigious He's The New Hitler Award, and Iranian rocketry is the Awesome Thunderfist of Doom poised over all our heads:
Senior U.S. officials had expressed concerned over the weekend about the new reported test, saying Iran could use the rocket to deliver warheads.

"The Iranian development and testing of rockets is troubling and raises further questions about their intentions," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

"This action and dual-use possibilities for their ballistic missile program have been a subject of (International Atomic Energy Agency) discussions and are inconsistent with their U.N. Security Council obligations."
On the other hand, them Eye-rain-ians cain't hardly do nuthin' right, nohow:
The Pentagon does not believe an Iranian rocket test over the weekend was successful, despite reports in the official Iranian media saying the Islamic Republic had launched its first vehicle capable of placing a satellite in orbit.

"The Iranians did not successfully launch the rocket," a senior U.S. defense official told CNN Monday.

The two-stage rocket could have been capable of launching a satellite into space, but the U.S. intelligence assessment shows that the second stage "was erratic and out of control," said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the intelligence.

The rocket "did not perform as designed," the official said.
Doublethink: an essential life skill for Americans in the 21st century.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Travel Report (Final Edition)

Of course, I type "final" in the title, knowing that, in all likelihood, it'll happen again much sooner than I'd like. Again, it isn't the being there that I mind. Hotel life is certainly easy, and living and working in a different place for a short while adds an agreeable amount of variety. Being gone a week, I of course get lonesome for hearth 'n' home ... but a week is a short time, and that touch of loneliness mostly just adds to the pleasure of returning. Two or three weeks would be excessive, but a week isn't bad at all.

No, the trouble is air travel. The gum-chawing legions of TSA moron-goons, swarming like over-upholstered, white-shirted gnats; the stupid-ass PA announcements in the airport, endlessly reminding one and all that we must maintain constant visual contact with our belongings; the wristwatch-in-the-plastic-tub, shoes-off perp shuffle through the beeping arch: all those reminders of just how unfree all us 'Murkans are. Then Northwest Airlines is there, with its 757-300, with the three-aisle-three seating layout, which means that, if they seat three adult males who have shoulders in one of these micro-rows, well ... basically, everybody's screwed. And screwed we were, on Friday's Flight 312, LAX to Minneapolis, in Row 48, which is the very last row on a long, long airplane. Meet your cast of characters. 48C, arriving first and sitting in the aisle seat, is a British person who's on his way home to London. He's a swarthy-looking guy, kind of Indian or Middle Eastern, maybe. Then comes me, 48A, the window seat, which means 48C has to get up to let me in. Finally appears 48B, who's an old guy, traveling with his wife, who has a seat on row 47, right in front of us. When 48B shows up (again temporarily displacing 48C), he eventually pries himself into his seat and starts searching for his seat belt, which gives me a couple of nice elbows to the ribs and a casual, unintentional molestation or two. That's when I notice that, while all these three-across rows are brutal, row 48 is even worse, because there the fuselage of the airplane is already starting to narrow toward the tail, costing me a few shoulder-height inches of width that we collectively couldn't begin to afford. So, I cram myself as hard as possible against the window; 48C hangs half his upper body out into the aisle; and good ol' 48B plants his elbows on the armrests, pulls out his magazine (with Obama on the cover), and begins to explain to 48C that Obama's not to be trusted because he "flip-flops." He's a flip-flopper, declaims 48B, with several repetitions. He flip-flops! He flip-flops! Meanwhile, Mrs. 48B (let's call her 47B, since that's where she's sitting), is on her cell phone, well after the shut-off-your-cell-phones announcement, so we all get to find out that so-and-so is wishing her and 48B a happy anniversary. That's nice. I'm reflecting gloomily on the announced 3 hours and 31 minutes of flight time -- add the 20 minutes or so of pissing-around time on the ground at either end, and there's a nice, fresh, hot, steaming four-plus-hour little slice of hell ahead of me. Since 48B is chatty, and since he's clearly memorized more than a few of "Pills" Limbaugh's talking points, I decide to feign sleep, my arms firmly crossed over my chest (there's literally nothing else I can do with them anyway, unless I want to hold hands with my new buddy 48B). Of course, it was a turbulent flight; and of course, row 48 being the farthest row back, with the longest lever arm from the wing root, we get to enjoy the largest amplitude of yaw and pitch excursions. Long before Minneapolis, I can no longer feel my fingers. And I promise myself: Never again, never again.

How many times have I said that before? More than a few, I'm sure.

But, anyway: better to think about the good things. So I'll share with you a photo that my friend the comic (he said casually, trying not to look smug), Tricia Shore, was kind enough to share with me, and that I promised I'd share. That's me and Comic Mom at the famous Canoga Park Bowl!

And now, back to the routine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Southern California Report

This is just the preliminary version, as I'm surely the only remaining person who doesn't own a notebook computer, nor haul one belonging to my employer on the road with me. I'm working from a "business center" machine here in the palatial Towne Place Suites in Manhattan Beach, and they're offering some kind of crude proprietary browser that doesn't work in tabs, the way my beloved Firefox does. So I have to keep things simple.

SoCal's a fine place, as usual. The weather's been agreeably cool, the sunshine plentiful (how else?), and no earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, or brushfires have threatened my life just yet. My work, such as it is, is getting done at a suitable pace. And ... I've seen my fellow blogger (here and here) Tricia Shore, sometimes known as ComicMom and Thinking Mama, doing standup at the Canoga Park Bowl. She's not only very funny herself, but she has numerous comic friends who practice their craft at the CPB, and they're really funny, too. I hoped for nothing more than a chance to introduce myself and maybe get an autograph, but she was so kind that I ended up getting my picture taken with her, and meeting her family: a fine crew of three boys and Mr. ComicMom, too. Anyway, she's emailing me the photo, and when I get back I'll share it with you all.

Everybody be good, now, and don't be misplacing or damaging the Fort while I'm gone.

The Insanity Spreads

It seems that the president of Georgia wants to know, right now, how we lost Georgia:
Asked if the White House was doing enough, he said: “I just spoke to President Bush. Frankly, some of the first statements were seen as a green light for Russia. They were kind of soft.”

He said, “Georgia is the first test case.”

He said the United State should be doing more. “We should realize what is at stake for America; America is losing the whole region,” he said.

“Who else can stand up for liberty in the world?”
Wow, we're losing the entire region! And, of course, that's downright shameful. After all, it's part of the world, so I suppose God must've deeded it over to us.

It's important to keep in mind, though, who "us" is. I'm fairly sure that the intended beneficiaries of the unholy hybrid of state/corporate mercantilism/militarism don't include you or me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm Outta Here ...

... all week, this time. The day job again. This time, I'm sent west, to visit with these folks in sunny SoCal. My actual task is about one solid day's work, but -- with the travel and the amazing amount of fully-obligatory peripheral chicken guano -- the entire week is used up.

If I end up having meaningful internet access, perhaps I'll file a report or two. Otherwise, it'll have to wait until I return.

I'm going to spend all my free time looking for the Big Kahuna Burger. That's that Hawaiian burger place I've been hearing so much about. They say that's really a tasty burger. Goes well with a Sprite, I hear.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I see that the Kangaroo Kourt did its job.

A big-time war criminal got (partially) convicted in his show trial.

And that's OK with me, I guess. War crimes trials could be worthwhile. But only if they get the big fish, too.

Anybody seen this guy lately? Call Crimestoppers at 1-800-THE-HAGUE.

Kangaroo Kourt Update: as usual, IOZ says it much, much better.
So congratulations are in order, as we have finally managed to convict Osama bin Laden's driver of driving Osama bin Laden. His barber will have an easier defense, no doubt. "But, but, I didn't do anything!" Thank you, I'll be here all week.

"Providing material support for terrorism" is a war crime? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Goebbels, what kinda world we livin' in? "The prosecution’s theme was that, however small his role may have been, people like Mr. Hamdan make al Qaeda possible." You're too small to be a terrorist, Hamdan, but I like your moxie.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Saint Barack on Energy

I saw a news story today that promised to show me the sharp, vivid contrast between the major-brand presidential candidates' thinking about the Energy Issue. Why energy should be a political "issue" is, I think, an interesting question, but might be better addressed in its own post (someday, someday!).

I was rather underwhelmed by the alleged contrast between Gramps and Saint Barack. It was like the contrast between "bone" and "eggshell" -- it's there, I suppose, but rather subtle. Centrally-planned control economy A vs. centrally-planned control economy B: not a contest that has me excited and eager to pick a side. But I seek to alternate, more or less, between complaining about Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain, and I think it might be Sen. Obama's turn today. If I'm wrong about that, I'll try to make it up to Gramps real soon now. Here's what CNN said about St. Barack:
Meanwhile, Obama laid out his comprehensive energy plan Monday in Lansing, Michigan.

"If I am president, I will immediately direct the full resources of the federal government and the full energy of the private sector to a single, overarching goal -- in 10 years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela," the presumptive Democratic nominee told a crowd.

Obama's plan also would invest $150 billion over the next 10 years and leverage billions more in private capital to build a new energy economy that he said would harness American energy and create 5 million new jobs.

He also called on businesses, government and the American people to meet the goal of reducing U.S. demand for electricity by 15 percent by the end of the next decade and said he would modernize the national utility grid.

Another prominent feature in the plan: Immediately give every working family in America a $1,000 energy rebate and pay for it from oil company profits.
There, I thought, is some fairly rich stuff -- particularly the part about investing $150B and leveraging (un-numbered) "billions more" to harness American energy. Nothing worse than American energy that has somehow escaped its harness, that's what I always say. The $1000 per working family energy rebate makes the good Saint seem like rather a piker; after all, didn't even the hated Dubya manage to slip all us families, working and leisurely, $1200 already? Ah, but then Dubya was distributing a tax rebate dole, which he procured in the usual pedestrian way: borrowing it from the Communus' Chinese. St. Barack, while promising a dole only 83% as large, is going to give us some populist red meat by promising to extract it from oil company profits, which are something the mere existence of which enrages every good 'Murkan. Still, I can't imagine why he doesn't go, say, $1500, or $2000, or even $10,000. After all, these oil company profits are both infinite and totally evil. Maybe Gramps is right, and that-there young diverse fellow really isn't "ready to lead."

I wasn't ready to trust CNN to be fair to Candidate Yes We Can anyway, so I had a look at his official campaign site to see what he, or his handlers, had to say about his Energy Plan there. I'm happy to say that CNN appears to have gotten him pretty much right:
Reduce the Burden of Rising Gas Prices on Working Families

Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Barack Obama has called on the President to enact a second round of economic stimulus to immediately put tax rebates in the pockets of American families to pay for rising energy prices. As president, Obama will enact a tax fairness agenda that provides 150 million workers a “Making Work Pay” tax credit of $500 per person or $1,000 per working family.
This leaves out the juicy part about making them damn oil comp'nies pay for it. What I'm wondering about, though, is what a "worker" is, and also a "working family." Whatever a worker might be, we apparently have 150 million of them in the US of A, which is about half the total number of people, and -- I suppose -- an even larger fraction of the non-children. Forgive me my skepticism, but this "tax credit" language also gets my attention. Somehow, I'm foreseeing a line somewhere on good old Form 1040 where it tells you to record a credit of $500, if you're filing individually, or $1000 if you're filing jointly, if line such-and-such (Adjusted Gross Income) does not exceed some politically-calibrated figure; otherwise, enter zero.

There's much, much more, and you might want to check it out; it's interesting reading, especially if you're a big fan of top-down command economies, Five-Year Plans, Great-Leaps-Forward, and the like. If (like me) you're not, you can always vote Republican go pound sand. O Glorious Political Duopoly!

Monday, August 04, 2008

"All Flesh is Grass ..."

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn died yesterday. The world is certainly poorer thereby. It's hard to say just how sincere he may have been, but the final Soviet boss was right on the money:
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms led to the end of communism in the country, said Solzhenitsyn played a key role in undermining Stalin's totalitarian regime.

His works "changed the consciousness of millions of people", Mr Gorbachev said.
I was sitting here wondering which of his books was the best, and I'm thinking it's either The First Circle or Cancer Ward. The work that seems to be most often cited in today's news is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and that might be just as well -- I don't think it's his very best, but it's a short read and will serve very well as an introduction for those who've never read Solzhenitsyn. If you haven't: I kind-of-sort-of envy you, because you still have the experience ahead of you, and I don't. Enjoy.

Update: Leo Morris, mouthbreather extraordinaire.

Friday, August 01, 2008

" ... where at least I know I'm free ... "

Glenn Greenwald points out an amusing juxtaposition:
Associated Press, yesterday:

Foreign-owned hotels in China face the prospect of "severe retaliation" if they refuse to install government software that can spy on Internet use by hotel guests coming to watch the summer Olympic games, a U.S. lawmaker said Tuesday.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., produced a translated version of a document from China's Public Security Bureau that requires hotels to use the monitoring equipment. . . . .

Brownback said several international hotel chains confirmed receiving the order from China's Public Security Bureau. The hotels are in a bind, he said, because they don't want to comply with the order, but also don't want to jeopardize their investment of millions of dollars to expand their businesses in China.

Rocky Mountain News, October 11, 2007:

The National Security Agency and other government agencies retaliated against Qwest because the Denver telco refused to go along with a phone spying program, documents released Wednesday suggest. . . .

The secret contracts -- worth hundreds of millions of dollars -- made [Qwest CEO Joseph] Nacchio optimistic about Qwest's future, even as his staff was warning him the company might not make its numbers, Nacchio's defense attorneys have maintained. . . .

Nacchio planned to demonstrate at trial that he had a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., to discuss a $100 million project. According to the documents, another topic also was discussed at that meeting, one with which Nacchio refused to comply.

The topic itself is redacted each time it appears in the hundreds of pages of documents, but there is mention of Nacchio believing the request was both inappropriate and illegal, and repeatedly refusing to go along with it.

The NSA contract was awarded in July 2001 to companies other than Qwest.

USA Today reported in May 2006 that Qwest, unlike AT&T and Verizon, balked at helping the NSA track phone calling patterns that may have indicated terrorist organizational activities. Nacchio's attorney, Herbert Stern, confirmed that Nacchio refused to turn over customer telephone records because he didn't think the NSA program had legal standing.

In the documents, Nacchio also asserts Qwest was in line to build a $2 billion private government network called GovNet and do other government business, including a network between the U.S. and South America.