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.