Friday, April 29, 2011

Three Signs of the Coming Apocalypse

We Are Running Out of Helium
The second lightest element in creation. That party gas we put in balloons and inhale so we can sound like Mickey Mouse. The reason is that the US, which has large stockpiles, is selling off those reserves at fire sale prices thanks to Congressional largess. In a decade, we will have to import helium at a price 100 times what we are selling it for today. Imagine birthdays with only lead balloons.

Tornadoes of the Century
The simple physics of tornadoes is that cold, dry air collides with warm, moist air causing the atmosphere to swirl violently. The Canadian plains and the Gulf of Mexico make excellent sources for tornado ingredients. The tornado swarm of last Wednesday, like the Japanese earthquake of last month, was extremely unlikely but not unprecedented. Whether global climate change has moved the Jet Stream causing the tornadoes is something we can't be certain of until it is way too late.

The Antarctic Time Vortex
It hasn't been reported by the mainstream media because of a massive coverup (or because it never happened), but scientists are said to have discovered a 12,000 year-old man-made structure under two miles of Antarctic ice. A US physicist, Mariann McLein (who apparently does not exist) is said to have encountered a spinning fog similar to what has been reported in the Bermuda Triangle that produced a time vortex.

I don't know how a map of arctic wind conditions (above) is meaningful here, but apparently it's a vital clue.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Show Me Your Papers

The State Department is considering stricter requirements for getting a passport. In the old days, proof of citizenship was sufficient. The proposed form (ds5513) probes deeper. It requires:
  • Listing all relatives, (one generation both ways) living and dead.
  • Mother's street address one year prior to your birth.
  • Mother's employer at time of your birth, include address and duration of employment.
  • Mother's doctor and dates of all her doctor appointments. (The form assumes only one doctor and does not explain what to do if your mother had three doctors during the course of her pregnancy with you.)
  • A full description of the circumstances of your birth including listing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all persons present during your birth.
  • The street address and time of residence for every place you lived from the time of your birth to now.
  • List all employers you have ever had in your life including the name of your supervisors and his/her phone numbers.
  • Every school you ever attended throughout your life, including the street address of that school.
  • Make one mistake and you risk fine and/or imprisonment for perjury.
The State Department figures it will only take 45 minutes to fill out this form, including research time (yea, right).

The State Department says it will not cost anything to implement this form, meaning they have no intention to actually verify the information provided. The State Department only plans to require this form for selected individuals (i.e. everyone they want to deny passports to).

A wager: Hillary Clinton could not fill out this form completely without error in 45 minutes and I'm willing to bet $10,000 on that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Birther Issue Reborn

My knee-jerk reaction on hearing that President Obama has released his birth certificate was disappointment. I have been entertained for two years by the bizarre ranting of the Birther movement. It was like hearing a favorite stupid sitcom (Cavemen) has been canceled. I should have had more faith in the resilient insanity of Republicans.

The charges of forgery are already being shouted. Orly Taitz claims that no one ever called an African an African in 1961 and this proves conspiracy. FoxNews is positioning itself to carry the forgery canard. I see continuing months of entertaining wingbattery. I love the idea that it's a forgery because, as anyone who watched Lost, which was filmed in Hawaii, knows nobody survives childbirth on that island.
There is a downside. Trump is getting all peacocky and claiming credit for the birth certificate release. Just what we need is to pump up his ego.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Judge Dredd of Georgia

I've been catching up on This American Life podcasts and finally got to the episode titled Very Tough Love.

If you haven't heard it, it tells the story of Judge Amanda Williams of rural Glynn County, Georgia who runs the Drug Court out there with an iron fist somewhat like Judge Cal in the graphic novels.

Every jurisdiction has SOB judges like her. The Supreme Court has two (Scalia and Thomas). While most judges are fair and honest, there are many who orgasm on the power they wield and what the power allows them to do other people. They climax on the arbitrariness of being nice to one person and then fucking up another's life just because they can.

I did some further research on Amanda Williams and discovered the judge is threatening to sue TAL host Ira Glass. I found this as fascinating as Ira's original story, especially the exchange of letters. Glass has an outstanding Chicago law firm behind him; their skill is apparent in their reply to Williams' lawyer.

Williams' attorney, one David Oedel, is allegedly a law school professor. I say "allegedly" because his letter reads like it was written by an unskilled PR flack. Oedel would certainly flunk any student of his who submitted such a rambling, unfocused rant as a threat of legal action.

I doubt any lawsuits will follow. Partly because Williams is a small town thug who is used to intimidating everyone she encounters. Such tyrants tend to back down when their threats are met by tougher folk. Mostly there will be no lawsuit because Williams has no case.

See Also: Reaction from the Georgia legal community blog.
Judge Williams...self-righteous sadist.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hard Hearted Michigan Republicans

I’m wearing second hand hats
Second hand clothes
That’s why they call me
Second hand Rose
Michigan State Sen. Bruce Caswell (of course, Republican) wants it to be state law that foster children must be clothed only in garments purchased from thrift shops. I'm certain Caswell thinks he is being generous in not requiring the kids to go barefoot
and repay the state by working in sweatshops after school.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Egyptian Roots of the Easter Story

The Judeo-Christian religions have borrowed from a lot of other cultures. Noah's Ark is pretty much copyright infringement of the Gilgamesh story. Christmas absorbed pagan winter solstice celebrations into Christianity while a lot of the Easter traditions are pagan spring fertility rites. There is even a theory that the entire monotheistic complex - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - were all born from a 14th century BCE Egyptian religious cult.

The Jesus/Osiris Connection
A lot of ink has been invested in making the case that the Jesus story is a repackaging of the story of Osiris. Basically, Osiris was a god who died and was reborn although how many similarities you find depends on your interested in the subject or how freaked out you are by the concept that Jesus was a phony.

One book I've read speculated that Jesus rigged the whole resurrection scene as a deliberate effort to claim to be the reincarnation of Osiris as the Osiris Cult was strong in the Eastern Mediterranean but that he died of his wounds before he could pull off the whole scheme. (I can't actually find that book now that I'm looking for it but, trust me, it's out there somewhere.)

For me, my favorite telling of an Osiris tale is from the TV show Stargate SG-1.
Sure, the historic Osiris was a male deity, but Anna-Louise Plowman is pretty and they do explain the sex change.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trump's Presidential Run Is a Joke

Really. I'm surprised I hadn't realized this before, Donald Trump's presidential campaign is just a ratings gimmick.
It's been done before, way better.
In a synergy move, NBC's news programs have been interviewing Trump endlessly. That they make him look like a buffoon isn't important. It's the publicity that matters. Look for the Trump campaign to end in June when the May ratings sweeps month is over.
Way, way better.
Gracie Allen's presidential campaign in 1940.
Way, way, way better.
Will Rogers ran for President with the Anti-Bunk Party in 1928 and was actually nominated at the Democrat's 1932 convention. FDR beat him for the nomination.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Passover Science

Scientists believe they have natural answers for the ten plagues of Egypt. The theory is that an eruption of the Santorini volcano could explain most everything.
Santorini erupted massively about 3600 years ago, shattering the island of Thera. The effects of that explosion is still readily apparent today (see above). Geologic evidence shows that a tsunami similar to the Japanese tsunami of 2011 raked across the Eastern Mediterranean. The tsunami would have flowed up the Nile for miles.
I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood ~ Exodus 7:17
The first plague is a well know phenomena called "red tide," caused by a poison producing algae brought up the Nile by the tsunami. It would suffocate fish and a lack of oxygen would force frogs onto the land (plague #2). Plus all the dead fish will cause the gnat (plague #3) and biting fly (plague #4) populations to explode. Plagues 5 and 6, disease among livestock and boils among Egyptians, would naturally follow a plague of biting flies.

Fine dust from the eruption could cause a destructive hailstorm (plague #7) by the same principle behind cloud seeding. The plague of darkness (number 9) would have certainly occurred as the ash cloud covered the sky and blotted out the sun.

We are left with only two remaining plagues. Volcanoes do not cause locust. But locust swarms are common in the Sahara Desert and the same ash caused rains that bombarded Egyptian crops with hail could have triggered a locust metamorphosis.
So now we have only one remaining plague. Number ten is the death of the first born and the passing over of Israelite houses in this death. The answer here may, in fact, be the unleavened bread of Passover.

One theory is that, with all the rain and locust, the Egyptians stored their wet grain indoors where a deadly mold grew on it. The Egyptians use of yeast then cultured the mold. While the firstborn ate the freshest, contaminated, bread the other children would eat older bread without the mold. Because the Israelites baked their bread without yeast the mold didn't grown to deadly concentrations.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Drone Wars

The people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are getting used to American robot planes soaring overhead, dealing death from above. Why should United States citizens miss out on this great, 21st century adventure?

Robot drones have names like Predator and Reaper (as in Grim) that clearly explain their principle function is extinguishing human life. For domestic uses, drones will have benign names like SmartBird and be made to look like seagulls.

Domestic UAVs are unarmed, for now, and only used to spy on Americans. But the original Pentagon UAVs were unarmed as well. With Predators already being used for border surveillance it would take very little to step up the war on drug cartels by arming the drones. And if the US government doesn't arm UAVs, the cartels will.

Drones will soon be available in large numbers on the commercial market. Law enforcement is already using them. Congress is being lobbied to force the FAA to allow the wide use of unmanned airplanes in the United States. As for concerns about a public outcry? That debate never happened. By the time the public knows that legions of robot planes are flying overhead it will be to late to stop it.

There will also arise fleets of miniature UAVs (like the squadron in the photo above). If all this makes you think that it is only a matter of time before the Hunter Killer drones from the Terminator movies appear, you should be aware that the armed Reapers in Afghanistan are developing minds of their own.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Senate Takes on Goldman Sachs

Not all the gold, that is beneath the moon,
Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls
Might purchase rest for one. ~ Dante's Inferno
The fourth circle of Hell is for those guilty of greed.
Nothing will come of the charges that Goldman Sachs lied to investors with the purpose of defrauding them. There will be no prosecutions, no business will avoid dealing with Goldman, no country will disengage their economy from this master of evil. There is no mortal on earth brave enough to stand against the Devil.

As Forbes points out, "the entire fabric of the global financial system would be threatened" by any effort to make Goldman Sachs conform to the rule of law or standards of human decency

Such is the power of the Prince of Darkness.
Goldman CEO at Senate hearing.
Standard Disclaimer: The wondrous evil that is Goldman Sachs deserves daily worship. Please don't sue me.

Art by Paul Haas.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Random Thoughts on the Federal Budget Debate

The federal budget has become an arcane assemblage of special interest spending and tax breaks woven into a document so deliberately labyrinthine that not one person in a thousand can possibly understand it.
The budget, personified.
Not one percent of those who claim to understand it actually do, including people who write them (like Rep. Paul Ryan). Which means most anyone who claims to understand the federal budget process in toto is a liar (like Rep. Paul Ryan).

The federal budget is not a single entity but a collection of individual building blocks, each aggressively supported by its own set of lobbyists. Absolutely no thought is given to what those individual blocks will join into building.
The budget, personified. The Republican version is missing a heart.
Most budget debates revolve about meaninglessly small numbers while the big categories are ignored. For example, there is a big discussion about funding for public broadcasting even though it is 0.01% of the budget. Meanwhile the Defense Department's R&D budget alone is over $82 billion (2.2%) and includes some really weird shit.

If you really want to balance the budget it can be done quite easily. One, restore the marginal tax rate to where it was in 1955, a time most everyone agrees was the golden age of the American economy. That would be 91% tax on income over $3.2 million, inflation adjusted from $400,000.

Two, cut the defense budget by two-thirds. Even then it will still be twice the size of the Chinese defense budget.

The Strange Journey of Kevin Na

I've been there. Kevin Na in the PGA Texas Open shot a 16 on the ninth hole.

His tee shot went into the thick brush; he declared an unplayable lie and went back to the tee shooting three. That shot went into the same thicket. This time he decided to play out of it. His fourth shot hit a tree, bounced backwards and hit him (penalty stroke). Thence began a series of fruitless hacks trying to escape the wilderness.

I've had holes like that, only I usually just give up and trudge on to the next tee well before I get to 16 strokes. And I never follow up a mess like that with three birdies.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

San Diego Padres Baseball

The baseball season is two weeks old and it's time to make final judgments about what's wrong with my local franchise.

Buddy Black
Not Buddy Black.
Manager Black spent the winter reading about how he is a master of "small ball" and started to believe he was the reincarnation of Fielder Jones. So now, any time the Padres get a man on base late in a game, Black calls for a bunt. It doesn't matter if the runner is already on second base or if the batter hasn't laid down a successful bunt since T-ball.

Ryan Ludwick
The Padres clean-up hitter last year was Adrian Gonzalez (30 or more home runs for four consecutive years). This year it's Ludwick who hit .211 with the Padres last year and is batting a sweet .094 this season. Ludwick is totally intimidated by the Padres pitcher-friendly ballpark.

Brad Hawpe
Hawpe replaced Adrian Gonzalez at first base. He is a washed up outfielder who was cut by Colorado when he couldn't even hit at mile-high Coors Field any longer. He is batting .138 with San Diego. And he can't field his position. When holding on a runner Hawpe stands too far away from the base to reach it on pick-off plays.

The Payroll
The Padres payroll, $43 million, is half what it was just three years ago. It ranks 28th out of 30 teams. Their second highest paid player is Ryan Ludwick, so we're not talking a lot of value here. They are the most profitable baseball franchise in the major leagues, exceeding even the New York Yankees.

The Front Office
What the Padres lack in players they more than make up for in executives. They have 18, eight-freaking-teen, vice-presidents. They may not be able to bat, but they can sure swing a mean spreadsheet.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Civil War Battles of April 12

Battle of Fort Sumter
History records April 12, 1861 as the beginning of formal hostilities between the Confederate States of America and the United States with the shelling of Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The fort surrendered on April 14.
It was a bloodless battle. The only casualties were after the battle was over when the US commander, Maj. Robert Anderson, ordered a 100-gun salute to colors for the lowering of the Stars and Stripes. One of the guns exploded, killing one and injuring three.

Fort Pillow
Fort Pillow was a small entrenchment on the Mississippi River in Tennessee. Strategically valueless, it was however in the path of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest during his Spring, 1864 marauding through Kentucky and Tennessee. Gen. Forrest had some 3,000 cavalry; Fort Pillow was manned by less than 600 troops, half of these freed slaves in the 11th U.S. Colored Troops.

The final attack chased the Union troops from the entrenchment and down the bluffs to the Mississippi River. Forrest's men engaged in a turkey shoot, killing one-third of the white troops and two-thirds of the black troops. Described, rightly, at the time as a massacre as the shooting did not stop even after soldiers surrendered.

Forrest, of course, went on to found the Ku Klux Klan and become a modern hero to the Tea Party movement.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Republicans and the Debt Ceiling

What the Republicans are doing with the debt ceiling is completely irresponsible. It has been called, rightly, holding the nation hostage. They are counting on Democrats being responsible and knowing that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would be an economic disaster, Republicans are seeing how much they can extort by threatening to shoot the nation in the head.

It's a sad, sick, sadistic display of partisan insanity. Part of me wants the Democrats to call their bluff and tell Republicans to go ahead and shoot the hostage. It's the only way to find out if Republicans are actual psychopaths.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Wisconsin Miracle Votes

The Wisconsin election reminds me of the (probably apocryphal) words of Joe Stalin.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus apparently "found" some 14,000 uncounted votes almost all of which went to her former boss and personal friend Justice David Prosser. I don't know the truth of what happened and, once the lawyers get done chumming the waters, the truth will be unrecognizable anyhow.

I do know that this is yet another blow to the concept that American elections are free, fair, and honest.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Mississippi Republicans: the Klan Is Reborn

Fact: Interracial marriages have been legal throughout the United States for 44 years.
Fact: A plurality of Republicans in Mississippi want them made illegal once more.

Mississippi Republicans are some of the sickest creatures to ever crawl out of the paw-paw patch. Their governor, that good 'ole boy Haley Barbour, is a true successor to Ross Barnett. Haley has nothing but fond memories of his youth in a segregated Mississippi. When David Duke wanted to hold a Ku Klux Klan rally in 2008 he could think of no more receptive place than Mississippi.

Racism lives on in the most backward state in the Union. They are still lynching blacks in Mississippi. White sheriffs have learned to call them "suicides" and sweep the murders under the carpet.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Late Budget and Government Shutdown

In California, the last time we had an on-time state budget Pio Pico was governor (Actually, it was probably Pete Wilson.). Prop. 13 allows the Republican minority to block any budget Democrats write while Republicans lack the votes for anything they like.

The result is perpetual gridlock. Everyone has kind of gotten used to it. Vendors know they may have to go months without being paid. State employees know to have a little laid away for impromptu unpaid holidays. Some people suffer, especially the poor, but nothing approaching Armageddon.

So I'm not terrified of a federal government shutdown. However, it is probably wise to remember the first time the American government stopped paying its soldiers there was a mutiny. Just suggesting it is probably a good idea to keep the Marines overseas until this is over.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

All Politics Are Local

FireDogLake speculates that Pres. Obama plans to link Congressional races to his reelection campaign. As a general rule, that is always a stupid idea.

Presidents like to nationalize their reelections. Nixon did it; Clinton did it. The idea is to present a unified theme where all campaigns are subsidiary to the President's. The result is that local Congressional candidates can't run effective campaigns as the head of the ticket sucks off all of the attention and the cash. The principal benefit is that it strokes the inflated ego of the President and enrich the President's campaign staff.

It's theoretically possible for a President to altruistically help Congressional campaigns in states the President himself can't possibly win. It's possible for President to step back and allow Congressional candidates to take the lead in their own districts. It's possible. I've just never seen it.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Afghanistan Spring

All winter long American generals have been crowing about the "progress" they were making against insurgents. But that was winter when the wise Taliban stayed home warming by the fire. Let the Americans rule the brutal blizzards of the Afghan plains.
Now it is spring. The fields are greening.
The poppies are blooming.
And the Afghan insurgents are emerging, renewed and refreshed, with a winter's worth of outrages to seek vengeance against.
It's going to be a long, hot summer in Kabul.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Presidential Candidates Less Sane than Sarah Palin

The biggest April Fools joke I can find is the truth. The stable of Republican candidates for President actually make Sarah Palin seem lucid.

Herman Cain has a tough row to hoe as he appeals to the Jesse Helms wing of the Republican Party given that he grew up black in the segregationist South. But Cain liked the Jim Crow Laws. He found them inspirational.
Cain for President: 
He Ain't No Uppity Black

Mike Huckabee
Huckabee doesn't believe in gentle persuasion, not when the Constitution give his supporters guns. Like Chairman Mao, Huckabee believes people should be indoctrinated at gunpoint.
Mike Huckabee: 
The hammer which we use to crush the enemy.

Newt Gingrich: Named for a slimy amphibian and the villain in a Dr. Suess book, Newt is the only candidate who can have a full scale debate with himself. He has taken both sides on Libya. He believes that adultery is both an impeachable offense and the ultimate act of patriotism.
Newt Sings 
God Bless America 
While Fucking You

Rick Santorum
An old-school conservative, 11th century old. While Herm Cain defends segregation and Newt defends screwing around, Santorum is still trying to defend the Crusades. Rick is campaigning on the platform that the Crusaders were a kind of hippie, peace and love movement.
Santorum for President:

Then there are the two craziest who I almost forgot.

Michele Bachmann
Bachmann is the Tea Party candidate, which says all one needs to know about the Tea Party.
Bachmann For President
Don't Try to Get Into Her Head,
It's Scary In There

Donald Trump
Donald Trump says he is qualified to be President because he once defrauded Moammar Gadhafi in a real estate swindle. Then, his frequent bankruptcies proves his ability to run the economy.
Trump! It's the Hair!!