Monday, March 30, 2009

American Motors

So, Rainbow Brite has fired the prez of General Motors. I suppose, as an antistate type, I'm supposed to get all upset about that. But really ... in what sense is GM a "private" organization? They certainly aren't shy about wanting to dive into ... well, I started to type "my pocket," but that's wrong. What they want to dive into is this electronic Federal Reserve imaginary slush fund of ones and zeroes which doesn't exist in my pocket, and likely not yours either. But still, you see what I mean. If you're willing, as GM management seems to be, to strip down, oil up, and jump into that writhing pile of naked bodies that is the current bailout Fraud Orgy, then you've forfeited any right to be taken seriously when complaining about how the Commissars of the United Socialist States of America are pushing you around.

Yes, I know, I should be outraged. Instead, I am simply numbed by the growing sense that ... well, to put it simply, that It's Over. It is so very, very over: this whole American corporate/government/managerial imperial project. And, considering how much death, misery, and destruction it's dealt out to people all over the world ... good riddance. It's over. I just hope against hope that it will somehow summon a tiny bit of grace that will allow it to die peacefully. Not likely, but all I can do is hope.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Austerity Budget!

So, you think a hundred billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, eh? You old-school fossil, you. Since a "trillion" (T) is a thousand billion (B), we can keep a proper magnitude scale in our minds by denominating all monetary sums in units of T in the future. That hundred billion clams is really just a trifling $0.1T:
House budget leaders have sliced more than $100 billion from President Obama's spending plan, and today they unveiled a $3.45 trillion budget blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October.

Much of the difference comes from a decision by House leaders to jettison Obama's plan to seek more cash for the Treasury Department's financial-sector bailout, a decision that would reduce the projected deficit but not prevent the administration from requesting the money.
So, if these congressional Democrats get their way, and lavish and bloated $3.55T budget would be pared to a bare-bones austerity budget of $3.45T ... almost three per cent less! No doubt, they'll compromise with the Rainbow Brite administration at some still-draconian level of "cutting" like a percent-and-a-half.

Alternatively, the Congress may have to learn yet again just how little its quaint ideas matter in the real scheme of things, as run by the (still-) unitary executive and the "audits? We don' need no steeenking audits!" Federal Reserve that can print "money" electronically, without even the expense of paper and multicolored inks. And that brings me back to how much a sum like $100B (sorry, I mean $0.1T) really means. By the time the fed's spreadsheet "printing press" has generated all the planned largesse to the banksters, $0.1T may very well be the price of a new Volkswagen Jetta. And it may cost $7B (sorry again ... doggone habits are hard to break! I mean $0.007T) to fill the modest gas tank on that fine new German-engineered chariot. Happy days!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Falcon to Falconer: "I Can't Hear You"

With apologies to William Butler Yeats, I wonder: do any of you enjoy the shooting sports? Do any of you reload ammunition? It is interesting, at least, to contemplate some prices: $80 for a box of 500 highly-generic .45 ACP bullets -- not ammunition, mind you, just bullets. Before you can fire the weapon, you'll also need brass $106 for 500; and you'll need primers (not expensive, but you'll note here that MidwayUSA, the reloader's supermarket, is "out of stock, no back-order"); and you'll need powder ($58 for 4 pounds, but admittedly 4 pounds will load a very large number of .45 ACP cartridges).

Well, anyway, you get the idea. Shooting supplies have become very expensive and, for some things, hard to find. Obama weapons-ban fever? Maybe. Bailout fury? Perhaps. Things falling apart? The center failing to hold? I dunno. I'll hope for the best ... whatever that might be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Change You Can Believe In, 17 March 2009 Edition

I was going to type "Part n," and then I realized that I have no idea what n is up to now, and I need a new system for keeping track of how the Chosen One has brought in the millenial kingdom. In today's news, we see that Everything Has Truly Changed:
The Obama administration said Friday that it would abandon the Bush administration’s term “enemy combatant” as it argues in court for the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies.

But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

[ ... ]

It was the latest example of the Obama administration’s taking ownership of Guantánamo, even after having announced it would close the prison, where 241 men remain.

“This seems fundamentally consistent with the positions of the prior administration,” said Steven A. Engel, who was a senior lawyer responsible for detainee issues in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel until the final day of the Bush administration.

Mr. Engel added that the term “enemy combatant” was not the issue. “The important point is that they recognize that we can detain members of the enemy” during a war, he said.
I doubt that there's much about which I would find myself agreeing with the former Bush minion Steven A. Engel. But I surely can't disagree with his point that what you call the people that you imprison without charges for the duration of an undeclared "war" that everybody pretty much admits will never "end" isn't very important. No, the Emperor got a few shades darker, and talks better, but the new boss is indeed the same as the old boss. But I don't think Roger Daltrey's prayers have been answered; I'm certain that my countrymen will absolutely insist on being fooled again. And again, and again, and again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shocked! Shocked, I Tell You!!!

Barney Frank, representing the second or third district of Sodom, is not amused by AIG's continuing to distribute big bonuses to the geniuses prudent businessmen who run it:
Representative Barney Frank today blasted the bonuses that are going to AIG executives whose bad decisions pushed the insurance giant to the edge of going under before a federal bailout.

The $165 million in bonuses was to be paid to the executives by Sunday, and most are going to AIG Financial Products, the unit that sold credit default swaps, the risky contracts that caused massive losses for the insurer. AIG, which lost $61.7 billion for the fourth quarter of last year -- the largest corporate loss in history -- has received more than $170 billion in a series of federal rescues.

Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, suggested that if the federal government, which now owns an 80 percent stake in the company, can't rescind the bonuses, it could force some dismissals.

"These people may have a right to their bonuses. They don't have a right to their jobs forever," Frank said on NBC's "Today" show.
Don't get uppity, Barney. You're talking about "the government" owning "AIG" as though there was a meaningful difference between the two. You may have many tons of seniority, but you're still just the seasonal hired help. The big boys care what you think about as much as I do ... which ain't much.

No doubt, there'll be an entertaining amount of simulated outrage squirting forth from our "representatives." Watch and see what happens the next time AIG wants a big treasury check. On second thought, no need to wait: you already know. They'll get it. As I say, it isn't as if AIG and "the government" were really different entities.

Obama's Bush Problem

Speaking of excuses ... what excuse will the current Emperor give for failing to prosecute his immediate predecessor in the Great Purple Throne?
The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration's treatment of al-Qaeda captives "constituted torture," a finding that strongly implied that CIA interrogation methods violated international law, according to newly published excerpts from the long-concealed 2007 document.

The report, an account alleging physical and psychological brutality inside CIA "black site" prisons, also states that some U.S. practices amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Such maltreatment of detainees is expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

The findings were based on an investigation by ICRC officials, who were granted exclusive access to the CIA's "high-value" detainees after they were transferred in 2006 to the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 14 detainees, who had been kept in isolation in CIA prisons overseas, gave remarkably uniform accounts of abuse that included beatings, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and, in some cases, waterboarding, or simulating drowning.

[ ... ]

Often using the detainee's own words, the report offers a harrowing view of conditions at the secret prisons, where prisoners were told they were being taken "to the verge of death and back," according to one excerpt. During interrogations, the captives were routinely beaten, doused with cold water and slammed head-first into walls. Between sessions, they were stripped of clothing, bombarded with loud music, exposed to cold temperatures, and deprived of sleep and solid food for days on end. Some detainees described being forced to stand for days, with their arms shackled above them, wearing only diapers.

"On a daily basis . . . a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room," the report quotes detainee Tawfiq bin Attash, also known as Walid Muhammad bin Attash, as saying. Later, he said, he was wrapped in a plastic sheet while cold water was "poured onto my body with buckets." He added: "I would be wrapped inside the sheet with cold water for several minutes. Then I would be taken for interrogation."

ICRC officials did not dispute the authenticity of the excerpts, but a spokesman expressed dismay over the leak of the material. "We regret information attributed to the ICRC report was made public in this manner," spokesman Bernard Barrett said.
Well, Mr. Barrett, I'm sure you're not alone in regretting this disclosure of your information. It also imposes a creative burden on President Rainbow Brite, who may be called upon to explain why Former El Supremo Commandante Jorge Bush isn't already on his way to The Hague, dressed in the most fashionable orange jumpsuit and chains available. The truth can easily be expressed in five words -- it's him today, me tomorrow -- but that obviously won't do. Most "progressives," of course, won't be asking; they'll be eating what's put on the table before them, like the compliant shills that they are. But there'll be exceptions (Noam Chomsky comes to mind) who have a public voice of some sort, and it could get embarrassing. 'Tis pity.

Department of Excuses

Hmmmmm, long time no post. Life got complicated, and time got short. Thanks to the highest water levels I've personally ever seen in Cedar Creek, I spent most of last week getting back and forth by canoe, which also meant that I had extra errands to perform on behalf of the women who live at my address who -- as they put it -- "don't do canoes." And then, things were (and remain) very, very busy at the day job, so I've had little time or energy for the blog.

But now, things are different. That means either more posts, or at least different excuses. I'll try for the former ... the latter is awfully boring.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


It's been an interesting week so far -- "interesting" meaning "not very much fun" in this case. We've been replacing the carpeting in our house, a room or two at a time, since you have to completely empty a room for the layers of carpet to do that thing, and we seem to have a fairly full sort of house. Monday, we scheduled the last room, and it was our bedroom ... hmmmm, I wonder why? So, Sunday afternoon I was sweating a whole week's worth, dismantling and moving and shoehorning stuff into another room. (A king-size mattress, by the way, is an accursedly heavy, big, floppy, and uncooperative object when you're dealing with it by yourself.) Meanwhile, we've been having some sincere and monumental rain where I live, with the result that the only road leading to my house flooded over, so the carpet-laying guys couldn't get here Monday, so my wife and I were sleeping on the floor an extra night, and you know what they say about how many people are happy when Momma ain't happy. So, Monday night, I was writing a post about this story, which tells about Pres. Rainbow Brite's Soylent Green initiative, when the electricity went out in my vicinity. And, of course, without 115 volts RMS at 60 Hz, I neither compute nor internet. So, I had to go to bed ("go to floor," to be more accurate) without posting, and went to the YMCA and on to the day job this morning in that same sad condition. At lunchtime, I had a few minutes, and so I visited the excellent blog of my upstate New York friend akaGaGa and read this post. Now, this lady thinks pretty much exactly the same way I do (or would, if I were a better thinker), which is very nice in an uncanny sort of way ... but the only problem with a situation like that is, you'd better be quick to your keyboard or you end up looking like a big ol' copycat. Well, she's already said pretty much all I had to say, so by all means, go and give it a look. I do still, however, have a thought or so to add.

I really don't understand why it is that politicians on both nominal sides of the "life issues" make a half-hearted and lame attempt to straddle a miles-wide chasm, or to somehow split the unsplittable difference. I'll start with the GOP types, who are allegedly on my side. Anyone who's even slightly awake realizes that their "pro-life" positioning is purely a campaign tactic, to be used as political pornography to excite the "base" until the day after the election -- when it is instantly relegated to a back burner that's so far back, it isn't even within a country mile of the stove. But, in addition, they can't even lie consistently. "I'm opposed to abortion, except in case of rape-or-incest," they say, somehow never being asked to explain why your father being a rapist, or your parents being inappropriately related, should amount to a death sentence for you. O Elephant, do you imagine that a real pro-abort is going to vote for you, based on your weasel words, when he or she can vote for a real pro-abort? O Elephant, you of the futile and reprobate mind!

And then there's the Donk. Consider the Chosen One himself. I was eating my lunch on Monday (at Dawson's Dogs, for those of you who live around here) when Mr. Obama gave his speech on the teevee, and while I kept my gaze firmly on my book, I couldn't help hearing the wild enthusiasm of the cheer that went up when he first mentioned that it's about to be Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Time. It sounded like a rock concert, in the moment after the lights come up on the headlining band. Why didn't Rainbow Brite go ahead and raise his fists: Blood! Blood! We're going to have blood! No, he tried to do his own straddle dance:
He noted that "many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research," and he said he understands their concerns and respects their views.

But a majority of Americans "from across the political spectrum" believe the research should be pursued, Obama said, "and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided."

He said his administration will also support "promising research of all kinds, including groundbreaking work to convert ordinary human cells into ones that resemble embryonic stem cells." This research on adult stem cells was favored by the Bush administration, which argued that it could produce scientific advances without destroying human embryos.

Obama also pledged to develop strict, rigorously enforced guidelines for embryonic stem cell research "because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse." He vowed, "We will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society."
Do you imagine, O Donk, that you'll sway any actual opponents with your poor simulation of being conflicted and making hard choices? If it's a fine thing to combine actual human ova and sperm at the IVF clinic, and thus start large numbers of babies in vitro, almost all of whom are destined to become spare parts, why shouldn't it be acceptable to clone a bunch of babies who'll be destined to become spare parts? Incoherence is what usually happens, O Donk, when you set out to defend the indefensible. O Donk, you of the futile and reprobate mind!

And this is what passes for a sharp contrast between the two essentially-identical crime families that run the Empire: one taxes me for limited federally-funded crimes against decency, while the other taxes me for somewhat-less-limited federally-funded crimes against decency. Don't tell me we don't have choices in Our Democracy!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

What Happens If ...

... we don't have a Surgeon-General?

Who's this "we," anyway? I should be more precise: what happens if there no one is Surgeon-General of the United States of America?

I suppose that means that the duties of said Surgeon-General go unperformed ... whatever those duties might be. As far as I've been able to tell from my admittedly limited exposure to the work product of Surgeon-Generals (or, more likely, Surgeons-General), that consists of repetitious high-minded hectoring of we Americanos, as well as the occasional bit of low comedy, such as C. Everett Koop in his fanciful semi-naval uniform (apparently these folks acquire the spurious naval rank of "vice-admiral," albeit in the Public Health Service), or Joycelyn Elders and virtually everything she ever had to say. So, we'd have to do without that.

"Look at me! I'm a Vice-Admiral! That's even better than being a Vice Lord!"

And then, Joycelyn Elders certainly looked fetching in that naval-warrior suit herself, no?

On the other hand, that'd be one fewer bloated salary to pay.

So, whaddaya say? I say: let's give it a try.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cartoon Humor

A day-job colleague sent me the link. Thanks to XKCD.

Mister Bond was correct, of course. When the villain in the funny hat talks about "constructing Newtonian mechanics in a rotating system," he's really talking about pretending that a circle, or an arc thereof, is a straight line. And, yes, it's true that if you insist on pretending such, you will indeed have to invoke fiction in some form. All fine, as long as you understand and keep in mind what you're doing.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Here's a Foolish Question

What part of the text of our famous Dead Constitution is it that explicitly authorizes the feds to decide whether health care providers may be allowed to decline to commit particular acts?
The Obama administration plans to reverse a regulation from late in the Bush administration allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide services based on moral objections, an official said Friday.

The Provider Refusal Rule was proposed by the Bush White House in August and enacted on January 20, the day President Barack Obama took office.

It expanded on a 30-year-old law establishing a "conscience clause" for "health-care professionals who don't want to perform abortions."

Under the rule, workers in health-care settings -- from doctors to janitors -- can refuse to provide services, information or advice to patients on subjects such as contraception, family planning, blood transfusions and even vaccine counseling if they are morally against it.
Again, we can see that as we look to DC to solve all problems, protect us from the whole world, and tell us what to do in our every waking moment, it (supposedly) becomes ever more and more vital: who holds the godlike power? Who can hurl the heavenly thunderbolts? In the world of everything-not-compulsory-is-forbidden, I guess the identity of the Compeller-Forbidder really is the most important possible question.

Sheep, the lot of us.