Monday, January 26, 2009


I've been quite critical of the new administration so far, not that President Rainbow Brite knows, or would care if he did know -- and rightly so; not only am I nobody, I may very well be the internationally-unrecognized standard of Nobodiness. Still, having seen this morning's news, I think he has half a cheer coming, so here 'tis.
US President Barack Obama is expected to allow states to set their own stricter standards for vehicle exhaust emissions, his aides have said.

It would overturn a Bush administration decision which favoured a national standard for vehicle pollution.

California, a leader in environmental protection, and other states had sought exemptions to set their own standards.
Here's half a cheer for a small-but-unprincipled nod in the direction of decentralization ... and I suppose we'd all better enjoy it, because it might be a long time before there's another one. Why "unprincipled?" Because it should go without saying that the "several states" (hear that hollow laugh!) were free to set stricter air-quality standards, or looser ones, or none at all. There shouldn't be any federal standards with which to compare state ones -- if any -- since our famous Dead Constitution makes no explicit grant of power or authority to the feds for setting or enforcing any such standards. "Unprincipled" because King Rainbow Brite is no less a tyrant than was Former King Chimpy for issuing such decrees, even though the current king sees fit to be slightly more permissive than the last one. Free people wouldn't find themselves being grateful for minor favors that can be granted today and denied tomorrow.

Ah, but His Diverse Highness isn't done yet:
President Obama is also expected to order the transportation department to come up with new short-term rules on how carmakers can improve fuel efficiency.

A 2007 law required that new cars and trucks produced by 2020 obtain 35 miles per gallon of fuel (about 13km/litre), a 40% increase over the current standard, Associated Press news agency said.

However, Mr Bush did not put in place the regulations to enable the law to be carried out.

The new rules Mr Obama wants put in place would mean the new standard is reached by 2011, the New York Times said.
Never mind the poor Dead Constitution, and niggling questions about how it is that the current tenant in the White House has the power to say how many miles a motor vehicle must travel per gallon of fuel expended ... why's Obama limiting himself to pathetic half-measures? Why not require 50 mi/gal? Why not 75? Why not make it illegal for anyone to travel more than 30 miles in a single day by motorized transport? Why not ...

Uh, maybe it's a good thing Pres. Sunshine isn't reading this. I'm sure he has plenty of hideous ideas already, without any help from this nobody.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

There's Always a Reason

Why was it, back during the last full year of our long national nightmare, that our shining hope, then-Senator Obama, voted to immunize the telecoms for their illegal collaboration with the Bush Regime's illegal wholesale wiretapping program? Easy. He already knew there was an excellent chance he'd succeed the Chimpster, and he had absolutely no inclination to break a toy he was about to inherit:
The Obama administration fell in line with the Bush administration Thursday when it urged a federal judge to set aside a ruling in a closely watched spy case weighing whether a U.S. president may bypass Congress and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

In a filing in San Francisco federal court, President Barack Obama adopted the same position as his predecessor. With just hours left in office, President George W. Bush late Monday asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to stay enforcement of an important Jan. 5 ruling admitting key evidence into the case.

Thursday's filing by the Obama administration marked the first time it officially lodged a court document in the lawsuit asking the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the Bush administration's warrantless-eavesdropping program. The former president approved the wiretaps in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"The Government's position remains that this case should be stayed," the Obama administration wrote (.pdf) in a filing that for the first time made clear the new president was on board with the Bush administration's reasoning in this case.

[ ... ]

The Obama administration is also siding with the former administration in its legal defense of July legislation that immunizes the nation's telecommunications companies from lawsuits accusing them of complicitity in Bush's eavesdropping program, according to testimony last week by incoming Attorney General Eric Holder.

That immunity legislation, which Obama voted for when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois, was included in a broader spy package that granted the government wide-ranging, warrantless eavesdropping powers on Americans' electronic communications.
Now, when a few years go by with no war-crimes prosecutions of the Bush Regime war criminals, why will that be? I think we can safely leave the answer to that as an exercise for the student. Quite an easy exercise, too, I think.

Change, Glorious Change

Via Scriptoids: I thought the long national nightmare was supposed to be over.

But, ah, what's changed?
Pakistan urged US president Barack Obama to halt missile strikes on al-Qaida strongholds near the Afghan border, even as
reports claimed that the twin strikes on Friday inside the South Asian country were ordered by the president himself.

US commanders had consulted Obama before launching the drone attacks on Waziristan. Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks, the Guardian reported on its website.

Obama has warned that he is prepared to bomb inside Pakistan if he gets relevant intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. He had also said he would act against militants along the border if the Pakistan government failed to.

The strikes will help Obama portray himself as a leader who, though ready to shift the balance of American power towards diplomacy, is not afraid of military action, the daily added.
Gosh, maybe I should have voted. I could've written in Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. Then things would've been different.

Friday, January 23, 2009

At Least We're Still Exporting Something

Actually, we're still exporting lots of stuff ... IOUs, hip-hop, sitcoms, porn videos, and more IOUs. And then there's death to foreigners -- foreign children, even. In more than one context, too. There's the "medical" one:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday will lift restrictions on U.S. government funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad, reversing a policy of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, an administration official said.

"It will be today. He's going to make an executive order (lifting the global gag rule)," the official said.
And there's the delivery from 5,000 feet up.

It's the same product, really, and the Empire's most important one: death. And there's happiness there for everyone; or, if not happiness, at least consolation. For those on the Left, just think of every dusky child killed as a (tardy) abortion. And, on the Right, consider: that baby who's killed in utero was probably just going to become an A'murka-hatin' turrst, so better to fight 'em in their mothers' wombs than in the streets of the Homeland, right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm"

Sometimes even a short news story is rich and dense with provokers of thought:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her first day on the job, pledged to revitalize America's foreign service and push diplomacy and economic development as central tools to securing the U.S.'s global interests.

Mrs. Clinton was greeted at the front entrance to the State Department by more than 1,000 employees, who raucously cheered her arrival and first words.

"I believe, with all my heart, that this is a new era for America," Mrs. Clinton said from a staircase that overlooked the State Department's front lobby. "Diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States."
The long-term objectives of the United States: what might those be, Madam Secretary? If Mrs. Clinton can say what they are, I'd be enchanted to know when, how, by whom, and by what authority they were established. If she can't (and I'm guessing that's the case), the question becomes: how can anyone possibly prescribe the "central tools" required for the achievement of undefined objectives?
Steve Kashkett, a leader of the State Department union, told Mrs. Clinton that the building was "thrilled to have you here."
Ex-squeeze me? The State Department has a union? On second thought, that might explain more than a few things, I suppose.
"I'm going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the proverbial box," Mrs. Clinton said to applause. "I want you to understand there's nothing I welcome more than a good debate."
I choose not to think that Mrs. Clinton is starting out her tour as Secretary of State with a whopping lie; instead, I choose to think that she's starting out laboring under the handicap of self-delusion. I'm willing to bet a lot of money that there are a great many things she welcomes more than a good debate ... unless we're dealing with an eccentric definition of "good debate," that is. Myself, I wouldn't mind seeing a "good" (meaning clear and logically-consistent) debate on what "long-term objectives" the Empire has, and what objectives it should have. I'm definitely not holding my breath, though. I'm pretty sure that would be way, way too far outside the box.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Money: That's Where the Money Is

Ho, hum. Another bank, another $20B. It barely makes a ripple, on the eve of the weekend preceding the Obaman Apotheosis:
Amid growing losses, Bank of America announced today that it would receive another $20 billion in federal help and that the government would limit its potential losses on $118 billion in assets. That is addition to the $25 billion in government help it received last year.
Remember, way back in ancient times (fall 2008), when the Detroit Big Three car companies wanted to hold out their hats to catch a little bit of the rain of Bailout Largesse? This was after the initial $100B or so to AIG, after the don't-even-ask-what-we're-gonna-do-with-it $700B for the bankster class in general, and those dirty-fingered rustbelters wanted, what, $32B? 34? I don't know ... it was such a paltry sum, I forget. I do recall, though, that there wasn't a tax-sucker in Mordor-on-the-Potomac -- elected, appointed, or hired -- who missed his opportunity to let those car execs know that their "business model" was laughable and that the whole industry was going to have to remake itself in Mordor's image if it wanted to be able to hope for alms. (Mordor, as we all know, is masterful balancer of budgets, and a shining standard of fiscal prudence and responsibility.)

My point is: when three manufacturing companies asked for ~$30B, that made a big hoo-ha; it caused a heated debate. When just one bank that's already burned through $25B grabs another $20B -- $45B in all, so far -- it's entirely unremarkable. It doesn't seem to be worth talking about, almost. As I've said here before, I'm against every bit of the "bailout" crapola. The constitution doesn't authorize any of it; the government doesn't have the money; and it's theft -- any of those is a sufficent reason to laugh at the idea, and taken together, they're quite compelling. Still, the difference between the treatment of an insolvent bankster who's dipping into the empty U.S. treasury and the treatment of a mendicant manufacturer who fishes for a few pennies for every dollar grabbed by the bankster: that difference is, to me, quite arresting. What it tells us about who really pulls our supervisors' strings is kind of ugly.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reality Beggars Art

Did anyone else catch Prexy's final press conference Monday? Grace did. I heard it (well, part of it) on NPR on my way to the dentist's.

Listening to the murderous feeb, my thought was that Mike Judge tried to do the impossible, in making Idiocracy: he tried to parody Uh-mur'ka. You can't do it. The Deciderer makes his President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho look positively thoughtful.

I don't know about you, but as a proud citizen of the Yew Ess of Ay, I say it's time for a tall, cool Brawndo -- the thirst mutilator! It's got what plants crave. It's got electrolytes!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Some Vital Information for Today

Just finished with my first dental appointment for the new year. That's the one where my dentist gazes into my piehole to see how many of his car payments can be seen.

I was lucky today. I think he probably only saw one, which he has scheduled for 29 January. And it's just a regular old pedestrian filling, as opposed to the crown he often sells me. Happy days! Somebody else gets to offset most of the cost of his BMW for this quarter.

Actually, these days he prefers to sell the "onlay," which is a sort of crown-in-one-visit deal. When I got one of those, last year, I went into the "other room" and watched his little tabletop computer-controlled ceramic milling machine making the thing. It was pretty cool, truth be told. Any time I'm tempted to some sort of false nostalgia for the "good old days," I think about modern dentistry. It's a reliable cure for foolishness of that sort.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Special Relationships

Glenn Greenwald's getting it said:
World concern over, and opposition to, the Israeli war in Gaza is rapidly mounting:
International pressure intensified sharply on Israel on Thursday, the 13th day of its Gaza assault, after the United Nations suspended food aid deliveries, the International Committee of the Red Cross accused the Israelis of knowingly blocking assistance to the injured, and a top Vatican official defended comments in which he compared Gaza to a concentration camp.
The Israelis have deliberately made it impossible to know the full extent of the carnage and humanitarian disasters because they continue to prevent journalists from entering Gaza even in the face of a now week-old Israeli Supreme Court order compelling them to do so. According to Palestinian sources, there are now 700 dead Palestinians -- at least 200 of them children -- and well over 1,000 wounded. Those numbers are not seriously doubted by anyone. By comparison, a total of 10 Israelis have died -- 10 -- almost all of them by "friendly fire." The unusually worded Red Cross condemnation of Israel was prompted by its discovery, after finally being allowed into Gaza, of starving Palestinian children lying next to corpses, with ambulances blocked for days by the IDF. Even with the relative "restraint" Israel is excercising (the damage it could cause is obviously much greater), this is not so much of a war as it is a completely one-sided massacre.

As a result, much of the world is urging an end to the war and acting to forge a cease-fire -- except the United States. Here, blind and unequivocal support for the Israeli attack is actually increasing almost as fast as the Palestinian body count piles up. Apparently, it isn't enough that we supply the very bombs being dropped on the Palestinians and use our U.N. veto power to prevent any U.N. action to stop the war or even to urge its cessation. The U.S. Congress wants to involve the U.S. further still in Israel's war.

This afternoon, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate did just that by enacting -- via a cowardly voice vote -- a completely one-sided, non-binding resolution that expresses unequivocal support for the Israeli war, and heaps all the blame for the conflict on Hamas and none of it on Israel. Harry Reid -- who jointly sponsored the Resolution with GOP Leader Mitch McConnell -- proudly proclaimed: "When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel." On its website, AIPAC is already patting the U.S. Senate on its head for "for conveying America's unequivocal and steadfast support for Israel's right to self-defense."
So. Joint sponsors, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. Anyone still want to tell me how it's my duty to vote in the U.S. political duopoly? Anyone want to tell me how it is that voting changes things?

Hey, there's a big inauguration party coming up in D.C. in ten days or so. Enjoy it. Never mind those children who can't understand why they're so hungry and mother doesn't feed them ... why she doesn't even answer their cries ... why her head's such an odd shape, and why her eyes look so strange and scary, and why she's starting to smell so bad. Keep buying those shells and bombs for the Chosen warriors, and celebrate that Change We Can Believe In™. Everything's all better now.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Don't Surge Me, Bro

Our rulers have a variety of reasons for keeping our country at war as much of the time as they can. War is an automatic way of amplifying state power, centralizing it, and concentrating it in fewer and fewer hands. In our era, wars have mostly been waged against sinister Commies, slant-eyed gooks, and dirty ragheads (in various combinations). However, when the supply of the conventional Other is temporarily short, there's always the evil drugs:
The soaring level of violence in Mexico resulting from the drug wars there has led the United States to develop plans for a “surge” of civilian and perhaps even military law enforcement should the bloodshed spread across the border, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.

[ ... ]

Aides to members of the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the department and has often clashed with Mr. Chertoff over his border policies, said Wednesday that they had heard little about the plan, though they welcomed it.

“We support almost anything to secure our border,” said Dena Graziano, a spokeswoman for the committee.

Yeah. I'll bet they do.

(Via Ioz.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Silver Linings

The ship seems to have encountered a small iceberg, and there are reports of compartment after compartment flooding. What concerns us, though, is that the Titanic has a brand-new captain, and it's time to celebrate his installation; and there's this critical matter of who succeeds him as purser; the officers' mess may come to blows over that. After that crucial fight has been settled, I'm sure there'll be a lively debate over the optimum arrangement of the deck chairs, and just what musical selections the ship's orchestra should render before the waves gently slide over them.

Ever the optimist, I try to look on the bright side as the ship of Empire settles and lists ever farther. Sure, lots of nice people -- including yours truly -- are going to suffer. Still, the day will come, sooner or later, when our masters are heard from no more. And for that, I can hardly wait.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Believer and the Law

A new year has begun. It's winter. It surely is cold outside. All in all, this seems like an excellent time for contemplating the Christian's proper relationship to the Law of Moses. If you think you detect here a non sequitur, I agree completely. Actually, my purpose in writing this post is this: I offered my friend Craig a written discussion on the subject in a comment I left on a post at his blog a couple of weeks ago, and he was kind enough to express a willingness to read such discussion. So, here goes. Craig wrote, in part:
Here's what Jesus Christ (you might have heard of him) had to say about the "the Law", presumably the commandments contained in the Torah:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

For verily I say unto you. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven"

- Matthew: 5: 17-20

Now, I'll admit I had moments of inattention in Sunday school, when I was actually there, but I'm pretty sure that JC ranks a little higher on the whole Christian hierarchy than St. Peter, and it appears to me that JC said that his life in no way cancels out the law. In other words, just because JC walked the earth, you still can't eat shellfish, or blend wool and linen, or mix beef and dairy.
As I read the scriptures, sure you can eat and mix and blend ... and, in fact, you should. Notice what Jesus says in this very passage: that He has not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He doesn't say that He came to see to it that we fulfill the Law; He came to fulfill it Himself. From there, one can draw a quick chord from near the beginning of the four gospels to near the end of the last one, in John 19:30; there, just before He dies on the cross, Jesus says, "It is finished!" Of course, His fulfillment of the Law may not be what Jesus is talking about there; He may mean His immediate suffering on the cross, or He may mean something altogether different. However, if the Jesus who is also God says that He's come to do something, I take it that the "something" will have been done before He leaves; and so the Law is fulfilled, whatever exactly that means, and jots and tittles may now pass from it. Otherwise, Jesus isn't the God we think He is, and it maybe doesn't matter what He says about the Law (and the Law may not matter itself, as far as that goes).

It's a commonplace among Christians that Jesus was perfect in His obedience to the Law, and that perfect obedience is the basis of both His fulfillment of the Law and the believer's claim to have vicariously obeyed it perfectly also. I think this is true, but Jesus's relationship to the Law is at least a little bit complicated, and we need to be careful about how we understand His obedience. In Matthew 12, for example, Jesus is accused by the Pharisees of allowing His disciples to pick grain from the fields and eat it on the Sabbath when they became hungry; He rebukes them (and declares Himself to be "Lord of the Sabbath"). They then accuse Him directly of breaking the Law when He heals a man's hand, in their synagogue, on the Sabbath, and He gives a brief but pointed exposition of their misunderstanding of the Sabbath. In chapter 15 (Matthew again), Jesus is again called to account by the Pharisees for His disciples' failure to take care of their ceremonial washing before eating. Those pesky disciples -- nothing but trouble! Jesus then (Matthew 15:10-11) tells the onlookers: "Hear, and understand. Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." By this, I take it He meant speech; but the whole statement would be wildly difficult for a scholar of Mosaic dietary laws to accept. So it goes. Jesus's approach to the Law is proprietary; it is His Law. He is in authority over it. Jesus spent quite a bit of the Sermon on the Mount explaining how difficult it would be to claim to be righteous, based on obedience to the Law. See Matthew 5:21-48, which I will paraphrase (but by all means, check it directly): So, you haven't actually killed anyone? All right, but if you call someone abusive names, or you're simply angry with them, you're a murderer in your heart. Haven't actually slept with your neighbor's wife? Cool, but you wanted to, didn't you? There's your adultery, and it'll do. Kept your oaths? Fine, but you had no right to make any in the first place. You love your neighbor, and hate your enemy? Not good enough. You must love your enemy, too. So, any claim of righteousness that someone like me makes has to be based on something better than what we've done, or refrained from doing, in terms of obedience to the Law. Because what we do about the Law can't possibly be good enough to satisfy its requirements.

If we can't obey the Mosaic law well enough to demand salvation, based on that obedience, what are we to do about it? Clearly, I'm not here to give others a prescription, which they'd be foolish to accept; this is a question for each believer to wrestle with, in prayer and contemplation and the integration of life experience. I would suggest, though, that Jesus gave a hint, in what He said to a Pharisee lawyer who was out to trap Him (in Matthew 22:34-40).
But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: "Teacher, which is the great commandment of the Law?" And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
About Peter's vision in which the "unclean" foods are declared clean (Acts 10:9-16): this isn't primarily about food, even though food is the immediate subject matter in the vision. What God has declared "cleansed" is people: specifically, Gentiles, and even more specifically, Cornelius the Roman centurion. At least, that's how Peter understood it, as we can see from what he said to Cornelius the next day (Acts 10:28): "And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean." But although the vision isn't literally "about" its surface subject matter -- food -- I have to think it does include food, in view of Jesus's words from Matthew 15:15-20:
And Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain the parable to us." And He said, "Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."
This is getting to be far too long a post, and I haven't even come to Paul's letters yet. I would briefly urge the interested reader to go through them. I think you will not find in them a brief for either observance of the Mosaic law, nor for licentious behavior; but I think what is found, consistently and on balance, is the message that no one is saved through the works of the law, and that the believer has full liberty with respect to the law, which liberty he must then be careful not to abuse, but must at the same time be careful not to surrender to any man. That might be worth going into in more detail some other time.