Monday, June 29, 2009

"Read His Lips ..."

No doubt about it: Barack Obama's a versatile man. Besides his masterful channeling of George W. Slow-puppy, he also does a great Richard Nixon:
President Obama's top political adviser declined yesterday to rule out the possibility that the White House would agree to a tax hike on health insurance plans that would hit middle-income Americans.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," David Axelrod declined to repeat Obama's "firm pledge" during the campaign that families making under $250,000 would not see "any form of tax increase, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."

Instead, Axelrod said the president has no interest in "drawing lines in the sand" on the issue of how to pay for the costly health reform plan making its way through Congress.

"One of the problems we've had in this town is that people draw lines in the sand and they stop talking to each other. And you don't get anything done," Axelrod said. "That's not the way the president approaches this."
What was it Tricky Dick's press secretary said, during the Watergate scandal, back in the days when there was some semblance of an adversary, watchdog relationship between the press and the gummint? After some lie or other came to light, press secretary Ron Nessen said, "That statement is no longer operative." Now Mr. Axelrod has a new one: to keep one's word is "drawing a line in the sand," and that's very bad because "you don't get anything done." Well, there's another couple of folks who look very good up against the wall, wearing blindfolds, in my "After the Revo" fantasy.

G. W. Obama on Torture

President Change We Can Believe In™ has delivered himself of some no-doubt-ghostwritten remarks in dishonor of "United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims:"
Twenty-five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture, and twenty-two years ago this very day, the Convention entered into force. The United States’ leading role in the negotiation of the Convention and its subsequent ratification and implementation enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Today, we join the international community in reaffirming unequivocally the principles behind that Convention, including the core principle that torture is never justified.

Torture violates United States and international law as well as human dignity. Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country, and the fundamental values of our people. It diminishes the security of those who carry it out, and surrenders the moral authority that must form the basis for just leadership. That is why the United States must never engage in torture, and must stand against torture wherever it takes place.

My administration is committed to taking concrete actions against torture and to address the needs of its victims. On my third day in office, I issued an executive order that prohibits torture by the United States. My budget request for fiscal year 2010 includes continued support for international and domestic groups working to rehabilitate torture victims.

The United States will continue to cooperate with governments and civil society organizations throughout the international community in the fight to end torture. To this end, I have requested today that the Department of State solicit information from all of our diplomatic missions around the world about effective policies and programs for stopping torture and assisting its victims so that we and our civil society partners can learn from what others have done. I applaud the courage, compassion and commitment of the many people and organizations doing this vitally important work.
So what's David Frum up to? From the way the above reads, I have to think Rainbow Brite has simply retained at least one of Dubya's speechwriters. The remarks are incomplete, though. I shall do my duty as a good citizen and assist Da Prez, gratis:

The United States will also continue to spare no effort in covering up its recent history of torture, and to make certain that no torturers are investigated, prosecuted, or even fired. And, however difficult it may be, I will absolutely stifle my giggles when issuing this annual boilerplate denunciation of torture. I'm the Chosen One, and I will meet the challenge.

(Thanks to James Bovard for linking to the Obama statement.)

Friday, June 26, 2009


Imperial America is Kim Jong-il's indispensable ally:
North Korean media said the North would never give up its “nuclear deterrent” but instead would strengthen it because of what the media called an American plot to invade the North. Rodong Sinmun, the North’s main newspaper, said that the United States’ recent pledge to defend South Korea was tantamount to “asking for the calamitous situation of having a fire shower of nuclear retaliation all over South Korea.”

International sanctions could further isolate the already impoverished North. But the government appears to be using them to stoke anti-American anger and consolidate its power at home at a time when the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, is seeking to bequeath his power to one of his sons, according to officials and private analysts in South Korea.

Mr. Kim, 67, reportedly had a stroke last August.
No, I don't think there's going to be an American invasion of North Korea -- surely, God-Emperor Obama's not that stupid -- although I'm sure there are many American "plots to invade North Korea," which our tech-speaking warmasters would call "contingency plans." Given our history, though, how is anyone, even the Dear Editors of Rodong Sinmun, going to sound too silly by referring to such invasion plots? I mean, name a place we haven't invaded, and it either has nukes, or we just haven't gotten around to it yet: be patient, Lower Slobbovians, your turn's coming. But an interventionist, world-managing, overbearing, condemning, sanctions-dispensing, self-parodying U.S. has to be a great boon to a little tin-plated maniac like Dear Leader Kim, as he seeks to perpetuate his misrule even after his overdue death. If our supervisors: (1) had any brains; and (2) actually wanted to hurt the NoKo regime, they'd get the U.S. armed forces out of Korea instantly, and they'd then proceed to studiously ignore North Korea: do nothing, and say nothing. But our supervisors are malevolent pinheads. So it goes.

Blasphemy Here

Madonna is wrong, twice:
Tributes from stars and fans have been pouring in for singer Michael Jackson, who has died aged 50 after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Los Angeles home.

Pop star Madonna said: "The world has lost one of its greats, but his music will live on forever."
No, it hasn't; and no, it won't.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

GOP Turnaround?

All five or six of you who read this blog now and then know me, and the three or four things I have to say, all too well. You know I think there's only one "party" ruling this huge, poor, decaying, used-to-be republic: the Corporate/War Party, with two major caucuses, elephas maximus and equus africanus asinus, plus a minor caucus or so that don't merit mention. But while the two big caucuses are, I claim, functionally and morally equivalent (zero equals zero), they still have their own individual foibles and tendencies. And, in recent years, the nominal males of the pachyderm caucus have displayed a remarkable tendency to "think" with the wrong head, so to speak; and, increasingly, to do so with folk of their own sex. Playing hide-the-sausage with the other boys, that is to say.

Well, you know, these GOPpers, along with their jackass "opponents," have already demonstrated their moral bankruptcy many times over, in ways that range from military mass murder to wholesale robbery on an astronomical scale to frank, out-and-out tyranny. And I'm pretty well numb and resigned to the idea that sociopaths with innumerable superbly-armed minions hold the power of life and death over me. So, when it comes to their sexual mischief, either sodomaniacal or heteromaniacal, I can't get too exercised; it's not killing the innocent, and it gives the rest of us a tiny little bit of amusement: some (very) low comedy, and a great opportunity to give 'em the old horselaugh.

But the last two 'Pubbies have copped to adultery with women, not men, or teenage boys. I have to wonder: has the Party of Lincoln™ hit bottom, morally speaking, and begun the slightest hint of a rebound?

[Warning: if you're a Lincoln idolator, or are simply offended by vile material, don't watch the below. I include it only because it's hilarious, and I'm completely irresponsible.]

Or will it turn out that there's still another shoe to drop in the strange saga of Guv Sanford? Will we find out, in the next couple of days, that his dark-eyed, smoldering senorita is really a senor? I certainly have no track record for predicting such things. No doubt, another news cycle or so will tell.

The Word for Wednesday, June 24 Edition

Isaiah looks ahead (chapter 24):
Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.

The new wine mourns,
The vine decays,
All the merry-hearted sigh.
The gaiety of tambourines ceases,
The noise of revelers stops,
The gaiety of the harp ceases.
They do not drink wine with song;
Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
The city of chaos is broken down;
Every house is shut up so that none may enter.
There is an outcry in the streets concerning the wine;
All joy turns to gloom.
The gaiety of the earth is banished.
Desolation is left in the city,
And the gate is battered to ruins.
For thus it will be in the midst of the earth among the peoples,
As the shaking of an olive tree,
As the gleanings when the grape harvest is over.
They raise their voices, they shout for joy.
They cry out from the west concerning the majesty of the Lord.
Therefore glorify the Lord in the east,
The name of the Lord, the God of Israel
In the coastlands of the sea.
From the ends of the earth, we hear songs, "Glory to the Righteous One,"
But I say, "Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me!
The treacherous deal treacherously,
And the treacherous deal very treacherously."
Terror and pit and snare
Confront you, O inhabitant of the earth.
Then it will be that he who flees the report of disaster will fall into the pit,
And he who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare;
For the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake.
The earth is broken asunder,
The earth is split through,
The earth is shaken violently.
The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard,
And it totters like a shack,
For its transgression is heavy upon it,
And it will fall, never to rise again.
So it will happen in that day,
That the Lord will punish the host of heaven, on high,
And the kings of the earth, on earth.
And they will be gathered together
Like the prisoners in the dungeon,
And will be confined in prison;
And after many days they will be punished.
Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,
For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
And His glory will be before His elders.
Well. That is nothing if not comprehensive, it seems to me. I wonder: does this mean I don't have to cut my grass this week?

I didn't think so.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We Interrupt Your Outrage

I know that we, as patriotic Americans, are all consumed with sorrow over those Eye-ranians who've been slaughtered by the Evil Regime in Tehran. (You know: the same Eye-ranians that we'd be happy to convert into radioactive vapor any time the Israelis instruct us to.) And I know that we patriotic Americans are thrilled by our very own President Rainbow Brite sternly admonishing those Evil Tehran Regime guys to leave off mistreating their own subjects. But just have a quick glimpse at this, before it slides completely down the memory hole:
At least 45 people have died in a missile strike by a US drone aircraft in Pakistan, officials there have said.

The people killed in South Waziristan region had been attending a funeral for others killed in a US drone strike earlier on Tuesday.

Intelligence officials said at least 45 people had been killed and dozens more injured in the later strike, when two missiles were fired.

But a local official told BBC News the death toll was more than 50.
Of course, these are Pakistani wogs, not Iranian wogs. But that's not the real distinction; after all, a wog's a wog, right? No, the difference is that we snuffed the Pak wogs, and the Evil Tehran Regime snuffed some Iranian wogs. And any wog we snuff has it coming. Either that, or it's just regrettable but necessary collateral damage, war is hell, can't make omelets without breaking a few etc., etc., blah blah blah.

Alrighty, then. We are dismissed to our normal vital business, which this week seems to be "Jon and Kate Plus Lawyers."

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Couple of Viewpoints

Here's one take on the Imperial financial meltdown -- that unconstitutional powers need to be manufactured and assigned to a Thing (the Federal Reserve) that doesn't even have a constitutional existence:
Mr. Geithner tried to knock down any impression that the Federal Reserve would become much more powerful. “Our proposals for the additional authority we’re giving the Fed are actually quite modest and build on their existing authority,” he said.

Moreover, he said, the Fed was not responsible for the current situation, and “it has a greater knowledge and feel for broader market developments than is true for any other entity in that context.”

Mr. Geithner is sure to face more sharp questioning. He was to have appeared Thursday afternoon before the House Financial Services Committee, but the session was postponed because of heavy House business on the floor.

At least twice, Mr. Geithner described the White House plan as “pragmatic” and meant to do what is essential, rather than what would be ideal. “It does not propose reforms that, while desirable, would not move us toward achieving those core objectives and creating a more stable system.”
And then there's Matt Taibbi, providing a blast of fresh air and profanity:
Anyway, I was also struck by this phrase:

…we are proud of the way our firm managed the risk for our clients…

First of all, generally speaking, when one apologizes for having done a bad thing (like for instance destroying the world economy), it is good form to wait at least until the end of the sentence to start bragging again.

Second of all, what is particularly obnoxious about this phrase is that Goldman is bragging about the fact that it actually made money while it was pumping the economy full of explosive leverage. While companies like Lehman and Bear were dumb enough to actually eat their own rat meat, Goldman knew what it was doing and was careful to bet against the same stuff it was selling, which makes its behavior many times worse than that of other banks, not better. I get into this more in a Rolling Stone piece coming out next week, but Goldman’s continual bragging about its mortgage hedges is one of the more obnoxious phenomena in the recent history of Wall Street, given that it was selling this shit by the ton during that same period.

Beyond that, Goldman’s “risk management” also involved buying massive hedges on its mortgage exposure from…drum roll please… AIG. In fact Goldman was AIGFP’s single largest customer; while the bank was busy flooding the world financial system with doomed mortgages, it was also busy piling bets on the back of the insurance behemoth — $20 billion worth, to be exact. And AIG’s death spiral was triggered not so much by its bets going sour, but by companies like Goldman that demanded that AIG put up cash to show its ability to pay. These collateral calls were what killed AIG last September, and Goldman was one of those creditors pulling the trigger: what makes this fact even more obnoxious is that ex-Goldmanite Henry Paulson then stepped in and green-lighted an $80 billion taxpayer bailout. Ultimately another ex-Goldmanite named Ed Liddy was put in charge of AIG, and Goldman ended up getting paid 100 cents on the dollar for its AIG debt.

So basically Goldman helped kill AIG, necessitating a federal bailout, after which time it got paid off handsomely for bets that it certainly would not have been paid off completely for had AIG simply been liquidated. And again, AIG probably does not have a market to sell its CDS insurance to firms like Goldman, if firms like Goldman had not cooked up this insane scheme to underwrite billions upon billions of toxic debt and sell it off to secondary buyers as safe investments. Moreover AIG would not have even had this business of selling CDS insurance had not a bunch of ex-Goldman guys, in particular Bob Rubin, quietly pushed to deregulate the derivatives market back at the end of the Clinton administration.
It's all in how you look at it, I guess. And one thing should be abundantly clear: how you look at it depends not at all on which wing -- elephant or donkey -- of the corporate duopoly you're affiliated with.

El Supremo

Bernie: it's called retirement. Try it, you bizarre little gnome:
Motorsport governing body, The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), plan to sue Ferrari and the seven other Formula One teams threatening to set up a breakaway championship next season, for breach of contract.

Following meetings between FIA president Max Mosley and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone at Silverstone on Friday, the FIA has now decided legal action is their only course of action.

Confirming their intentions, a statement read: "The FIA's lawyers have now examined the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) threat to begin a breakaway series.

"The actions of FOTA as a whole, and Ferrari in particular, amount to serious violations of law including wilful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari's legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law.

"The FIA will be issuing legal proceedings without delay. Preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship continue but publication of the final entry list will be put on hold while the FIA asserts its legal rights."

Meanwhile, Formula One's sole commercial rights holder and overall supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, has dismissed the threat of the eight FOTA teams breaking away to form a new championship.

... [snip] ...

Currently only five teams have committed to racing in next season's championship: Williams and Force India, who were expelled from FOTA for agreeing to participate, and new teams Campos GP, Manor F1 and Team US F1.
Good luck with that, "Supremo." Williams was good a couple of decades ago. Otherwise ... yeah, sure, sounds like something I'd be frothingly anxious to pay to see. Sure.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, June 17 Edition

Isaiah chapter 17 (the entirety):
The oracle concerning Damascus.

"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city,
And it will become a fallen ruin.
The cities of Aroer are forsaken;
They will be for flocks to lie down in,
And there will be no one to frighten them.
The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
And sovereignty from Damascus
And the remnant of Aram;
They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,"
Declares the Lord of hosts.

Now it will come about that in that day the glory of Jacob will fade, and the fatness of his flesh will become lean. It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain, as his arm harvests the ears, or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain in the valley of Repahim. Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives on the topmost bough, four of five on the branches of a fruitful tree, declares the Lord, the God of Israel. In that day man will have regard for his Maker, and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. And he will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, even the Asherim and incense stands. In that day their strong cities will be like forsaken places in the forest, or like branches which they abandoned before the sons of Israel; and the land will be a desolation. For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge. Therefore you plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god. In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in, and in the morning you bring your seed to blossom; but the harvest will be a heap in a day of sickliness and incurable pain.

Alas, the uproar of many peoples
Who roar like the roaring of the seas,
And the rumbling of nations
Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!
The nations rumble on like the rumbling of many waters,
But He will rebuke them and they will flee far away,
And be chased like chaff in the mountains before the wind,
Or like whirling dust before a gale.
At evening time, behold, there is terror!
Before morning, they are no more.
Such will be the portion of those who plunder us,
And the lot of those who pillage us.
A couple of thoughts: first, that this chapter typifies the ones surrounding it: prophecies of destruction and desolation. Secondly, that this is a picture of human futility: cities are built and fortified, altars are constructed, crops planted. I take the crops here as being especially symbolic of any enterprise planned by man, in which today's work is intended to bring tomorrow's plenty -- on man's terms. But, since man has forgotten God (and we all do this habitually, believers or not), it all comes to nothing, or worse than nothing. This strikes me as a kind of reverse side of the coin to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-34:
"Do not be anxious, then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
I think He was talking straightforwardly about more everyday sorts of things, maybe, than those "great affairs of peoples" that were the subjects of Isaiah's prophecy. But the principle is the same, regardless of the scale.

Click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fresh Outrage

How dare this man rig Iranian political outcomes? Doesn't he know that's our job?

If I Ran the U.S., 6/15/09 Edition

Here's the situation:
SEOUL, June 15 -- As state media in North Korea continued to warn of possible nuclear war, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak flew to Washington for talks with President Obama at which Lee is expected to seek a written promise of continued U.S. nuclear protection.

The United States has maintained a nuclear umbrella over South Korea since the Korean War and it periodically reaffirms that protection, although not at the level of a White House statement.
= = = = = = =

Dear President Lee Myung-bak,


All treaties are hereby repudiated. The total pullout of U.S. armed forces will be complete by this time Thursday. Feel free to keep the base facilities.

Respectfully yours,


Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Silver Lining?

It's been said that being sentenced to be hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully. (I'd just as soon not find out for myself.) But I wonder if a good economic depression could possibly have a similar effect on what we might call -- without a trace of irony! -- the "national mind." This makes me wonder:
Support for Israel among American voters dipped slightly over the first half of 2009, but this was not accompanied by a rise in the single-digit backing for Palestinians, a new poll has revealed.

According to a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll conducted for The Israel Project last week, 49 percent of US voters consider themselves supporters of Israel, down from 57% in January. Just 7% see themselves as supporters of the Palestinians, down from 8% in January. Fully 31% are either undecided or support neither position.
Without worrying too much about the meaning of the responses to a poll conducted for an entity calling itself "The Israel Project," I do wonder whether there might be an increase in the fraction of Americans who might "see themselves as supporters" of America, maybe. Perhaps world management is seen as a luxurious hobby to be indulged during flush times. Of course, many may not realize that "flush times" are multiple decades behind us; but pretty much everyone outside of D.C. probably realizes that these ain't them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How's the Five-Year Plan Going, Tovarisch?

Well, we're still in Phase One, so it's hard to say just now:
WASHINGTON ( -- The House on Tuesday waded deeper into the rescue of the troubled auto industry when it passed a $4 billion plan to subsidize new cars sales for consumers who scrap old ones.

By a vote of 298-119, the House approved the "cash for clunkers" program.

The measure would give consumers vouchers worth as much as $4,500 to turn in gas guzzlers and buy new cars that are more fuel efficient.

The legislation now goes to the Senate. President Obama has said he supports such a measure.


Clunkers eligible for the program must get 18 miles per gallon, or less, in combined city and highway driving. The subsidy ends up benefiting more owners of light trucks, SUVs and mini-vans more than it would owners of regular old passenger cars, auto experts say.

A $3,500 subsidy can be used toward purchasing cars and vans that are more fuel efficient than the older clunkers by four miles per gallon. A $4,500 subsidy can be used toward purchasing cars and vans that are more fuel efficient than older cars by 10 miles per gallon.

However, cars that have not been insured for the past year or those that are older than 25 years are not eligible to be traded in for vouchers.

The House measure aims to spend $4 billion in new dollars toward the measure, and was expected to get added through a war supplemental funding bill. That could prove to be a sticking point, since some Republicans in the Senate said they rather such a measure use already allocated dollars.

"We're going to have to pay the piper at some time," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "This is a clunker of a bill."

The program lasts either one year or until the funding runs out.
So, what's this "Phase One" stuff, you ask? Well, I'm guessing there'll be a Phase Two. If When Phase One fails to deliver the requisite jobs & prosperity, I expect our supervisors will take a more ... uhhhh ... direct approach. Democrats will want to simply assign every driver a car (a General Government Motors product, of course), paid for out of Magic Stimulus Money™. Republicans, on the other hand, will introduce legislation requiring every adult American to purchase a new car once every three or four years, and will prescribe Tasing™, waterboarding, or indefinite detention for those who fail to make the purchase. Either way: a Great Leap Forward, no?

The Word for Wednesday, 10 June Edition

(As always, click here for more and better Words for Wednesday.)

The prophet continues ... Isaiah chapter 12:
Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord; for though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou dost comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation." Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, "Give thanks to the Lord, and call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted." Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
I don't have a whole lot to say about this chapter, really, except to note the obvious: for the believer, despair is never justified. Not that we're supposed to be all smiley and happy-clappy all the time; God promises us plenty of trouble in this world, and trouble is something that you suffer, not celebrate. We do have an assurance, though, that troubles eventually reach an end. And it's always cheering to read a prophet's picture of troubles coming to an end. God is true, and faithful, and merciful; and all of those are reasons for confidence on our part.

Monday, June 08, 2009

No, Really ... Pot, Meet Kettle

As IOZ points out, the North Korean justification for keeping the two journalists in the jug is at least as good as our supervisors' reasons for keeping the clientele of Guantanamo Bay, and Bagram, and who-knows-how-many places whose names we haven't heard. From the story he links:
The human rights group Amnesty International criticized the procedures behind the sentencing and called for the journalists’ immediate release. “No access to lawyers, no due process, no transparency: the North Korean judicial and penal systems are more instruments of suppression than of justice,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.
Sound familiar? Yeah, well, that's OK; the U.S. is exceptional, the "indispensable nation," and when we hold people indefinitely, without even a show trial, without even charges, but with some torture thrown in just for grins and giggles, that's no problem. Because our intentions are good. If you need proof, just ask us -- we'll tell you. But be sure you ask politely. Nine-eleven changed everything, and don't you forget it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pot, Meet Kettle

I see where our supervisors want to punish those naughty, naughty NoKos for being nuclear-armed weapons merchants, and for counterfeiting U.S. money.

On the other hand: the United State is a nuclear-armed weapons merchant. And, what with the Federal Reserve busy conjuring funny-money straight out of spreadsheet space to finance the bankster bonanza otherwise known as TARP (and its siblings), well ... you see what I mean, no doubt. Do you suppose there's much chance that our regime will self-sanction?

Didn't think so.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Derivatives Explained


Thanks, Rebecca, for an intoxicating lesson in dishonest political economics. We're all thirsty for this sort of education. Here's mud in all our eyes!

Curse You, IOZ!

I was about to publish a measured, reasoned, insightful analysis of Dear Leader's speech in Cairo. Sure I was. You know me -- measured, reasoned, insightful, and analytical to a fault. Of course. But I looked at IOZ's blog first, and saw that he beat me to it. Again. An excerpt:
CAIRO - Speaking before a large crowd at Cairo University in Egypt's sprawling capital city, President Barack Obama urged the Muslim world to "look over there," causing several dozen in the audience to turn their heads to see what he was pointing at in the vague middle distance.

"But seriously," Mr. Obama continued. "The time of the past is in the past, and the future is that which lies before us." Pausing for effect, he added, "The present is now," drawing applause.

Dwelling only briefly on a host of topics ranging from Afghanistan to Pakistan, the President spoke at length about his own biography, repeatedly declaring "I am the way, the light, and the truth," as he outlined his family history and spoke proudly of his father's Muslim heritage.

While the reception was generally appreciative, many afterward expressed skepticism. One student noted, "He's a Hussein, I'm a Hussein. That's terrific. But what's he going to do for us?"

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which most Egyptians cited as their top issue, the President had suggestions for both sides. "The Palestinians must surrender," he said. "Abjectly. They must forgo their dreams and aspirations and live forever in the bitter half-dream of that-which-might-have-been-but-could-not-be."

Unlike past presidents, however, he also had sharp words for the the Israeli side. "Israelis," he urged, "must be willing to accept broken Palestinian dreams as their neighbors, accepting with grace their defeated neighbors, at least until such time as we can figure out somewhere else to put them."

Mr. Obama urged governments across the region to maintain a reasonable fiction of democratic governance, except in the case of hereditary monarchies. Regarding Iran, he reminded the audience that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and expressed America's firm commitment to the principle that if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.
Well, OK, that "excerpt" is practically the whole thing. But I couldn't figure out where to stop. Head on over there anyway, and give him some traffic. Not that he needs it or anything. Curse you, IOZ!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 3 June Edition

Sorry if this is getting repetitious. Isaiah's a long book; I'm slow; and I'm also compulsive enough that Isaiah will remain the source until I run out of Isaiah. (Which could be months!) That said, Isaiah chapter 10, the first five verses:
Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and to rob the poor of My people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives or fall among the slain. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out.
Although I'm too lazy to start looking them up, I'm sure that those who are familiar with the scriptures will recognize the theme of this passage, which it shares with many other passages in both testaments. God hates injustice, and He particularly hates it when it is directed toward those whose weakness makes them especially vulnerable to injustice: the widows and orphans, and the needy in general. The "devastation which will come from afar" is discussed in more detail in the remainder of this chapter, which reminds us that God sometimes chooses to punish those who are supposed to be His people by sending heathens to overrun them; this does not make those heathens righteous, but instead makes them unwitting instruments of God's wrath. The straightforward lesson for the church that I would take from this is: If you find yourself suffering at unbelieving hands, ask yourselves: how have we been dealing with the weak and vulnerable -- the widows and orphans -- lately? Have we been continuing the work of Jesus? Or indulging our own flesh?

As always, click here for more Words for Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How'd I Miss This?

Re this (ten days old, and I must've been snoozing): tell me once more how Rainbow Brite is anything other than Dubya with a better command of the English language and a (marginally) better suntan?
President Obama told human rights advocates at the White House on Wednesday that he was mulling the need for a “preventive detention” system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried, two participants in the private session said.

The discussion, in a 90-minute meeting in the Cabinet Room that included Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and other top administration officials, came on the eve of a much-anticipated speech Mr. Obama is to give Thursday on a number of thorny national security matters, including his promise to close the detention center at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Human rights advocates are growing deeply uneasy with Mr. Obama’s stance on these issues, especially his recent move to block the release of photographs showing abuse of detainees, and his announcement that he is willing to try terrorism suspects in military commissions — a concept he criticized bitterly as a presidential candidate.

The two participants, outsiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was intended to be off the record, said they left the meeting dismayed.

They said Mr. Obama told them he was thinking about “the long game” — how to establish a legal system that would endure for future presidents. He raised the issue of preventive detention himself, but made clear that he had not made a decision on it. Several senior White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on the outsiders’ accounts.
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Philadelphia: a Full Report

I said I'd make a full report on my extended weekend, so here it is. My wife and I went to Philadelphia to visit with our son who lives in the area, and to do a little tourist stuff.

First of all, Philadelphia's a cool place. I think that living there calls for the acquisition of a set of skills that I, as a casual motor-tourist, don't have; and so, for a midwestern type like me, there's a real element of relief in heading home. On the other hand, if I were to go and live in Philadelphia for a year, I'd be really good at living in Philadelphia. And then, if (inexplicably) I decided to spend a long weekend in Allen County, Indiana, I expect I'd be tickled to go home from there, too.

Secondly, I must admit that I left the area without once consuming an authentic cheesesteak. But it wasn't for lack of trying. I drove past both Pat's and Geno's on Saturday afternoon. Note, however, the verb: drove. I was afflicted with the possession of an automobile. This gets back to the urban-life-skills thing: there was no way in the world I'd have been able to park that beast within three miles of Pat's/Geno's (they're within a block of being in the same place). The solution is obvious: walk if it's not too far, and ride the train, or bus, if it is. Next time.

Thirdly: I went to the Official Historic Area™, which simply confirms my anarchist streak. Let's just say it's ironic, getting the full body search routine from your government in order to get within looking distance of a cracked bell, or the original Pennsylvania statehouse (now "Independence Hall"). Let's just further say that if Patrick Henry showed up there tomorrow, he'd be in Gitmo before lunchtime.

Fourthly: Philadelphia has itself one very, very, very fine art museum. Damn, it's nice. The Cezanne special exhibit was a little disappointing. But I think the day I saw it was also its last day, so my review would be even more pointless than my reviews usually are.

And thus ends the full report.

The Obligatory Tiller Murder Post

Concerning which, a few things:

(1) Killing the abortionist, like any other form of privately killing a killer, is unacceptable. One of the relatively few legitimate functions of government is to punish criminal conduct through due process of law; such punishment by private hands, without such due process, is clearly wrong. Whoever has killed Tiller should be punished accordingly (through the due process of the law). The fact that the state has spectacularly failed in its duty with respect to Tiller and his many colleagues in the death business does not justify a private execution. That failure does justify the overthrow of the ne'er-do-well government; but, then, that failure is just a single element in a vast and continually-growing collection of such justifications. Overthrowing a government isn't easy; governments tend to make it as difficult as possible, for the obvious reason. But that's outside the scope of an Obligatory Tiller Murder Post.

(2) Tiller was, I suppose, an attractive target for violence in that he was a symbol of the extreme. I note here that the very-late-term killings for which he was famous (well, notorious is more like it) are no worse than the "standard" first-trimester grind-'em-outs that are the main grist for every abortion mill. What distinguished Tiller was his special intransigence. Imagine ten men who make their livings clubbing baby harp seals to death for their fur. Nine of them just dully club every baby seal that comes along; the tenth gathers the very cutest ones, the ones with the biggest eyes, and bashes them. There's no real moral distinction there; "a person's a person, no matter how small." It's just a matter of style points. Again -- sigh! -- style points don't justify murder. I merely note that, unless one is courting some kind of diabolical martyrdom, one would be well-advised to be a little less in-your-face about one's misdeeds.

(3) As I type this, the world has about 6.78E+09 people. The annual death rate, worldwide, is estimated at 8.6 deaths per thousand people. Statistically, then, about 159,643 people died last Sunday. Of those, 159,642 are a greater occasion of sorrow than one George Tiller, late Kansas abortionist.