Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can We Belive the Stats?

Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head. ~ George Orwell, 1984
The statistics say the economy is growing, the experiences of people in their everyday lives say different. Which is true - what people see with their own eyes or what the Bush Administration claims?
  • Averaging up: Put Bill Gates in a room with a thousand homeless people and, according to statisticians, you have a room filled with millionaires, on average. As the disparity between the ultra-rich and everyone else grows wider and wider it is possible that the whole of the nation is in a recession except for a few thousand oil barons and their ilk. So on average the nation is doing fine.
  • Inflation: On reason bad governments love inflation is that it gives the appearance of growth. The numbers of, say, the GNP look like they are going up when it is only an illusion caused by debasing the currency. Of course, it is important for the government to lie about the real rate of inflation.
  • Statistical Fantasies: Which brings us back to the Orwell quote. Life for an unscrupulous government is easier if you just lie about such things as the GNP and CPI. I mean, who has the resources to prove those lies? Of course, George Bush and his crew wouldn't lie, would they? They are all such honorable men.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Earthquakes Large and Small

Alaskan Temblor
All descent Alaskans, I know at least two, are thrilled down to their toenails by the quake that struck Sen. Ted Stevens. Like an old tree, dead at its root and rotten to its core, Stevens fall was a predictable as the sun setting in Nome in December. It was a welcome, damn enjoyable sight.

California's Big One
Mid-sized earthquakes the size of the one that hit near Los Angeles yesterday happen somewhere in California of average on one per year. People who don't know shit about California (journalists) immediately start asking the experts, "Was that the Big One?" I love the restraint of these experts not laughing in the face of the reporters. The Big One won't knock down cans of fruit from grocery store shelves, it will knock down entire grocery stores. The Big One will rend California's water aqueducts and tear down her freeways. Think Anchorage in 1964, San Francisco in 1906, or China in 2008. If The Big One is like dropping a hundred pound weight on your foot, yesterday's earthquake was like dropping an apple.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Upside Down Housing

This is a crippling thing for any economy. Billions of dollars of home equity has disappeared in a puff of proverbial smoke. Millions of Americans owe more on their homes than they are worth.

In San Diego just one year ago, homes were selling on average for nearly $500,000. Today the values have dropped on average by over 25%. Home prices have dropped similarly across the country. According to Bloomberg, one in four households, about 25 million families, risk owing more on their homes than the homes are worth. In the last year over one million families have lost their homes to foreclosure. Millions more are at risk.

This is the equivalent of scores of hurricanes and earthquakes ravaging the nation. By any reckoning it is a national disaster.

The photo, by the way, is of a real building in Poland.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How Odd Is Western Civilization? This Odd:

I have been doing a lot of research recently on things decidedly nonpolitical and have stumbled upon a couple of significant signs of the fall of Western Civilization.

Bag Borrow or Steal
This internet store rents used designer handbags, sunglasses, and jewelry at incredible prices. For example, they rent a Hermes Crocodile bag (with a missing lock) for only $6,000 a month. The bags retail new for $25,000. I don't know what is worse - that someone actually sells a purse for a price that could feed and provide health care for entire African villages, or that someone else would spend a month's salary to rent said purse just to look more classier than she really is for a few nights.

The Bunny Boiler

Bunny Boiler is a term referring to that scene in Fatal Attraction where Glenn Close cooked Michael Douglas' family pet on their own stove. The Bunny Boiler is also a regular segment on the British television series Balls of Steel. The beautiful Thalia Zucchi takes her hidden cameras into the world to hunt down some poor, hapless man out for an afternoon with his sweetie. She shamelessly chats up the guy right in front of his girlfriend. It's evil and very addictive.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Please McCain, Keep At It

St. John McCain has announced today that he has a secret plan to capture Osama Bin Laden. McCain refuses to disclose why he has withheld this knowledge from President Bush these past seven years. McCain did say, "Look, I know the area, I've been there." McCain proved his unique knowledge of the region recently when he disclosed that Pakistan borders Iraq when less knowledgeable people had been deluded into believing that Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan.

Also today, his staff is rumorizing that McCain will be announcing his vice-presidential pick in the next couple of weeks in a desperate attempt to get some press between now and September. Let's hope he does. If he does he will be playing one of his few trump cards too early, during the dog days of summer when most voters are barely paying attention and only developing vague impressions of the candidates. Rolling out him or her (I still say it will be Carly) this early makes the veep choice non-news when the election finally reached the voters radar. Also, shortcutting the vetting process makes it more likely they will miss a significant skeleton in the choice's closet that will make a juicy disclosure in October when people are watching.

These dog days were the perfect time for Obama's foreign trip. He could have delivered his Berlin speech in Pig Latin and few people would have noticed. What voters got was the general images - Obama being received as an equal by every head of state he meet, Obama being cheered by enough Europeans to fill the Rose Bowl twice. These are the kind of images that won't register immediately in polling data but will have a lingering positive impact on people's perceptions.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


If I were running a local city council campaign and my big press event of the day was lunch at a German bistro I would expect to get fired before the sun set. McCain's staff sucks.

Making McCain Interesting

Stephen Colbert, bless him, is doing everything he can to enlist the nation's help in making St. John McCain interesting. The best of the efforts pairs Johnny Mac with Madonna, certainly a better Vice-Presidential choice than Bobby Jindal.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not a Good Sign for St. John

John McCain is going MIA this week. He is canceling pressers and canceling public appearances. One thing I learned from my time in politics is there are only a handful of reasons for a candidate to start canceling public appearances - and all of them are bad.
  • Ill Health - The candidate is sick but not the kind of illness that will that the public would understand and accept. Everyone gets a cold or sore throat. That is universally forgiven. Cancer, uncontrollable tremors, drunkenness, these diseases are not forgiven and the campaign staff will do everything in its power to hide them.
  • Depression - Politicians are prone to manic-depression, a lot of Lyndon Johnson's and Bill Clinton's erratic behavior looked like these massive mood swings. Sometimes a candidate who is getting his ass kicks falls into a morbid depression where they can't even get out of bed. Usually the staff can wheedle, or drug up, the candidate to do a few minor events but mostly they have to keep him out of sight until the mood passes.
  • Staff Disarray - When the staff is a collection of fuck-ups the candidate has to stop doing what he should be doing, gathering money and votes, and devote his time straightening out his employees.
  • Fear - I've seen this. The candidate is afraid to go to an event because he is afraid he will be embarrassed. He is afraid to talk to the media because he is afraid of the questions they will ask.
I suspect McCain's reluctance to appear in public this week is fear. He feared being embarrassed and he feared reporters asking him about Iraq and Obama yet again.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Iraq-Pakistan Border and Other McCain Fantasies

It is difficult to comprehend the utter lack of foreign policy knowledge in what remains of St. John McCain's brain. I refuse to call these gaffes because that assumes he knew better and just made a mistake. If you string these together you realize McCain isn't just mistake prone, a man who might accidentally bomb Latvia because he mistook it for Libya, he is actually ignorant.

Iraq-Pakistan Border
McCain's latest is his referring to the difficult situation along the Iraq-Pakistan border. Of course those two countries are separated by 1000 miles of mountains and desert called Iran. McCain doesn't understand that Iraq and Afghanistan are different countries. In this Today Show interview McCain consistently answers questions about Afghanistan by referring to Iraq and the reverse.

Sunni and Shi'ites
No one can successfully navigate five feet in the Middle East without a basic understanding of the differences between these two Muslim sects. Basically, they loath each other, each considers the other apostate. So when McCain says, repeatedly, that it is common knowledge Iran is training al Qaeda he is being an ignorant fart. The fact is they would sooner cut each others heads off.

Who Are We Talking To?
Back in May McCain claimed that the United States has twenty year history of negotiating with North Korea and Iran. In fact we have an multi-generational history of pretending neither country exists except as potential target practice.

Check those Czechs
Czechoslovakia has not existed for 15 years, it broke into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993. Only in the addled mind of John McCain are those two countries still enjoying wedded bliss.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Objectivism as Seen in the Mortgage Industry Bailout

Objectivists value other people in proportion to how much that person is productive. ~ Richard (in comments)
Or, to put it another way, if the Good Samaritan sees a rich man lying by the road who had been mugged for his purse the Objectivist will help him because such a man is worthy of being helped. If, however, the man by the road is poor and was robbed of his last two quarters that man is of no value and it is a sin to help such a person.

As it has been practiced by conservatives and the Republican Party, compassion is a limited virtue. If a banker while trying to exploit less sophisticated borrowers finds himself in financial distress then it is incumbent upon the government to help him because the banker is a man of worth, he is important. The less sophisticated borrowers, being less worthy, ought to be made to suffer for their poor decisions.

So the borrower, victimized by the sub-prime mortgage shell game, loses his home. The banker, the man of worth too big to fail, finds ready cash at the Fed window and every effort take to make him whole. This is how Objectivism is practiced in the real world. Some charity is needed to prevent collapse of the economy but the charity goes only to the most wealthy, to the most worthy.

The True Objectivist is far more heartless. He wants the economy to dissolve into chaos if that is to be its fate. For it is only from this cleansing that the truly worthy can rise. Better the Götterdämmerung than compassion.
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread. ~ Anatole France

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Republicans and Objectivism

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. ~ John Donne
The moral crime of conservative philosophy is Objectivism as embodied in the writings of Ayn Rand. At its core, Objectivism is the antithesis of Donne's words. It believes that all men are islands. That every man is an end entirely unto himself, as uncaring for others as he is uncared for himself.

It is a cruel and pitiless philosophy. If I see someone lying by the side of the road it expects me to walk on by unless I stand to profit by it. Altruism, the Good Samaritan, is evil. Caring for others is likened to slavery.
Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism and with individual rights. One cannot combine the pursuit of happiness with the moral status of a sacrificial animal. ~ Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness
Every aspect of conservative politics is tainted with this foul brew.
  • Protecting the global climate is evil because someone might benefit from the effort who is not me.
  • Enron had the right to defraud the public because it was acting in its own self interest (their only crime was getting caught).
  • Universal health care is evil because only those people who have earned enough money to afford health care should receive it. (The disease-ridden world conservatives prefer was described by Edger Allen Poe.)
  • All non-wars are appeasement or compromise, ergo all wars are good. (see also)
I could go on all night but I grow weary of reading conservative excuses for selfishness.

Note: I am posting less frequently, and often less intelligently, because I am involved in a writing project that is consuming much of my creativity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush on the Economy

It's as if Herbert Hoover has been reincarnated in the body of a Texas yokel.

With the nation's banking system on the verge of collapse, with scores of banks in financial distress, its president calls things "sound." With food and fuel inflation the only things driving economic statistics, the president believes inflation is the same as economic growth.

When the nation needs decisive action it gets "To the extent that we find weakness, we'll move." And consequence immobility. Bush's press conference today was like the captain of the Titanic whistling a jaunty tune while the wheelhouse floods.

We are six months and five days until a new president is inaugurated. The only remaining question is whether the nation will survive until January 20, 2009.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Republican Veep Derby

St. John McCain needs to pick a Vice-President. It may be a useless exercise but its tradition. His choice needs to be competent enough that people won't develop cold sweats whenever they remember that McCain is an actuarial nightmare. Conversely, he can't choose someone who will be a constant reminder that McCain himself is an incompetent old fart.

Carly Fiorina

I rank Carly as the favorite right now. She the unconventional choice, which would appeal to McCain.
Upside: A smart, articulate, attractive (by Republican standards) woman. If McCain thinks the Hillary vote is in play Carly is the choice.
Downside: In her last job as CEO of Hewlett-Packard she nearly destroyed the company. She was fired from that job and has been unemployed since. No political experience and a tendency to contradict McCain's position. Her political philosophies such as being pro-immigration are decidedly liberal by Republican standards.

Charlie Crist
The conventional choice. The fact he is getting married is proof Crist is on the short list.
Upside: Governor of Florida, a large, marginal state. They are friends and he would be a loyal lapdog.
Downside: He's gay.

The second tier choices are:

Mitt Romney
Had a better chance in April than he does now.
Upside: A better campaigner than McCain (not saying much).
Downside: Still comes off as a robot. Still a Mormon. Doesn't help in any states. Neither Utah nor Massachusetts is in play.

Bobby Jindal
Upside: One of the few Republicans of color. Young.
Downside: Too young, only 37. A complete unknown. Too inexperienced, just three years political experience. Jindal is the Dan Quayle choice.

Lindsey Graham
Upside: McCain's doppelganger. His bestest best friend.
Downside: Anybody who hates McCain also hates Graham. He's also gay.

There is a new posting, Christian Cannibalism, over at Where God Went Wrong.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dealing With Disaster

This news story says more than I can about the disaster America has been facing.

I've been busy so the best I can do to help is offer a tip o' the hat to Jesus' General.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Proud of Who He Is

George Bush has come to realize that he is the biggest asshole in Christendom. Some people would be disturbed by that self-knowledge. Not Georgie. He is actually proud of his assholery.

Name one world leader in modern history who would treat the gathered at the G-8 conference more inelegantly. Hell, name any human being who would behave like GWB did without being totally shitfaced on the fine cognac they were serving.

If Hillary Had Only...

NOT being a candidate for President is so liberating.

A year ago Hillary Clinton was consumed with ambition and her voting record as a Bush-enabler was solidly pro-war and pro-domestic spying. She was more Joe Lieberman than Russ Feingold. She was so determined to "look presidential" (the apparent definition of looking presidential for the media is being a neo-conservative) she routinely spat in the faces of Democratic party regulars and party activists.

Now she is free, free I say to vote her conscious. She voted against the FISA sellout. She voted with the minority as the majority acted to trash the Constitution. She did the right thing. Had she only voted her conscious occasionally in the past few years Hillary would be the Democratic nominee for President today.

As I wipe the loogie from between my eyes that came from Barack Obama I am reduced to hoping his FISA vote is just political gamesmanship.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How a Colony Works - Arthur Miller Way

There is a dance that a colony and her colonial masters engage in. The American colony of Iraq is displaying that dance now.

The Time Step Reverse Turn. Iraq "Prime Minister" Nuri al-Maliki has demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops be written into any new security agreement between Iraq and the United States.

The Chaines Turn. George Bush has responded by rejecting any arbitrary a timetable.

The Dos-i-do Two Step. The next step in this dance will be a bribe from the US to al-Maliki followed by his forgetting the whole timetable question.

Give and take working in concert. The secret of fine dance.

Monday, July 07, 2008

John McCain's Campaign Theme Song

As far as I know St. John hasn't picked an official theme song. He market tested "Bomb...Bomb...Bomb...Iran" but that landed like a, well, bomb. He wanted to use a couple of John Mellencamp songs but having the music's composer and singer going around denying the campaign the right to use his music kind of stifled McCain's enthusiasm for Mellencamp.

He tried ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" until someone explained to him that ABBA music was popular with gays. Maybe they have some geezer humming "Ballad of the Green Beret" when McCain enters but I doubt it.

Since the campaign will center on the economy I may have found the song that goes perfectly with his position on the economy. McCain's economic policy is simple. Win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by wishing for victory (because heaven knows we haven't been trying to win up until now). Use the savings to cut the deficit and hope that, somehow, this will magically solve the credit squeeze and collapse of the nation's infrastructure that is combining to suck the nation's economy into a giant sewer. A leaking sewer, that is.

Wishing and Hoping. John McCain's campaign in a nutshell.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Good Old Days of Journalistic Integrity

St. John McCain has set aside special, privileged seating on his campaign plane for "good" reporters who "earn it." You earn it by being an obsequious toady.

There was a time not too many years ago that any journalist would have been insulted to be told he had "earned" such seating. No exclusive interview would be worth the ridicule his peers would heap upon him for being a servile dog instead of a principled reporter.

That was then. This is now. I expect stiff competition for the suck up seats among the McCain press corps.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Who's Bin Laden's Best Friend?

I said many times that Osama Bin Laden's best friend in the whole wide world is George W. Bush. Here's the proof.
  • Bush oversaw the only success in the history of Bin Laden's pathetic little anarchist movement (9-11).
  • Bush has elevated it into a world power by failing to defeat it in two wars. The first war we should not be losing but are (Afghanistan); the second we should have never started (Iraq).
  • Bush has helped Bin Laden achieve his major economic goal, $144 per barrel oil.
Were it not for George W. Bush, al Qaeda would still an annoying but manageable problem. Bush's friendship and support for al Qaeda and Bin Laden has been incalculable.

Friday, July 04, 2008

What is Patriotism?

Is it patriotic to promote a tax system that allows the nation's infrastructure, her bridges and levees, to fall into disrepair, killing decent, hard working Americans? (Left: a bridge in Minnesota)

Is it patriotic for the country to reward a handful of wealthy elite while their businesses and employees suffer? (Note: there is a direct relationship between the opulence of a CEO's mansion the failure of his company.)

Is it patriotism to "honor the sacrifice" of soldiers while foreclosing on their homes while they are fighting? What about taking a woman's child while she is in Iraq? (Few things make me angrier than the right-wing meme "I honor your service." It is usually shorthand for "shut up and die.")

Is it patriotism to salute the flag while trashing the Constitution? (A question to ask Republicans, "Do you pledge allegiance to the flag or to the Constitution?")
Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It’s just a goddamned piece of paper. ~ President George W. Bush
Is it patriotism to remain quiet while the nation is being bleed white by a endless, meaningless war? (The money wasted on the Iraq War could have provided health coverage for over 40 million Americans.)

There is more to patriotism than fireworks and flag pins. Placing a hand over your heart during the anthem is worthless if your heart is empty of compassion for your fellow citizens. Patriotism is love of country not love for a scrap of colored fabric. Patriotism is not some patch of dirt I happen to live on but a principal of government.

The worst anti-patriotic slogan is "My country, right or wrong." The best...
My Country! When right keep it right; when wrong, set it right! ~ Carl Schurz

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Someone Has to Say It

Reporter: "Why did you rob banks?"
Sutton: "Because that's where the money is." ~ Willie Sutton (1901-1980)
Thieves are stealing whole ATMs, planning to break into them at their leisure. "No one really knows why ATMs have become such a popular target." (MSNBC)

Ah, guys, because that's where the money is. Duh.

Photo is from Mansfield College, Oxford, England.

Iraq War: Quarterly Update

The equilibrium of the Iraq colonial occupation continues unchanged. Occupation forces continue to die at a rate of over one per day. A dozen soldiers a day are wounded. Barring a military attack upon Iran, we can expect this death rate to continue for the foreseeable future. The next few months...years...decades.

The cost in blood is beginning to show up as profit on the balance sheets of American oil companies, the FOD (Friends of Dick Cheney). The goal of the war is being fulfilled with the wholesale theft of Iraq's oil resources by the big oil corporations (Read Asia Times). The United States will maintain its military occupation of Iraq as long as a drop of wealth can be squeezed from her sands. And American soldiers will continue to die at this "acceptable" rate to increase the income of a handful of corporate giants.

American Military Deaths
2nd quarter 2008 .... 100
1st quarter 2008 .... 107
War Total .......... 4,113

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

We're #1 - Torture Division

The United States is the worldwide leader in the application of torture. We have learned from the best and have surpassed their skills.

What impresses me more is the generosity with which we Americans share our knowledge. American advisers are in Mexico training the local police in new techniques to torture their citizens.

Some of the techniques, like waterboarding, have been perfected at Gitmo. Others appear to be new skills. The video opens with the torturers laughing hysterically. This shows we are not only teaching the techniques but we are teaching Mexican police to love the art of pain infliction.

The American "unidentified" torture trainer is with a private U.S. security company. He may be from our beloved BlackWaterUSA, or he may torture for IES-USA, mentioned in the article.

Pain and suffering, America's most valuable export commodity.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Swift Boat Blacks

The Republican Swift Boat slander group for 2008 will be a weird little organization called the National Black Republican Association.
  • They are such a tiny group their website trumpets erecting a billboard off I-26 near Orangeburg, South Carolina as a major accomplishment.
  • Their Board of Directors, if they have one, is a secret nowhere to be found.
  • Most of their contributing writers are non-Blacks like David Barton, Cal Thomas, Jonah Goldberg, Michelle Malkin, Jack Kemp, and Karl Rove.
  • The few actual, prominent Black Republicans like Colin Powell, J. C. Watts, and Condi Rice appear to have nothing to do with this group.
The NBRA has a short, bizarre history. Shortly after their were created in 2005 the majority of the founding directors resigned en mass. They are obsessed with an incomplete and distorted knowledge of history. Their hate-filled radio ads to date have been written using that non-existent jargon that white folk think black people speak in.

The Republicans have been looking for ways to get free publicity for their slanderous attacks on the cable news channels. They need some group to spread their racist attacks that will, to the undiscerning eye, appear credible. Hence a group of "Black Republicans" whose funding is 99% white. Whose media personnel are clearly all white. And whose leadership, were it ever accurately revealed, would resemble a Southern country club - a couple of token black members to color a lily-white base.