July 31, 2010
He’s Just Not That Into You

Face it, America, Uncle Sam’s just not that into you. He’ll reflexively shovel $59 billion dollars into emergency war spending —$33 billion of which will go directly towards the doomed war in Afghanistan — but can’t spare a dime for the great heroes of the post-9/11 narrative, the first responders:

A bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center dust fell short in the House on Thursday, raising the possibility that the bulk of compensation for the ill will come from a legal settlement hammered out in the federal courts.

The bill would have provided free health care and compensation payments to 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who fell ill after working in the trade center ruins.

Their services are no longer required. They performed well as symbols of American heroism and virtue at a time when we needed them. They were a civilized contrast to the dark, pitiless, fanatical evil that had attacked us. They gave the American tribe a reason to hoist the flag and pat each other on the back. They convinced us that, at the end of the day, there is something in this country worth fighting for and defending.

It was a nice thought, but just as false and disposable as everything else in the grotesque reality TV show that is American life and culture. Besides, there is something more sacred in America than patriotic self-sacrifice:

GOP critics branded the bill as yet another big-government “massive new entitlement program” that would have increased taxes and possibly kill jobs.

To pay the bill’s estimated $7.4 billion cost over 10 years, the legislation would have prevented foreign multinational corporations incorporated in tax haven countries from avoiding tax on income earned in the U.S.

Bill supporters said that would close a tax loophole. Republicans branded it a corporate tax increase.

The people’s repesentatives in Congress assembled have decreed that the health of 9/11 first responders is not as important as a corporate tax break.

Meanwhile, July was the bloodiest month in the Afghan war, surpassing the previous most deadly month, June, which was distinguished by another noteworthy fact: suicides in the Army averaged one a day.

Face it, Uncle Sam just doesn’t dig us.

“Life is strange,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson. “Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.”

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Posted by OHollern at 04:29 PM
July 30, 2010
Letting the Terrorists Win

Every person burdened with both honesty and intelligence already knows what follows, but seldom have I seen it expressed so clearly and unanswerably. Excerpted from an essay by Robert Higgs in The Beacon (h/t to Xymphora):

The announced goal is to identify terrorists and eliminate them or prevent them from carrying out their nefarious acts. This is simultaneously a small task and an impossible one. It is small because the number of persons seeking to carry out a terrorist act of substantial consequence against the United States and in a position to do so cannot be more than a handful. If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade — after all, the number of possible targets is virtually unlimited, and the attackers might cause some form of damage in countless ways.

The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI “captures” the unfortunate victims of the government’s entrapment.)

So, the true dimension of the terrorism problem that forms the excuse for these hundreds of programs of official predation against the taxpayers is small — not even in the same class with, say, reducing automobile-accident or household-accident deaths by 20 percent. Yet, at the same time, the antiterrorism task is impossible because terrorism is a simple act available in some form to practically any determined adult with access to Americans and their property at home or abroad.

It is simply not possible to stop all acts of terrorism if potential terrorists have been given a sufficient grievance to motivate their wreaking some form of havoc against Americans. However, it is silly to make the prevention of all terrorist acts the goal. What can’t be done won’t be done, regardless of how many people and how much money one devotes to doing it. We can, though, endure some losses from terrorism in the same way that we routinely endure some losses from accidents, diseases, and ordinary crime.

The sheer idiocy of paying legions of twenty-something grads of Harvard and Yale — youngsters who cannot speak Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, or any of the other languages of the areas they purport to be analyzing and know practically nothing of the history, customs, folkways, and traditions of these places — indicates that no one seriously expects the promised payoff in intelligence to emerge from the effort.

The whole business is akin to sending a blind person to find a needle inside a maze buried somewhere in a hillside. That the massive effort is utterly uncoordinated and scarcely able to communicate one part’s “findings” to another only strengthens the conclusion that the goal is not stopping terrorism, but getting the taxpayers’ money and putting it into privileged pockets. Even if the expected damage from acts of terrorism against the United States were $10 billion per year, which seems much too high a guess, it makes no sense to spend more than $75 billion every year to prevent it — and it certainly makes no sense to spend any money only pretending to prevent it.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:18 PM
July 28, 2010
Tweeting Kills

CNNTech reports the death of Ivy Bean. We all tried to tell her, didn’t we? Sooner or later, Gram, all that tweeting was going to catch up to you.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:40 PM
Give Us This Day Our Daily Oil

The Rude Pundit has gone to a Big Oil rally in New Orleans so you don’t have to. Read his report. Sadly, he’s right.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:11 PM
A Sea Change On Climate Change?

This might get conservatives to start believing in global warming:

Global warming could drive millions more Mexicans into the United States in search of work by 2080 due to diminishing crop yields in Mexico, a study released Monday showed.

“Depending on the warming scenarios used and adaptation levels assumed … climate change is estimated to induce 1.4 to 6.7 million adult Mexicans (or two percent to 10 percent of the current population aged 15-65 years) to emigrate as a result of declines in agricultural productivity alone,” the study said.

Global warming leads to illegal immigration? Caramba! Somebody call Lou Dobbs, and Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck, and Tom Tancredo, and all the other race-baiting protozoans who dwell in the depths of the Republican party’s lizard brain. Spread the word high and low, high carbon emissions mean more illegal Mexicans!

If this doesn’t persuade them to go green …



… then surely this will?

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Posted by OHollern at 10:41 AM
July 27, 2010
The Unbearable Awesomeness of Wikileaks

Yesterday the world changed and a new epoch was ushered in with Wikileak’s release of the Afghan War Diary, 2004 – 2010. In case you’ve been vacationing off-planet, Afghan War Diary is a compilation of “raw data” derived from 90,000 leaked ground reports from the war in Afghanistan (approximately 15,000 have been held back for possible redaction before their release). The importance of this event is certainly not that the data uncovers shocking new revelations about how abysmally the war in Afghanistan has been conducted — an epic fail of such proportions is hard to cover up completely no matter how obedient the national media are. The true awesomeness of this development is that, in one brilliant and well-coordinated play, the rules of the game have been changed — forever after — and, not only has the playing field been leveled, it’s been moved out of town — no more home-field advantage.

Part of the genius of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange’s release was his gambit to assure that mainstream media would not obstruct or trivialize the importance of the leak — by giving them the scoop. Wikileaks provided the roughly 91,000 reports dated from January 2004 to December 2009 to three media outlets, The New York Times, the Guardian of London and Der Spiegel of Germany, under agreement to publish their individual coverage simultaneously on Sunday…


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The “home team” however seems to be determined to ignore the change in game plan, at least for now. Despite a “heads up” from their loyal friends at The New York Times, the administration’s official flat-footed response was noticeably confused, and confusing. In my opinion, no one did a better job of parsing the White House’ official response than Jay Rosen; here are his reactions posted on NYU’s Pressthink blog:

The initial response from the White House was extremely unimpressive:

This leak will harm national security. (As if those words still had some kind of magical power, after all the abuse they have been party to.)

There’s nothing new here. (Then how could the release harm national security?)

Wikileaks is irresponsible; they didn’t even try to contact us! (Hold on: you’re hunting the guy down and you’re outraged that he didn’t contact you?)

Wikileaks is against the war in Afghanistan; they’re not an objective news source. (So does that mean the documents they published are fake?)

“The period of time covered in these documents… is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.” (Okay, so now we too know the basis for the President’s decision: and that’s a bad thing?)

A great follow-up (that we’ll never see) from the White House would be a comprehensive analysis of how the “revolutionary Obama” strategy addresses shortcomings in the “lackluster Bush” strategy. For example, to the best of my knowledge, American taxpayers are still underwriting billions of dollars to continue the Sisyphean task of training an Afghan National Police Force.

As Tom Engelhardt put it, recently:

The Pentagon . . . hasn’t hesitated to use at least $25-27 billion to “train” and “mentor” the Afghan military and police – and after each round of training failed to produce the expected results, to ask for even more money, and train them again.

Engelhardt then follows up with the questions that lay bare the Coalition’s utter fecklessness in this endeavor:

“And here is the oddest thing of all, though no one even bothers to mention it in this context: the Taliban haven’t had tens of billions of dollars in foreign training funds; they haven’t had years of advice from the best U.S. and NATO advisers that money can buy; they haven’t had private contractors like DynCorp teaching them how to fight and police, and strangely enough, they seem to have no problem fighting. They are not undermanned, infiltrated by followers of Hamid Karzai, or particularly corrupt. They may be illiterate and may not be fluent in English, but they are ready, in up-to platoon-sized units, to attack heavily fortified U.S. military bases, Afghan prisons, a police headquarters, and the like with hardly a foreign mentor in sight.”

“Consider it, then, a modern miracle in reverse that the U.S. has proven incapable of training a competent Afghan force in a country where arms are the norm, fighting has for decades seldom stopped, and the locals are known for their war-fighting traditions.”

And if you think the Afghan Police Academy idea is stupid and wasteful, just go read Tom’s entire article describing the US plan to resurrect the Afghan Air Force (as soon as they can learn English) and procure some reconditioned Russian ‘coptors that the Afghans took a shine to in the last war. The timeline for that project? US Air Force personnel: guestimate 2016 – 2018 depending on how well the Afghans take to English, “the official language of the cockpit.” There are 450 US Air Force personnel tasked with this project @ $1 million/year/flight instructor plus, of course, pay and bennies for the Afghan recruits, and let’s not forget procurement and maintenance of the fleet of Russian helicopters — you do the math . . . .

What has changed, recently, was that the new Afghan “police academy” graduates will eventually be dealing with a possible “conflict of interest” with the freshly minted localized militias (that nobody wants to call militias) that Gen. Petraeus is so proud of successfully lobbying for.

Evidently, Catch-22 is alive and well in today’s army . . .

* * *

The Pentagon, for its part, has harrumphed out a hasty announcement that it is launching a “robust probe” of the Wikileaks matter (to differentiate, I suppose, from the “rather lame probes” that it launches in the event of collateral damage leaks). That development is curious in the face of their much ballyhooed apprehension, months ago, of Bradley Manning, an Army information analyst stationed in Iraq (not Afghanistan), charged with leaking classified information to Wikileaks. The Pentagon is acting suspiciously in this, perhaps they know that there are many leaks in their midst, or, maybe they just already know it’s not Manning but it’s good to have a guy in custody.

And the State Department, on the basis of leaked reports that the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI is aiding and abetting the Taliban insurgents, is threatening to take back the $7 billion aid package that it proudly bestowed on Pakistan a few weeks ago, if the ISI doesn’t cut it out. Of course none of this is “news” and Hillary Clinton knew it when she delivered this money bomb on her latest trip. Ah well, it’s taxpayers’ money, there’s more where that came from . . .

* * *

The real importance of this event is so hard to grasp and appreciate fully that it’s going to take some time to digest. If you look hard enough, though, a number of people have noticed and are scratching the surface in credible ways.

The following are excerpts from the first impressions of respected sources on media and the new news ecosystem; taken together, I believe that their comments comprise a cogent analysis of the unprecedented actions taken by Julian Assange and the possible impact that those actions might have on the future of information distribution, transparency and governmental accountability.

From Jay Rosen of NYU’s PressThink blog:

If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that. (Dave Winer in the comments: “The blogosphere is a stateless news organization.”) Wikileaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, ‘They didn’t even contact us!

Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what Wikileaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does Wikileaks.

And I can’t resist including a reader’s comment on Rosen’s article, because it says so much:

we enter an era now where we begin to be conscious of “collective consciousness” and its role as “prime mover” of the “world” and its events …”

analysis of the various parts and components proceeds only fitfully, because we do not yet have a language of whole …

the problem? adjusting to a pre-existing global reality larger than the individual thinking mind can grasp …

consciousness itself, however, has no problem with any of this … it is our limited self-concept that does …

solution? easy. identify with the whole…

inescapable and unavoidable, by the way … not if, but when

Posted by: gregorylent at July 26, 2010 2:56 AM | Permalink

From Alexis Madrigal, senior editor and lead technology writer for TheAtlantic.com:

The rogue, rather mysterious website provided the raw data; the newspapers provided the context, corroboration, analysis, and distribution. ‘Wikileaks was not involved in the news organizations’ research, reporting, analysis and writing,’ Times editors said in an online note. ‘The Times spent about a month mining the data for disclosures and patterns, verifying and cross-checking with other information sources, and preparing the articles that are published today.

The New York Times’ David Carr may have nailed the issue when he tweeted that it was the “asymmetries” that Wikileaks introduces into the equation that have the government spooked. An administration official told Politico, ‘[I]t’s worth noting that Wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes U.S. policy in Afghanistan.’ But the truth is that we don’t really know what Wikileaks is, or what the organization’s ethics are, or why they’ve become such a stunningly good conduit of classified information.

In the new asymmetrical journalism, it’s not clear who is on what side or what the rules of engagement actually are. But the reason Wikileaks may have just changed the media is that we found out that it doesn’t really matter. Their data is good, and that’s what counts.

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Whatever else is true, WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world. Just as was true for the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that’s what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing. WikiLeaks is one of the few entities successfully blowing holes in at least parts of that wall, enabling modest glimpses into what The Washington Post spent last week describing as Top Secret America. The war on WikiLeaks — which was already in full swing, including, strangely, from some who claim a commitment to transparency — will only intensify now. Anyone who believes that the Government abuses its secrecy powers in order to keep the citizenry in the dark and manipulate public opinion — and who, at this point, doesn’t believe that? – should be squarely on the side of the greater transparency which Wikileaks and its sources, sometimes single-handedly, are providing.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40251.html#ixzz0utLuIynG

And finally, for those who claim this is “old news” and “no big deal,” ponder this from Politico:

Whether WikiLeaks uncovered anything new isn’t actually important — it’s on the front page of every newspaper in the country; the media is now focused on Afghanistan, and that makes it a big deal,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on India and Pakistan.

The public is now more skeptical about the administration’s strategy in Afghanistan than they were last week, and that makes it real, said Markey, who was a South Asia analyst during the Bush administration.

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 06:16 PM
Standing on Air


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:41 PM
Greed Is Good For Me, But Not For Thee

In case you missed it, yesterday’s Washington Post had an op-ed by Neel Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs man who oversaw the TARP program. In it, he warns an unsuspecting public about the dangers of the growing deficit and the need to choke it off at the source, entitlement spending. His piece is called “No ‘Me First’ Mentality On Entitlements.”

Our belief in free markets is founded on the idea that each individual acting in his or her self-interest will lead to a superior outcome for the whole. The financial crisis has reminded us that free markets are not perfect — but they do allocate capital better than any other system we know. A “me first” mentality usually makes markets more efficient.

But this “me first” mentality can also lead to shortsighted political decision making. Most Americans agree that we need more energy from clean sources, such as wind power — until someone proposes installing a transmission line near their homes. Most people are against earmarks — unless it is their representative scoring money for their district.

Cutting entitlement spending requires us to think beyond what is in our own immediate self-interest. But it also runs against our sense of fairness: We have, after all, paid for entitlements for earlier generations. Is it now fair to cut my benefits? No, it isn’t. But if we don’t focus on our collective good, all of us will suffer.

Let’s put this in perspective. Neel Kashkari worked at Goldman Sachs and later directed TARP. In between he worked at the Treasury Department under that notorious skin-flint and deficit hawk George W. Bush. Did he rant about deficits then, I wonder? Now, after his golfing buddies have ruined the economy and run off with the loot, he comes out in the Washington Post and scolds us about the need to rise above our immediate self-interest and make sacrifices for the collective good. How fucking noble.

By the way, while this apostle of selflessness was overseeing the distribution of TARP payments, where exactly were those payments going? Um, let’s see

In the fall of 2008, with the financial system on the verge of collapse, 17 large banks that were being propped up by taxpayers doled out $1.6 billion in bonuses.

On Friday, the Obama administration’s pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, passed judgment.

He said the payouts were “ill advised.” But he also said he did not believe the payments were “contrary to the public interest,” and he does not plan to ask the companies to pay the money back.

The 17 companies making the excessive bonus payments while on government life support included Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. Feinberg described the payments in an interview with NPR after he delivered his report on executive pay to the Treasury Department.

“Some of the payments ... many of them were over $10 million per individual, which were in our view ill-advised,” Feinberg said.

I assume his former Wall Street colleagues were spared any lectures about the virtue of self-sacrifice. In their case, you see, a ‘me first’ mentality is good. It allocates capital better than anything else the human race has ever invented. It makes markets more efficient. But when it comes to you, Mr. and Mrs. Kramden, a ‘me first’ mentality leads to short-sighted political decision making and all kinds of other scary things, like debts and deficits. A $10 million dollar bonus payment to a paper pushing con-man is an economic boon; collecting a six-hundred dollar a month social security check is narrow short-sightedness and constitutes a dire threat to the economy. Somebody get me a bucket.

To steal a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining. The day we cut back on the $700 billion plus we spend every year on defense is the day I’ll listen to patriotic calls for self-sacrifice. Until then, go back to your freakin’ golf course and leave the rest of us alone.

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Posted by OHollern at 12:10 PM
July 26, 2010
I’ll Take the Gulf of Mexico. And Wrap It to Go

From the Hartford Courant:

And that’s why there’s a bidding war growing for the estimated 750,000 tons of garbage that 70 towns and cities pay more than $500 million a year to burn at a trash-to-energy plant in Hartford…

Last year, the most cost-effective route for Stamford was a vendor that shrink-wrapped the city’s trash to keep it compact and easily portable and trucked it to a landfill in Ohio.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:42 PM
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:09 PM
July 25, 2010
Learn To Love Big Brother

Oh, God, and I thought this whole Twilight saga was bad. We ain’t seen nuthin yet:

Get ready for “Goldman Sachs: The Movie.”

That isn’t a real movie title. But filmmaker Ric Burns, who created the PBS series “The Civil War” with his brother Ken, is shooting a documentary about the Wall Street firm. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is paying for the film, has editorial control and is overseeing the project through its marketing department, a Goldman spokesman said.

It’s not enough that they wreck the economy and pilfer the U.S. Treasury. It’s not enough they’ve driven the country into near penury while they prance around like the Bourbons or the Romanovs. It’s not enough that they own the US government and now, as a result of Citizens United, will own it for all time. No. They want more. They want us to love them for it. They have our bodies, now they want our souls as well. Why not? There’s nothing else left among the ruins they’ve created. It’s the only thing left to steal.

Apparently this movie is “for employees only.” So I guess this is going to be used as in-house propaganda to convince themselves that they aren’t, in fact, wicked parasites whose criminality is ushering us into an economic dark age, but just swell, hard-working folks who deserve six-figure bonuses and a house in the Hamptons. After all, they hire gardeners and maids, don’t they? What service to the economy do gardeners and maids provide, huh?

But that’s beside the point. This film will be leaked and Goldman knows it, just as surely as they knew the housing bubble would collapse. They are many things, but they aren’t stupid. When that movie does make the rounds on the Internet, we’ll all see the inner workings of Goldman Sachs precisely as they want us to see it. We’ll be embedded, as it were, and come away with whatever impression they want us to have.

Do you suppose it’s possible that our banker friends are panging for a little of the glamour that accompanies other wealthy professions? Let’s face it, bankers are boring. The only way they can achieve any color is by being villainous, but not even that works for the current gang on Wall Street, who manage to be both deadly villainous and deadly boring, Lex Luthors without charisma. This is doubly true for bald-headed, lisping Lloyd Blankfein, who would be selling life insurance or working as a grocery clerk in a more just world. It must rankle that on any given day, he, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of the great Goldman Sachs, gets less — and less positive — media coverage than Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan. It’s all so unfair. The solution? Pimp yourself in the only medium that matters. Make a movie. It can make you a celebrity, and once you become a celebrity you are beyond good and evil in American culture.

I have no idea how big or little this story really is, but I know it must be true because I read about it in the Wall Street Journal.

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Posted by OHollern at 05:52 PM
July 23, 2010
Justice At Last

Today’s Auburn Journal reports an uncharacteristic burst of sanity and good sense on the part of our judicial system:

Outlaw barkeeper Travis Kevie was ordered released from jail today with the buzz of media attention spreading his exploits to a widespread audience.

But in the eyes of the law, he’ll still have to belly up to a misdemeanor charge of illegal alcohol sales.

Kevie, 29, was arrested Tuesday after four days of bamboozling about 30 customers a day into believing that he had re-opened the recently vacated Valencia Club in Penryn.

The story of a homeless man entering a vacant bar and buying a six-pack from a convenience store to get business started soon turned from a local story into a regional one – and then a national one on the Internet and TV.

So the heroic Travis Kevie walks among us once again. Hallelujah, justice is not yet dead. I assume he’ll get something mild like community service for the illegal liquor sales, but hasn’t he already performed that service by selling the booze in the first place? Think about it, wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if everybody just went around mildly high all day long?

I have a question for any lawyers out there: if he was to claim that he was merely taking donations for the drinks, could he dodge the rap? Just curious.

But here’s the best part of the article:

Badattitudes.com called Kevie “an example for us all.”

“His only capital – a mere six-pack of beer – was used to open a small business that was apparently off to a successful start,” Badattitudes.com posted, lauding Kevie for “vision, guts, initiative and determination.”

[…]

But any attempts to drum up a “Free Travis Kevie!” campaign – as Badattitudes.com was pushing for – were premature.

Bad Attitudes has penetrated the Sierra Nevada foothills. We’re takin’ this baby mainstream, so sit back and enjoy the ride, everybody!

Suck on that, Kos!

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Posted by OHollern at 01:37 PM
Family Values

From the Washington Post:

At a media breakfast Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner attempted to show that he sympathizes with the unemployed. But in the process he admitted that he didn’t even know whether his own siblings had jobs.

“I’ve got real empathy for those who are unemployed,” the Ohio Republican said. “As most of you know, I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters. I know that three of my brothers lost their jobs. I’m not sure whether they’ve found jobs, yet, so I’ve got a lot of empathy for those caught in this economic downturn.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:19 AM
July 22, 2010
Making Snakes



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:20 PM
Free Travis Kevie!

Who is Travis Kevie, you ask? Only one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, I answer:

A Placer County man has been arrested after he broke into a shuttered bar, reopened the business and started selling drinks to unwitting customers, according to the Placer County Sheriff's department.

The Placer County Sheriff's department arrested 29-year-old Travis Kevie of Newcastle after his 4-day stint as the barkeep of the historic Valencia Club in Penryn which had been shutdown for more than a year.

[…]

Deputies describe Kevie as a transient. They say he broke into the Valencia Club and put an open sign in the window on July 16th. Kevie kicked off his business with a six-pack of beer he bought and resold at the club. He used his profits to buy more alcohol keeping the club open throughout the weekend serving about 30 customers a day, deputies say.

This man is an example for us all. This hard-luck ‘transient’ used his only capital — a mere six-pack of beer! — to open up a small business that was apparently off to a successful start. This guy has vision, guts, initiative, and determination. He also has sound business sense. Unlike Wall Street banks, he was providing a service that people actually want and need. Sooner or later, he would have had to hire another employee or two — a virtuous act in this recession. Instead, this great spirit languishes in jail and the bar he sought to revive will remain a decayed, boarded-up eyesore on the town’s main drag. Only in Obama’s socialist America could such a travesty occur.

The other day, former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein wrote that the majority of people who get laid off have “poor work habits and poor personalities.” He said that diligent and hard-working people seldom lose their jobs. Well, Travis Kevie was obviously diligent and hard-working. A genuine Horatio Alger story. Will Stein and all of his entrepreneur-worshipping brethren in the Republican party come to this man’s defense? I say it’s time for them to put their vast amounts of money where their vastly big mouths are.

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Posted by OHollern at 02:05 PM
July 20, 2010
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:35 PM
Snot My Fault

It’s getting harder and harder to extend the benefit of a doubt to BP:

KENNER, LA. — In the hours before the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, BP pumped into the well an extraordinarily large quantity of an unusual chemical mixture, a contractor on the rig testified Monday.

The injection of the dense, gray fluid was meant to flush drilling mud from the hole, according to the testimony before a government panel investigating the April 20 accident. But the more than 400 barrels used were roughly double the usual quantity, said Leo Lindner, a drilling fluid specialist for contractor MI-Swaco.

BP had hundreds of barrels of the two chemicals on hand and needed to dispose of the material, Lindner testified. By first flushing it into the well, the company could take advantage of an exemption in an environmental law that otherwise would have prohibited it from discharging the hazardous waste into the Gulf of Mexico, Lindner said…

When the well became a gusher on April 20, a fluid that fit the general description of the mixture rained down on the rig. Stephen Bertone, chief engineer on the rig, said in testimony earlier in the day that part of the rig was covered in an inch or more of material that he said resembled “snot.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:21 AM
July 19, 2010
Flash Opera

This showed up in my inbox just now. I pass it along as evidence that there may be hope for our species yet. (H/T to commenter mfd)

On Saturday, April 24th, the Opera Company of Philadelphia teamed up with the Reading Terminal Market Italian Festival for a large-scale “Flash Opera” event! Over 30 members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and principal cast members of LA TRAVIATA performed the famed “Brindisi” in the aisles of Reading Terminal Market.



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:45 PM
July 18, 2010
Bringing Democracy to Afghanistan

From the New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The chief judge asked God’s forgiveness if he had reached the wrong decision, and then he sentenced four members of an Afghan family charged with making bombs: two brothers to 10 years in prison and two other family members to time already served…

This trial was the beginning of a confusing period in which two legal systems will be running in parallel at the Parwan detention center — an Afghan one and an American one. Under the American one, detainees, all of whom are detained by American soldiers usually working with Afghan forces, can be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:36 AM
Plus His First Name is “Roman”

Maureen Dowd shoves it to the Pontiff:

“The future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction. More than any top Vatican official other than John Paul, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who might have taken decisive action in the 1990s to prevent the scandal from metastasizing in country after country, growing to such proportions that it now threatens to consume his own papacy.”

If Roman Polanski were a priest, he’d still be working here.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:03 AM
July 17, 2010
A Tribute to the T.E.A Partyers

Here is something especially made for you T.E.A Party types. Thanks to Emma Goldman and her Revolutionary folk music progeny, Emma’s Revolution, for this fantastic parody of what this fake tea revolution is about. Let me remind the Republican Party that you stole this political Tea Party designation from the Howard Dean campaign. My wife has a tea shirt to prove it. He'll be expecting to collect his royalties soon.



And by the way. Emma was NOT a Socialist. Enjoy the weekend folks.

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Posted by Buck Batard at 08:33 PM
July 16, 2010
Petraeus Pulls Another Rabbit Out of the Helmet

Imagine this: you’re a fifty-something four-star general in the US Army; you have achieved that lofty summit largely by laboring in the relatively peaceful halls of military academe. You spend 1970 – 1974 learning to be an officer and a gentleman at West Point during the death throes of what the Vietnamese people call “The American War” — which is really too bad, in a way, because the timing robbed you of the chance to see, up close and personal, just how horribly wrong things can go for a military that finds itself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong strategy. Not for you the “fragging, the drugs, the widespread AWOLs and outright mutiny that occurs when young men are asked to risk death for absurd reasons against insurmountable odds.

Nevertheless you are young, smart and enthusiastic so your lack of first-hand experience doesn’t keep you from weighing in on the “lessons learned” from “The American War” when it comes time for you to tender your doctoral dissertation at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International affairs; your thesis, “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era,” is a hit and you are duly awarded your Ph.D.

Now you are on the fast-track for brainy soldiers with political skills that will undoubtedly land you at “Ground Zero” (aka The Pentagon) or — who knows, maybe the Oval Office, someday. So it is that you eventually find yourself a general who has never seen combat — until Iraq. Unfortunately, you don’t get your hands on that command until things are so thoroughly screwed up that all the sensible people are looking for the exits and making their escape plans. But, as you are fond of saying: “just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.” Iraq in 2007, however, is more than hard, it’s a disaster — and a disaster of our own making so the US can’t exactly declare it all a big mistake and walk away…


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The All-American solution for such situations? — throw more money at it. In this case, more money equates to more troops, along with their fabulously expensive trappings, as a last ditch effort. And we will call it a “surge” which has a confident, manly sound to it and we will give this surge a fresh commander to give it that “whole new ball game” feel. Maybe then the naysayers will shut up about being lied to and Geneva conventions and bad strategies; maybe they won’t notice that having to do a surge means that you underestimated to begin with in order to sell your war; maybe they won’t be so angry that their kids died for Poor Planning more than Iraqi Freedom…

Enter “Super Dave” Petraeus to save the day; surely this military brainiac, with the impressive string of degrees, who’s running out of “shirt” to hang his merit badges on, will be able to make some sense out of the mess his less gifted colleagues have made of Iraq. Long story short, due to a very favorable confluence of external events (and Petraeus’ own extraordinary ability to recognize an “out” and capitalize on it while spinning a compelling yarn about what a great idea he had) — The Miracle of Iraqi Freedom ensued complete with stirring taglines like The Anbar Awakening and the Sons of Iraq to remind disgruntled Americans of our sacred duty to impose democracy on every hamlet, shtetl, village and outpost in the world — whether they like it or not.

No doubt about it, Super Dave is one smart cookie who understands, among other things, the value of dodging bullets. He certainly knows, as well as many of the rest of us, that timing, the existence of an Iraqi government and national infrastructure, society and internal politics played a huge role in the precipitate drop in violence that occurred in spite of, not because of, the “surge” of American troops in Iraq. Petraeus knows that he went through barrels of cash to underwrite field trips to Anbar for Awakening therapy, he knows that he quelled some urban sectarian violence by establishing and enforcing apartheid in Baghdad, he knows that he used Stan the Man’s JSOC death squads to eliminate rabble-rousers but, most of all, I’m sure that the general knows that the “center will not hold” for long. And sure enough, Iraq is steadily devolving into Civil War. Super Dave managed to get out of Iraq before that could happen, though, and collected his reward — CENTCOM command in sunny Tampa — only inches away from a happy and lucrative retirement as a military mentor for broadcast media, a lobbyist for Raytheon or some such MIC concern, maybe even POTUS?

Unfortunately, the general’s superhero status has landed him back in the soup (i.e., Afghanistan) where he is now expected to “do that voodoo that he does so well.” Obviously, “Stan the Man” McChrystal is no dummy himself, because he managed to take a flamboyant shortcut to retired-military fame and fortune, with pension intact, whilst his hapless CO gets a POTUS-designed demotion to salvage another US military fiasco.

In his desperation to pull another rabbit out of the helmet, Super Dave appears to have come up with a particularly hare-brained idea to save our hash in Afghanistan. At least it seems hare-brained, at first glance; but after some careful consideration, I’m coming around to believe that Gen. Petraeus’ new idea has more than a little genius about it. Not that I expect Super Dave’s plan to result in Victory in Afghanistan (whatever the hell that might look like) but I think that it has a damned good chance of getting Super Dave and the rest of us out of that godforsaken dust bowl in short order.

Let me explain myself …

Super Dave still had one foot on the tarmac in Kabul when he first met with, and reportedly pissed off, President Karzai. The issue that Karzai is most sensitive to is the Americans’ idea that Afghanistan needs to establish (yet another) police force to protect the population from Taliban intimidation. But the general still has visions of the Sons of Iraq dancing in his head and probably figures it’s worth a shot. These “new” police forces would be localized and therefore, theoretically, more aware of insurgents in their midst, more inclined to protect their own communities from Taliban incursions and less inclined to shakedown, loot, rape or pillage their own neighbors. Standing up an effective national police force, one of the few clearly stated key milestones for eventual withdrawal of Western forces, has, so far, been an abysmal failure in Afghanistan for a myriad of well-documented reasons; this would be a fresh start not to mention the fact that it would distract any Afghanistan-Watchers who are still waiting for the Kandahar Offensive or for things to turn around in Marjah.

It all makes some sense (on paper) and, in the absence of any other bright ideas, it’s at least something that looks different to try. From President Karzai’s perspective, it looks like an invitation to insurrection. Karzai has been solidly against this notion any time that the US has suggested it; he knows that his hold on power is so tenuous that the last thing he needs is a few dozen fractious militias running around in various provinces setting their own agenda. Since the oft-repeated mission of the US in Afghanistan has been to concentrate and solidify power in the Kabul central government, Karzai has a point. No one is going to change the centuries-old provincial and tribal allegiances of ordinary Afghan citizens by deputizing them, arming them and putting them on the government payroll; they may prefer to keep Taliban extremists out of their lives but that doesn’t mean that they are anxious to help Karzai solidify his own bloc and no one knows that better than the Brothers Karzai whose only aspirations are to milk the NATO presence for every last euro and dollar they can before they must depart or lose their heads.

* * *

Despite grave misgivings, Karzai finally caved to Super Dave on this point, most likely because he knows that it’s a fool’s errand. Spencer Ackerman wrote a great brief on how dumb this idea is, just in case it escapes the average taxpayer who continues to underwrite this nonsense; here’s what Spencer says which I totally agree with:

“General David Petraeus has persuaded Karzai to set up a new force to supplement Afghan soldiers and police. It’s not really Anbar Awakening 2.0, since it doesn’t involve insurgents switching sides. And don’t use the M-word, Pentagon officials say. “They would not be militias,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday. ‘These would be government-formed, government-paid, government-uniformed local police units.’ Specifically, the new units will be paid by the Interior Ministry — or, rather, the foreign money that bankrolls the Afghanistan government will be disbursed to these new units through the ministry.”

“Except, Morell conceded, they wouldn’t be trained, as police units are. (“We don’t have enough trainers to do the fundamental job here,” Morrell further conceded.) In essence, up to 10,000 fighters — as an initial tranche, according to the New York Times — around the country will be rapidly deputized under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, at the behest of the NATO military command, and then relied upon to keep the peace in places with insufficient amounts of Afghan security forces. ‘A useful bridging mechanism,’ Morrell called the program, until the Afghan army and police can move in.”

So, suddenly, into the already toxic Afghan mix, will be added thousands of untrained, armed local defense forces “free to make it up as they go along.” Of course they will technically be government employees, beholden to Kabul for their paychecks and they will have to answer to the Interior Ministry in Kabul (whose Director resigned last month taking with him Interior’s reputation of being one of the only Kabul government departments that was anything like viable and well run).

The fatal flaw in this plan, as Ackerman cogently points out, is this:

“Only the potential for short-term contingencies to overtake long-term strategy is acute. It’s not like there’s some separate pool of potential recruits for this new “Local Police Force.” They’re the same Afghans that the government’s been trying to recruit for the army and the police. The fighters rallied to this new program are most likely to come from local power brokers, whose hold over remote parts of Afghanistan will be accordingly entrenched. Those power brokers won’t easily give up the source of that expanded power to army and police recruiters. And that means the “bridging mechanism” could easily turn the expansion of the Afghan security services — the U.S.’s ticket out of Afghanistan, according to the Obama administration’s overall strategy — a bridge to nowhere.”

Over time, I’ve grown sort of fond of our plucky general, Super Dave. I think that he’s very smart, especially when it comes to politics; moreover, I think he’s at least as smart as Spencer Ackerman and therefore the fairly glaring, obvious downside potential of the localized police force idea will not have escaped him. And that, I believe, is the beauty of Super Dave’s mind.

By now, most have us have had time to appreciate the awesome dimensions of our military and diplomatic failure in Afghanistan – our total ignorance of the region, our reluctance to leave long after al Qaeda was decimated, our adoption of the Taliban as a new enemy, our destabilization of Pakistan, our appalling choice of Hamid Karzai to head up a new government, etc, etc. More and more of us are clamoring to just “own” that failure and get the hell out before our economy totally craters. Super Dave wants that, too, I suspect; but he’d probably like to get out with his career intact and, especially with his COIN theory vindicated. So what could possibly happen in Afghanistan, next, that would create the space for a graceful exit?

I’m thinking that civil war, if not total anarchy, might be just the ticket. Think of it — emasculated warlords with freshly armed militias joining up with the provincial shadow governments to get rid of the Karzais and their Western patrons, once and for all. If that were to happen, COIN must necessarily be suspended because, by definition, COIN requires a strong central government for the population to gravitate toward. I imagine the “post-mortem” conversation would probably go something like this: “Perhaps COIN might have worked in Afghanistan if internal strife hadn’t toppled the Karzai government; but without a healthy central government, all bets were off.”

That’s when things get interesting for the US because we then have the choice of withdrawing while the Afghans have their civil war which, after all, is nothing to do with us and keeps them busy and distracted from other things like harboring al Qaeda (if they ever consciously did so). Or, we could decide to pick a side, stay on and engage in conventional warfare (probably regional) without any quibbling over who’s who. That would probably please the “bomb them back into the Stone Age” crowd.

That’s my idea, anyway. And if it’s Super Dave’s idea, too, well . . . more power to him. At this point, I’ll support just about any program that gets us out of Afghanistan in less than ten years.

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Posted by Frumpzilla at 06:36 PM
Hey, No Biggie

Galveston copes, the New York Times notes:

The mayor, Joe Jaworski, began a whirlwind of promotional events and appearances, canvassing beaches and creating a video to remind people that it was still business as usual in town.

“O.K., so tar balls have washed up, and I think we’d all agree, it’s not a disaster, it’s a nuisance,” Mr. Jaworski said in an interview, after doing a radio broadcast with a visiting Houston D.J. from the lobby of one of Galveston’s largest resorts…

Last week, a representative from BP came to the Galveston City Council meeting. “He seemed like a credible fellow,” Mayor Jaworski said. “He came right up and listened to us and said he would help us pay for public relations.” A spokeswoman for BP said no deal had been reached yet.

Others are shrugging off the news about the beaches, which have seen oil many times before. In the 1970s and ’80s, slicks and tar balls were such a common sight on the beach that owners of vacation houses stocked their patios with baby oil and WD-40 for guests to clean off with, and regular visitors kept a separate pair of “tar sandals.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:44 AM
South Carolina — the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Associated Press reports:

Alvin Greene action figures are here. The Charleston RiverDogs, a minor-league affiliate of the New York Yankees, will give out statues of the Democratic candidate for United States Senate at Saturday’s game. Mr. Greene, who won the primary without campaigning, has suggested that manufacturing action figures of himself could spur economic growth. The statues are actually Statue of Liberty figures that the team planned to give away as part of a different promotion, but the RiverDogs decided to put a picture of his face on them. The team once tried to have Vasectomy Night on Father’s Day, but canceled it when fans complained that it was crass.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:25 AM
Friday Cat


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:43 AM
July 15, 2010
There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute…

…and not all of them are on octopuses (see previous post). Or on octopoi. Or octopi (see comments on previous post). The excerpt below, from Yahoo! News, suggests that the Madrid Zoo is run by suckers. Or, more probably, by showmen who figure Madrileños for suckers.

MADRID — The Madrid Zoo said Thursday that it has made an offer to buy Paul, the octopus who became a pop culture sensation by correctly predicting the outcome of as many World Cup matches as he has legs — all seven of Germany's games plus the Spain-Netherlands final.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:37 PM
July 14, 2010
Octoconned

Unlike you I know an octopus keeper, and he blogs as Mark H and he runs the Biomes Marine Biology Center in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and, working slowly toward my point, he says Paul the World Cup Soccer Winner Picker is as big a fraud as Zoltan Karpathy, that hairy hound from Budapest. (Look Zoltan up for yourself. I can’t do everything for you.)

Below is part of Mark’s argument. All of it is here. Writhe on over.

It should also be noted that the common octopus (Paul is the same species as all of mine were) has a life span of only one year. The German sea-life aquarium claims he is a two-year-old octopus, hatched in Britain in 2008. All octopuses are born in the spring, so this makes Paul well over two years old. This isn’t possible, so this is the second, or even third, “Paul.” Most commercial aquariums keep multiple octopuses in reserve and switch them out when the exhibit animal dies, keeping the name for continuity or innocent deception. Paul’s not only a fraud, he’s surely not even the original “Paul.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:07 PM
Holygrams

CNN reports:

Young delivered his sermon, but he couldn’t hear or see his congregation respond: He wasn’t physically there.

Young’s parishioners were instead looking at a high-def video image of their pastor beamed into their sanctuary from a “mother” church in Grapevine, Texas.

Young is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology — high-def videos, and even holograms — to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote “satellite” churches that belong to their congregation…

Esposito is a member of Fellowship Church, where he has listened to Young preach for the last five years.

“I feel closer to the sermon than I would if I ever attended in person,” Esposito said. “The screen is so big; it’s almost lifelike. I would rather see Ed [Young] on the big screen than somewhere live…”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:49 PM
Good News for the Gulf

From the McClatchy Newspapers:

WASHINGTON — The number of naturally occurring microbes that eat methane grew surprisingly fast inside a plume spreading from BP’s ruptured oil well, an oceanographer who was one of the first to detect the plumes said Tuesday…

On the other hand…

However, the microbes also use oxygen in the water, and Joye said the repercussions of the resulting oxygen depletion aren’t yet known… They’re also looking to see if the microbes will draw down oxygen to levels that would make the waters unsuitable for life. The Gulf of Mexico already has dead zones created by nutrients from fertilizer carried from the Midwest by the Mississippi River.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:06 AM
Good News for the Gene Pool

NEW YORK — Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston say they're engaged and hope to get married within six weeks in Alaska, an abrupt turnaround for the couple that just months ago was fighting over child support and Johnston's critical comments about the family…

The couple is ready to get married but Palin told the magazine they'll probably see a marriage counselor, Schaefer said, adding that Plain made it clear that Levi will have "a lot of work to do."

Asked whether the magazine paid for the interview, Schaefer would not discuss details of the arrangement except to say that the magazine paid for the expenses of the photo shoot.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:47 AM
July 13, 2010
Bork and Beethoven

Posting about Kagan and Coburn the other day led me back to Richard A. Posner’s book, Overcoming Law. Posner, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a Reagan appointee, is nobody’s idea of a liberal. But he is everybody’s idea of a thinker. In a brilliant chapter called “Bork and Beethoven,” here’s what he has to say about the childish and ahistorical theory of orginalism with which Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia rationalize their prejudices:

Originalism is not an analytic method; it is a rhetoric that can be used to support any result a judge wants to reach. The conservative libertarians whom Bork criticizes (Richard Epstein and Bernard Siegan) are originalists; his disagreement with them is not over method, but over result. The Dred Scott decision — to Bork, the very fount of modern judicial activism — is permeated by originalist rhetoric…

Some of the most activist judges, whether of the right or of the left, whether named Taney or Black, have been among the judges most drawn to the rhetoric of originalism. For it is a magnificent disguise. The judge can do the wildest things, all the while presenting himself as the passive agent of the sainted Founders — don’t argue with me, argue with Them.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:07 PM
Glimmers of Sanity…

…this one from the Associated Press:

NEW YORK – A federal appeals court on Tuesday tossed out a government policy that can lead to broadcasters being fined for allowing even a single curse word on live television, concluding that the rule was unconstitutionally vague and had a chilling effect on broadcasters.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan struck down the 2004 Federal Communications Commission policy, which said that profanity referring to sex or excrement is always indecent.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:00 PM
Church Basements

Andrew W. resumes Church Basements, his tales from the world of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Cookie was distraught, so when the leader asked, “Before we begin, did anyone have a problem staying sober today ?” she raised a manicured finger.

“Yesterday when I got up at 10 in the morning and looked outside I realized the gardener, who was supposed to be trimming the hedges, failed to come.”

Cookie was serious and taken as so by the large Alcoholic Anonymous contingent at the 9 a.m. meeting at the old Unitarian Church on Waspocket Inlet’s Shore Street.

The others had heard it before. Cookie, they knew, was so involved with her gardens that when anything went wrong she spun into a tissy, and thought about a morning pick-me-up.

She shared in quavering voice, felt better for it, and then the meeting began with a talk by Ted, who was suited up for work. It was was not a basic drunkalogue. Rather Ted shared his thoughts about the psychological underpinnings of his addiction, what his doctors had believed, how much he appreciated the fellowship of Alcoholic Anonymous.

There are many roads to the rooms of AA. Inlet’s members, for the most part, were drawn to Inlet’s morning meeting from New York City’s affluent precincts .

None had wandered the dangerous underground of New York, home to so many who hit bottom. More likely they had gone from imported beer and hash at college, to far too many highballs at the clubs and lounges in the city.

Even for the well-heeled and -bred, addiction, whether fed by Thunderbird wine or Black Label scotch, is a personal and family disaster. There may be a safety net and polite acceptance of peers at the Inlet, but the pain, progression and hopelessness are the same for executives or their cloistered wives as for dusty bums mumbling to themselves on park benches.

A visitor from a meeting with working class majority was tempted to feel superior, as if the well-groomed alcoholics could not be like himself and his chums upstate.

But as sharing progressed, the similarities, common feelings, and precipitous slides had the same common truths the visitor had heard so many times in more modest settings.

Still when the basket was passed, filled with five and tens and even a few fifties, he withheld his carefully folded buck.

They may need me and my experiences but not my money, he thought, slipping his offering back into a shirt pocket.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:26 PM
July 12, 2010
Kagan Commits Perjury

Senator Tom Coburn, who completed his legal studies at Oklahoma State University Medical School in 1983, knows as much about the law as a hog knows about Sunday. Nonetheless

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) asked if Ms. Kagan agreed with Critical Legal Studies, a left-leaning movement that flourished at Harvard Law School in the 1980s. CLS believed the U.S. legal system abetted traditional social and economic hierarchies, perpetuating an inequitable distribution of wealth and power.

“No,” Ms. Kagan wrote. “I do not agree with any of the ways of understanding law and the legal system that are described above.”

Likewise, Mr. Coburn asked if she “ascribed” to Legal Realism, an antecedent of critical studies developed in the 1920s by such figures as Jerome Frank, a federal appeals judge and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. Legal Realism rejected the 19th century view that law was akin to a science with unchanging principles that were discovered over time, and instead contended that law was a human creation that reflected human biases and imperfections.

“No,” Ms. Kagan replied.

The answer showed her to be either a liar or a fool. Liar is more probable. Her job at that moment was not to tell the truth but to get past the Senate and onto the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts had earlier showed her how the thing was done when he babbled on, at his own confirmation hearings, about baseball umpires and his undying fealty to the sanctity of legal precedent.

To anyone who is, unlike Coburn, actually interested in legal realism, I recommend reading not only Jerome Frank, but also Thurman W. Arnold, James Harvey Robinson, John T. Noonan, Jr., and Fred Rodell. Arnold, the most entertaining of these, is pictured below.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:17 AM
July 09, 2010
The Rules Of Etiquette

Meet General James Mattis, soon to be our next Imperial Proconsul for the Middle East, otherwise known as Centcom Commander. He’s led forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but preferred the latter because it offered more opportunities to freely indulge in one of his favorite hobbies, killing:

“It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling.”

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said during a panel discussion. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

The Secretary of Defense has assured us that General Mattis won’t be granting any interviews to Rolling Stone, but what difference would that make? The rules of etiquette here seem pretty clear. If you criticize the boss, however mildly, you get fired; if you admit that you enjoy killing people, you get promoted!

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Posted by OHollern at 01:00 PM
You Wrote the Bible

Walt Whitman, via Rick Hertzberg. For Rick’s whole post, go here.

We consider bibles and religions divine — I do not say they are not divine, I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow out of you still, It is not they who give the life — it is you who give the life, Leaves are not more shed from the trees, or trees from the earth, than they are shed out of you.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:25 PM
July 08, 2010
World Cup Phone Sex


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:14 PM
Business As Usual At BP

You must be wondering what new outrage BP has perpetrated today, eh? Look no further, I’ve found it for you:

Hundreds of fishermen from Lake Charles to Moss Point, Miss., were supposed to get checks from BP on Wednesday but didn’t.

Wednesday night, their lawyer wanted answers.

Jeffrey Briet represents more than 500 fishermen, and he said the payment system he set up with BP required his clients to be paid every 30 days. Now that process has suddenly changed without warning, Briet said.

“Not only did they spring it on us that the process has changed, but the people I’ve been dealing with for six weeks who’ve done a good job said, ‘We don’t know what the process is going to be. We’re not authorized to talk to you about it. Someone from BP will contact you,’” he said.

But Briet said he hasn’t heard from BP or its lawyers. He said the claims people have been given so much conflicting information about the process that they can’t provide answers.

Tell those fishermen to read the article Jerry posted about below. Like those little commie girls giving away lemonade, these small people along the Gulf Coast seem to think there’s such a thing as a free lunch, a truly vile notion that’s infected civilization since Jesus and beyond.

Funny, when this kind of foot-dragging ineptitude and/or outright deceit is carried out by an institution like the IRS, conservatives uphold it as an example of the evils of Big Gub’mint. Now you have a company that’s been operating with an almost completely free hand acting as sluggishly as the DMV. It’s violating contracts, reneging on promises, and changing the rules as arbitrarily as any government bureaucracy. To paraphrase Alan Greenspan, this seems to contradict free-market models about “the way the world works.” I’m frankly stumped. What gives? Somebody ask Terry Savage at the Chicago Sun-Times. I want answers!

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Posted by OHollern at 02:36 PM
A Grinch Thinks About the 4th of July

Steve Benen picked up this seriously weird column by some seriously weird columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Excerpt below, but you can read the whole pathetic thing here, and the best part is — “It’s free!”

His fiancée smiled and commented, “Isn’t that cute. They have the spirit of giving…”

“No!” I exclaimed from the back seat. “That’s not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They’re giving away their parents’ things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It’s not theirs to give.”

I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.

“You must charge something for the lemonade,” I explained. “That’s the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money…”

If that’s what America’s children think — that there’s a free lunch waiting — then our country has larger problems ahead. The Declaration of Independence promised “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It didn’t promise anything free. Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:07 PM
July 07, 2010
HELP!! We Can’t Breathe Down Here!! Thanks BP

Want to know how bad it is in the Gulf? Key in to this post by Roger Shuler at Legal Schnauzer to get an earful. In the meantime, just watch this video posted at his website.Low oxygen levels found in Gulf waters

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Posted by Buck Batard at 03:30 PM
July 06, 2010
Canada Lily


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:14 PM
July 05, 2010
Apologies

Joe Barton, a Republican Congressman from Texas, had the right idea when he apologized to BP for what he said was a shakedown of the nice British oil company. He said Obama’s demand for a $20-billion restitution fund amounted to extortion. Barton later apologized for his apology and then he retracted the apology for the apology and then he…oh, never mind. The important thing is that he showed that sense of fair play for which we Americans are famous. Maybe now that this important precedent has been established by a stand-up Congressman we can start making amends to others who have been harshly judged and roughly handled down through the years.

So before one more minute goes by let me apologize to Adolf Hitler. And Dick Cheney.

These men were natural born leaders who had flaws that got blown out of proportion. Hitler still gets bad notices in the press sixty-five years after he gave up the ghost. Just because Dick Nixon always looked like he needed a shave didn’t make him a bad guy, did it? What about beauty being only skin deep? Dick Cheney has lips twisted into a permanent snarl. Does that necessarily mean he’s an arrogant, reckless, power-crazed, ruthless, lying, slimy son of a bitch?

I think it’s high time we apologized to Hirohito and Tojo and lots of other perfectly civilized Japanese for calling them sneaky, murderous devils. Just because of some unpleasantness at Pearl Harbor and Bataan we seem to think we have the right to vilify them. Let’s not remember Pearl Harbor. Most of those ships that sank there were obsolete anyway.

Now it’s the Arabs’ turn in the barrel. Every time you turn on the TV to get the straight dope from Sean or Rush or Glenn or Bill, our thought leaders, another Arab is getting bashed for some alleged outrage. Poor Bin Laden got so much bad publicity he dropped out of sight and went into hiding. I think we should follow Joe Barton’s example and extend a sincere apology to Osama for making him live in a cave. Nobody should have to live in a cave.

As for Hitler, it’s just about impossible to have a quiet, rational conversation about the charismatic German leader. People can’t seem to discuss the eloquent architect of the autobahns without taking extreme positions on one side or the other. Of course he had his faults — who doesn’t? But how many politicians these days could get up and talk for a couple of hours without the aid of a teleprompter? And those autobahns are still fun to drive on.

Can we talk about Dick Cheney for a minute? Now here’s a guy who can’t catch a break from the media. The former vice president has been involved with the oil industry in one way or another for quite a long time, and, if you listen to the insinuations coming from the left, there was something unpatriotic and self-serving in this involvement. I guess vice presidents are supposed to be poor — is that the idea? Do you think Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are poor? Was Ted Kennedy poor? How about Jay Rockefeller, Democrat from the hardscrabble, coal-mining state of West Virginia. Think he’s poor?

What all this adds up to is one big, very good reason to apologize to Dick Cheney. All Cheney ever wanted to do was to do his best for his country. And what did he get in return? A lot of grief, that’s what he got. Well, maybe when Joe Barton gets finished apologizing to BP we can get him to apologize to Dick Cheney. And Bernie Madoff. And Goldman Sachs. And AIG. And General Motors. And Joe Stalin. And Vlad the Impaler.


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Posted by Paul Duffy at 05:44 PM
“The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place…

…but none, I think, do there embrace,” as Andrew Marvell once wrote. The Associated Press, on the other hand, today wrote:

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Authorities in Iceland have exhumed the body of American chess champion Bobby Fischer to determine whether he is the father of a 9-year-old girl from the Philippines.

Police district commissioner Olafur Helgi Kjartansson said Fischer’s corpse was dug up from a cemetery near Selfoss in southern Iceland early Monday in the presence of a doctor, a priest and other officials.

Kjartansson said the exhumation “was done in a professional and dignified way and according to law. The privacy of the deceased was protected at all times.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:38 AM
July 04, 2010
The Lovely Country

I posted this five years ago, and do it again on this July Fourth, as a service to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and similar superpatriots. Expect to see Burke’s quote showing up at Tea Party rallies. The excerpt is from Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Harper & Brothers, 1943:

Does patriotism mean loyalty to a political system and its institutions, constitutional, autocratic, republican, or what-not? But if history has made anything unmistakably clear, it is that from the standpoint of the individual and his welfare, these are no more than names.

The reality which in the end they are found to cover is the same for all alike. If a tree be known by its fruits, which I believe is regarded as good sound doctrine, then the peculiar merit of a system, if it has any, ought to be reflected in the qualities and conditions of the people who live under it; and looking over the peoples and systems of the world, I found no reason in the nature of things why a person should be loyal to one system rather than another. One could see at a glance that there is no saving grace in any system. Whatever merit or demerit may attach to any of them lies in the way it is administered…

Burke touched this matter of patriotism with a searching phrase. “For us to love our country,” he said, “our country ought to be lovely.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:26 PM
Dragonfly


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:59 PM
July 03, 2010
July Fourth for the Whole World!


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:22 PM
July 02, 2010
Boycott The Fourth Of July

I’ve decided to boycott the Fourth of July. What does that really mean? Probably nothing. My little act of rebellion will be as hollow and meaningless as the holiday itself, but it will make me feel good. It will be cathartic. Let others eat hot dogs, drink beer, and gape at fireworks. I’m going to find something more meaningful to do, I dunno, like plant tomatoes or buy a one-way ticket to Uruguay. Let ’em praise the blessings of American freedom while policemen with tasers and riot gear stand ready to defend them from that freedom at any moment, and the Lloyd Blankfeins of this world — those who really own the fruited plain (now genetically modified by Monsanto) — lounge on their yachts and count stolen loot, amazed at how stupid we truly are. Let them sing along to that heinous Lee Greenwood song while American bombs kill people who’ve never done or wished them any harm.

Not me. I’m taking this year off. If you care to join me in this masturbatory exercise in pointless futility, welcome! but remember — no TV. They’ll probably be showing war films. Patriotic holidays are always celebrated on TV by showing war films. We have to wean ourselves off of war and learn to identify patriotism with some other activity (Sex? Gardening? You decide, just as long as it doesn’t involve a rocket’s red flare and bombs bursting in air).

When I see an American flag, all I can picture is an Exxon logo and a predator drone. Am I wrong to do so?


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Posted by OHollern at 03:13 PM