Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mostly for the Photos

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) spent a week in Kabul "officially" doing National Guard training.
  • He wasn't teaching anybody anything because I guarantee you each and every private serving in Afghanistan knows a hell of a lot more about war than Brown.
  • He wasn't a student because the army wouldn't waste time training a dilettante who was going to be supping tea in DC by the end of the week.
  • He was mostly there to pose for photos dressed in combat gear that will be used extensively in his campaign literature and TV commercials. 
  • Oh, yeah. He was also there to waste the time of real soldiers who had real work to do.
The rigorous army life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Santorum the Crybaby

Rick Santorum has a plan for becoming President. He'd lead a pogrom against homosexuals. The flaming twinks would run off and Santorum would earn his street creds as a tough macho, macho man for taking on "Teh Gay."
How Rick Santorum sees himself.
It didn't work. The poofs fought back by simply successfully defining the word "santorum" as the foul by-product of anal sex. Poor Ricky tried to swallow too much fudge and it got stuck in his throat.
How the world sees Santorum.
Now Santorum is screeching like a girly-man with a broken fingernail about how homosexuals are being really, really mean to him.
The real Rick Santorum (candid photo).
There is a lesson there somewhere but, frankly, just thinking about Santorum makes me strangely queasy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Message From God

Hurricane Irene and the Virginia earthquake were both messages from God to punish Virginia for electing Eric Cantor to the House of Representatives.
Makes more sense than Michelle Bachmann.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Republican Extremists

Corporations are people. ~ Mitt Romney
Eliminate FEMA, we should handle disasters like we did in 1900. ~ Ron Paul
Social Security is unconstitutional. ~ Rick Perry
If we took away the minimum wage we could wipe out unemployment. ~ Michelle Bachmann
These are not just opposing political philosophies; these are radical, extreme positions that 70, 80, 90 percent of the American people wholeheartedly disagree with. While people like me rail against these and other statements in the crowded noise of the internet, the Democratic Party, and especially President Obama, are bizarrely silent in response.

I understand the political calculus; it's not exactly profound strategy. The thinking in the White House brain trust is to let Romney do the heavy lifting opposing Radical Republicanism or paint him as extremist himself in the general election. It's a stupid strategy.

The strategy fits Obama's confrontation adverse nature (Allodoxaphobia is certainly the weirdest disease for a career politician to have). But by staying silent now Obama is implying that these radical statements, and the hundreds of others like them, are mostly harmless, that they don't really mean them. Paul is not your crazy uncle, Bachmann is not just a ditz, and Perry is not just a goober. They mean what they say and their statements are not benign.

Obama should be all over these statements like a rash on a whore, keeping the disgusting oozing pustules imagery intact. Make them own their statements now. Make them carry the weight of their words like Marley's chains.

By the by, Mr. President, the most likely outcome of the Republican primary season is Romney for President and Perry for Vice-President. If you don't make Perry wear the full weight of his words now he is going to be free to pit bull your ass this time next year.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Storm of the Century

A hurricane striking the Jersey Shore, New York, Long Island, and then plowing into New England. An amazing event! Why, the last time that happened was...

Hurricane Bob mostly skirted the eastern seaboard, eroding Jersey beaches and felling trees on Long Island. He saved his wraith for New England, crashing into Rhode Island as a category 2 hurricane.

Okay, well, there was that. But Bob was 20 years ago and the last one before that was way back in...

Hurricane Gloria was category 2 when she made landfall on Long Island. Gloria drenched New York City with over 3 inches of rain before plowing through New England. The damage path ranged from North Carolina to Nova Scotia.

Okay, smart guy. So when was the last eastern seaboard hurricane before Gloria?

Hurricanes in New York are not all that rare. On average they happen once every twenty years. Twenty years is longer than the average careerspan of a network anchor so, in dog (and Brian Williams) years, New York hurricanes can be described as "once in a lifetime" events.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodnight, Irene

A classic folk song composed, as such things are, by Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter). In fact it may have been first sung as early as the 1880's.

There are as many sets of lyrics as there are artists to sing it. The version above sung by the Weavers is the most famous. It is also my favorite even though it has been called a sugar coated rendition. Other versions tell the story of a man who falls in love with a too young girl. Pining for the child he can't have he commits suicide.

Hurricane Irene is currently raking the Eastern seaboard.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Washington Monument

The recent earthquake has put cracks in that great American phallic symbol, the Washington Monument. While no one is claiming the monument is about to fall, if it were nobody would say so publicly.

Imagine the effect on President Obama if the full force of Hurricane Irene, due to pass Washington D.C. on Sunday at Category 2, were to topple the weakened structure. Forget double digit unemployment or a terrorist attack, nothing could destroy a presidency faster than watching the nation's towering symbol of virility collapse into flaccid rubble.
Under construction ca. 1860.
The design competition began in 1836. The winning architect, Robert Mills, specialized in obelisks. His design was expensive, it would cost $1 million is 1830's cash, and there was only $87,000 available for the project. But the people in charge decided, what the hell, let's start it and see what happens.

The work got bogged down in politics. Different groups wanted their own stones included in the build. A temperance society added a stone dedicated to opposing alcohol. Pope IX contributed a stone which outraged the Tea Party Know Nothings who stole the marble block and threw it into the Potomac River. They then took over the society constructing the monument so no more un-American building materials would be used. Instead they used the cheapest available bricks.

Funding dried up. Then there was a little Civil War. Construction didn't resume until 1879. After removing the shitty Tea Party Know Nothings masonry, and with full Congressional funding, building proceeded quickly and finished in just four years.

Few people liked the structure. The original architect had planned for a fancy colonnade at the base. Without it, he said, the monument would just look like a giant stalk of asparagus. It was so unpopular that just 800 people attended the dedication ceremony in 1885. 

Word of the Day: The feminine equivalent of phallus is yoni, the Sanskrit word for vagina.
Hoover Dam is the nation's biggest yonic symbol.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Sherlock Holmes Was Banned

It is my practice to read banned books so when a Virgina school board removed "A Study In Scarlet" from its sixth grade reading list because it insults Mormons I had to go back to it.

To those who haven't read the book (shame), the first half of "A Study In Scarlet" tells of how Dr. Watson first meets the strange consulting detective and watches Holmes solve a mysterious double murder. The second half tells the history leading up to the revenge killings. The book was banned because the second half is set in Mormon Utah. 

Mormons of the 19th Century
Little was known in Victorian England about Mormons beyond the basics: it was a religious cult that had isolated itself in the Utah desert, was run as a theocracy by a dictatorial Brigham Young, practiced bigamy and was rampantly xenophobic.

Conan Doyle was not attempting to write a scrupulous treatise on Mormon culture, he was writing a ripping good yarn. He did not get every dot and tittle of the history right but neither did Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice" nor Boris Pasternak in "Dr. Zhivago." Still, he was right enough for fiction.

Reality of 19th Utah
Young proudly described himself as dictator of Utah, granting to himself "the right to dictate about everything connected with the building of his Zion, yes even to the ribbons the women wear" (source).

Polygamy was not because there was a surfeit of women. Like all of the West, there were many more men than women in Utah. Polygamy was then as it is now all about male power. Both Brigham Young and Joseph Smith took in plural marriage the wives of other church members. In 1884, the church stripped church leadership positions from monogamous men; plural marriage became a requirement for leadership (source). In 1890, Mormons gave up their multiple wives as the price of statehood.

In the early years of the church in Utah Mormons enforced doctrinal orthodoxy through the notion of "blood atonement" - the ritual murder of sinners. From the death of Joseph Smith until 1927, Mormons were required to swear an "Oath of Vengeance" against America and that all Mormons were "the sworn and avowed enemies of the American people." Even today Mormons who reach the rank of priesthood are required to take "blood oaths."
"If any miserable scoundrels come here,
 cut their throats." ~ Brigham Young
Certainly the most famous of the blood atonements was the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In 1857 a band of settlers from Arkansas bound for California encountered Mormons near what is now Zion National Park. In Cedar City the travelers were refused service when they tried to buy supplies. Leaving town the travelers were followed by several men who attacked the wagon train. The travelers circled the wagons for defense and a siege ensued. After several days Mormon Elder John D. Lee entered the wagon circle and convinced the travelers to surrender their belongings in exchange for safe passage. The men and boys were separated from the women and girls and all began marching back to Cedar City under Mormon guards. After about a mile the guards turned their guns on the men and boys and shot each and every one. The adult women were murdered as well. Seventeen young girls were kidnapped and passed out to loyal Mormon families. In all 120 people were murdered. The site was dressed so the Mormons could blame the massacre on Paiute Indians.

This was Utah when Conan Doyle wrote his story. All in all he got the sense of things pretty accurately.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Virginia Earthquake

The 5.9 earthquake in Virginia has left this Southern California boy yawning. To those of us living on the Ring of Fire if it ain't 7.0 it ain't shit.

The Four Horsemen of the Tea Party

Scientists have studied the Tea Party Movement and have identified the four Pillars of Ignorance that support their philosophies. Not that there are any surprises there.

When fascism comes to America, 
it will be wrapped in the flag 
and carrying a cross. ~ Sinclair Lewis

It's not so much that Tea Partiers hate all government but that the hate any government that they don't control and that doesn't impose their will on everyone else. Tea Party heroes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder have both used heavy-handed governmental powers to impose their will upon the people. Snyder's "Financial Martial Law" has seen the governor takeover local governments and rule by fiat.

There is a logical inconsistency between authoritarianism and libertarianism, but who said the Tea Party was logical. Tea Party libertarianism is not a universal philosophy but a "freedom for me but not for thee" belief. Tea Partiers truly believe they are libertarians, they can parrot the slogans ("Don't Tread on Me") enthusiastically. But their list of absolute freedoms they defend is balanced by another list of absolute freedoms (universal suffrage) they would deny.

Fear of Change
Mister, we could use a man 
like Herbert Hoover again.

President Obama's campaign theme, "Change we can believe in," was like a dog whistle to Tea Partiers. Change is the last thing they believe in. Black Tea Party favorite, Herm Cain, has waxed nostalgic for the good old days of Jim Crow and segregation. They want to restore the original intent of the Constitution although 90% haven't read the Constitution. Their adherence to the strict wording of the Constitution includes a desire to rewrite most of the document.

Tea Partiers hate non-Americans. By that they mean Hispanics, Muslims, Gays, and liberals. In that they are nothing more than the resurrection of the 19th century Know Nothing Party. Of course, American citizens who happen to be Hispanic, Muslim, Gay, or liberals are not "Real Americans" and, hence, are not deserving of constitutional protections.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Libyan Liberation

It looks like I was wrong when I wrote that NATO's intervention in the Libyan Civil War was too little too late. I'm man enough to admit my mistake and congratulate President Obama, NATO allies, and the rebels for their success.
Of course, anti-American neo-cons like Andrew McCarthy are whining about what a disaster is the fall of their good friend Muammar Qaddafi.

God and the Pittsburgh Flash Flood

News Item: Pittsburgh flood overwhelms sewer system.
God: I'm gonna make it rain for a thousand days and drown 'em right out.
Noah: Right! Listen to this, you'll save water. Let it rain for 40 days and 40 nights and wait for the sewers back up. ~ Bill Cosby's Noah routine
People died so I know I'm being heartless, but I can't help it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Southern California Grocery Strike

Aw, the memories. The last time there was a grocery workers strike/lockout was a disaster. It lasted for 20 weeks with the big three (Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons) picketed.
During the strike there was the biggest wildfire in San Diego history that made it an adventure to just leave the house let alone try to find food. The unskilled scabs hired to replace union workers were incompetent, leaving frozen food stacked on the floor outside freezers for hours. Non-union Walmart made out like a pack of hyenas devouring three dead elephants while the Big Three lost over $2 billion. It ended with total capitulation by the union.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union is holding strike votes today. A strike is likely because the stores are playing hardball using a lead cannonball. The businesses want a strike because they want to crush union workers like insects. Scabs are being hired while I type this. It is a threat to public health to have temporary scabs handling the food supply. People will get sick, some will die.

Of course, I will not cross a picket line. Ever. Period. Double exclamation point!! Nor will I shop at Walmart. Triple exclamation point!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Barack and Me

I got a phone call last night from Obama's campaign. The guy wasn't fishing for money, at least not directly. He seemed to be trying to gauge and shape my opinion of the President. My opinion is unimportant (severely disappointed but still supporting), but what struck me is the message he was trying to pitch.

I was asked to believe that President Obama was preforming a Rope-a-Dope strategy against Republicans. That every defeat and surrender is part of a cunning plan to conquer Republicans. The theory, as best as I can tell, was that by allowing Republicans their little successes they will overreach and anger voters.
It doesn't look like it, but the fighter on the ropes is winning.
My problem is that what works in boxing doesn't work in politics. Politics is a perception game. If you look weak you are weak. Letting Republicans have their way without fighting back so that they will get all the blame when the economy craters may work, so far as it goes. But people will judge harshly a president who allowed that to happen without appearing to stand up to them.

They may rightly blame Republicans, but they will blame the President too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sentient Computers

Those wacky guys at IBM have invented a computer that is configured like a human brain and it has learned all on its own how to play Pong. That's only the beginning, of course. Next comes chess, tic-tac-toe, and
global thermonuclear war.

Way to go, geeks!

S&P Vindicta

The US Justice Department has been investigating Standard & Poor's faulty debt rating of mortgage securities for some months now. The question is, was the S&P downgrading of US debt based on impartial reasoning or was it the old fashioned, Sicilian definition of vendetta?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Austerity Is Only for Peasants

We are told this is a time for austerity. Taxes and fees for the middle class have to go up, salaries must be frozen or workers laid off, and services for the elderly and poor must be slashed. We must learn, we are told, to live within our means. But austerity is only for the bottom.
Those at the very top, we are told, require low taxes lest their feelings are hurt and they decide to "go Galt." (The Forbes 400, every one a billionaire.)

For the top one-tenth of one percent austerity is a joke. Now is the time for glorious excess. Here are some of the things our most wealthy people get while we peasants make do with ruptured water mains, shriveling pensions, and a health care system trying to bankrupt us all into early graves.

Billionaire Toys
The wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of Americans could live splendidly for a hundred lifetimes on their accumulated lucre. It doesn't matter to them if the economy is roaring or stagnant or devolves into a medieval cesspool. They are content so long as the rest of humanity willingly plays the pawn in their little games.
We are all prisoners in their toy chest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Secessionist Perry on Treason

I figured I could stop writing about Rick Perry, it's been two days and I was beginning to get pretty nauseous. Then he had to go and accuse Fed chairman Ben Bernanke of treason.

Now, that's a mighty big word Little Ricky is banding about. Of course, treason is a capital offense punishable by death and Bloody Ricky loves executions (he averages two a month in Texas). And Bernanke's sins are manifold - the Federal Reserve has been buying up debt to try and keep the economy from sinking into oblivion when he should have been sitting on his hand praying for a divine apocalypse to destroy President Obama and elevate Saint Ricky to the throne.

(Really! Perry thinks that it is treason to aid the economy if that might also help the President.)
Washington during the first weeks of a Perry presidency.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Things That Aren't Changing

California Primary System
California has changed from the traditional primary-general election format to a "top-two" system where everybody competes together in the primary and the top two advance to the general election. If you listen to the paid political consultants this is a major upheaval that will completely change the election landscape where minor parties will be marginalized and moderates will win.

Nonsense. We have just shifted the general election to the spring and eliminated the party primaries altogether. Minor parties will have as much impact (none) as they do now. Heavily partisan districts will feature two candidates from the same party in the runoff where the incumbent or party favorite will win.

The only change is that highly paid campaign consultants will have to devise new strategies for this new system. Consultants are an unimaginative bunch who repeat the same strategies over and over. They hate the thought of having to think.

Ron Paul
Every four years there are articles about how, this time, Ron Paul has become important. Paul is as he has always been, a minor figure with a cult following that can artificially inflate his profile in a few, limited access, events.

State Gambling
States, we are told, are looking to on-line gambling as a revenue tool. The arguments are that legal, state gambling will end illegal gambling and the revenue will balance budgets.

The same arguments were used decades ago when states took over the Numbers Racket and call it PowerBall and then again when off-track betting began. So many problems.
  • State gambling is the most regressive tax possible; the poor squander their resources hoping for a miracle and the only time the rich play is when they can game the system.
  • The Mafia has a much more honest game. States payout only 50 cents for every dollar bet. The Mafia payout rate is a more generous 80%.
  • State run gambling never takes in as much money as the proponents predict. Partly because state gambling has a massive, expensive bureaucracy but mostly because the state can never compete with the more generous illegal professional enterprises.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rick Perry's Texas: the Prison State

Rick Perry wants to bring the Texas story to the entire United States. A major part of that story is incarceration because nowhere are you more likely to be arrested and imprisoned than in Texas.

In Texas:
  • Over one million adults are arrested every year. That is nearly 6% of the adult population. Every year!
  • There are over 150,000 Texans currently held in state prisons. Add in jails and the number is 228,000.
  • Over 700,000 Texans are under criminal justice supervision (prison, jail, parole, probation). That's more than every man, woman, and child living in Austin.
  • In several communities (Gatesville and Eden are two) at least half of the population is imprisoned.
  • There are 53 state prisons and an additional seven for profit private prisons. There are also 15 federal prisons in Texas.
  • Texas currently has over 300 prisoners on death row.
  • Rick Perry has supervised 234 executions as governor.
  • Texas annually leads the nation in executions.
  • Texas also leads the nation in prison rape.
  • There are more African American men in Texas prisons than Texas universities.
  • Over 9% of the Black population of Texas has been disenfranchised by felony convictions.
  • Texas has a Schools-to-Prison program where children are arrested (criminal arrests) and fined (up to $500) for actions that are not illegal, like cursing or using a cell phone on campus. They are also attaching non-removable tracking bracelets (house arrest bracelets) to kids who skip school.
Huntsville Prison was built in 1849.
Some Sources:
Texas Tough
Texas Facts
Private Prison Promises to Leave Texas Town in Trouble
The Sentencing Project

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rick Perry as President

Three generations of imbeciles are enough. ~ Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
I can't believe this insane obsession some Americans have with electing Texans.

The best of the lot was the first. Lydon Johnson took a small brush conflict that had been on going with minimal fuss for a decade and turned it into a major war. He also invented the "Guns and Butter" political strategy that set the stage for the great inflation of the 1970's. Johnson, at least, had an accomplishment called the Civil Rights Act.
Vietnam War
The next two had nothing to their credit, they were only debit. George Bush, pere started the Great Islam-American War when he totally screwed the pooch on Iraq. First he encouraged Saddam Hussein's territorial ambitions then he attacked when Iraq expanded the wrong way. He also screwed up the economy.

George Bush, fils made his father look good. He screwed up two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. While daddy just screwed up the economy, junior royally fucked it up. His dry-drunk, "What, Me Worry" approach to governance has permanently crippled the country.

Now comes Perry who makes Bush, Jr look like a genius. Even Sarah Palin thinks Rick Perry is dumb (Think about how stupid that has to be). Perry is a secessionist. He believes that the Gulf Oil Spill was an Act of God because, unlike God, the oil industry is incapable of error. Perry hold the US record for executions because of his willingness to execute the innocent.

At what point will Americans realize that Texans make horrible presidents.?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Corporate Personhood

Mitt Romney said yesterday what most Republican politicians believe but are wise enough to not state out loud.
Corporations are people.
They are not, of course. People are people. Corporations are businesses. If corporations were people they would, at best, be schizophrenics and, at worst, psychopaths.

Corporations are anti-social. When was the last time you saw a corporation attend church, fall in love, get married, have children, vote, laugh, cry, or visit their mother in the hospital? Corporations are heartless, soulless creations.

Corporations rape other corporations with impunity (they call it "hostile takeover"). Corporations don't need clean air or clean water, in fact they can survive just fine in an environment that would kill people.
Union Carbide made $7 billion in 2009.
Corporations are much larger than any single person. They can crush a real person with less concern than a person crushes a mosquito. When corporations are elevated to the level of persons they tower over real people. Democracy is buried under corporate power.
And the people become insignificant pawns.

That is Mitt Romney's America, a place where corporations are people and people are chattel.

The Secret of Life
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Handicapping the Republican Field

Ahead of the Ames, Iowa debate here is my latest handicapping of a field that is looking weaker than a $5000 claiming race at Prairie Meadows.

Rick Perry  (3 to 1)
Perry is an imbecile, which just makes him more attractive to Republicans who hate the idea of a president who is smarter than a fifth grader. Perry also benefits from the Donald Trump phenomenon of not yet being a declared candidate, once he declares figure Perry dropping off. 

Mitt Romney (7 to 2)
Mitt's advantage is he's the only candidate who can walk and chew gum at the same time. His disadvantage is that he is more a clone of Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan. He is raising a shitload of money because he is the establishment candidate; but he's a Mormon which for fundamentalists makes him more suspect than a Muslim. 

Michelle Bachmann (11 to 1)
Yesterday's Rick Perry.

Tim Pawlenty (14 to 1)
The Ames debate is his last chance to appear relevant. If he comes off all Milquetoast again stick a fork in him, he is campaigning to be Vice-President.

Sarah Palin (16 to 1)
Showing up in Iowa with her bus trying to be relevant again. Sister Sarah is just an attention whore now.

Jon Huntsman (20 to 1)
Intrade has him at 12 to 1 but that is too optimistic. He has all of Mitt's disadvantages (smart, Mormon, liberal) with none of the advantages (money).

Ron Paul (30 to 1)
So Tea Party he pisses Earl Grey. 

Herm Cain (100 to 1)
Remember back in May when Cain was the rising star nearing the top of the polls?

Gingrich, Santorium, et al (the field 50 to 1)
Chris Christie is the only one with a snowball's chance in hell of making it and I'd rather have my money on the snowball. Gingrich and Santorium could be replaced at the debate by cardboard cutouts and no one would care.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Curmudgeonly Rants

They say winning builds confidence and losing builds character. I don't know about you but I have all the character I can stand. ~ Mike Gotch ca. 1988 after another progressive election loss in San Diego
Wisconsin's recall elections ended in winning only two seats when we needed at least three. In other words a marginal loss. In still other words, it was only a character building exercise.
It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours. ~ Harry S. Truman 
So, what do we call it when you lose your home? The economy is floating in the same clogged crapper its been in for a decade. Republican politicians think the biggest problem with the country is that rich people have to pay taxes. Democratic politicians think the biggest problem is liberals who want rich people to pay taxes.
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
~ Bonnie Tyler
Think of the great men who have walked the halls of Congress. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Robert LaFollette, Sam Rayburn, Tip O'Neill. After John Quincy Adams lost the presidency he went back to the House of Representatives where he served as a leader for 17 years; after Bill Clinton left office he became a millionaire giving lame pay-per-view speeches. Who do we have in Congress, either party, that people will remember 2 months after they leave office?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Austerity and Riots

They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up. ~ Hosea 8:7
I am about as far away from the British riots as one can be and still speak English as a native language.
  • The shooting of Mark Duggan by police may have been the spark that set the tinder ablaze but conditions have been ripened for it. Hence its rapid spread.
  • Authorities have no idea why this is happening because of the elephantine chasm between the political and chattering classes and young people of the nation. 
  • The unemployment rate of Brits 16-24 years old is 20.5% and that's not allowing for the hedging of official figures to make them look better.
  • The unemployment rate for the political and chattering classes is close to zero.
  • Political protests (Egypt last spring, Syria today) occur when desperate people have a slight, faint hope that they can effect political change. 
  • Riots occur when desperate people have no hope in hell of things ever changing. 
  • Austerity programs cause riots (Greece, Spain, Ireland, France).
  • Income inequality in the United Kingdom is bad; the bottom 10% of the population have just 1.3% of the income while the top 10% gather 31%.
  • Things are worse in the United States. In the US the top 1% get 21.3% of the income while the bottom 20% get just 3.5%. (source)
  • Youth unemployment in the US is much higher. More than half of the Americans between the ages of 16-24 do not have jobs.
The big question is, can austerity riots happen in the United States too?  The real question is, why haven't they happened yet? And with all the guns in the US expect austerity riots to be exponentially worse than anywhere else.

Monday, August 08, 2011

When Governments Attack Their Own People

A lot of R&D money goes into researching new ways to inflict pain (without obvious permanent maiming or death) upon unarmed civilians. While many nations (Syria) don't mind using standard tank ordinance against citizens, other countries want obstinately non-lethal techniques for quelling unruly peasants.

Rubber Bullets
Rubber bullet wounds.
The British invented rubber bullets (they replace wooden bullets) and used them extensively against the Irish during the latter half of the 20th century. They are used around the world for riot control and to break up wild parties. Rubber bullets kill if they strike a vulnerable body part (liver, spleen, head). In the United States, being the land of the Second Amendment, you can buy rubber bullets for personal use. The US Army is developing a rubber bullet machine gun.

Taser wounds.
As I've mentioned before, the Taser is the go-to weapon for police officers who want to torture someone without leaving any visible bruises. The problem with the Taser is that many governments think it is too gentle. That's why Taser International is developing the XREP, a shotgun powered Taser than will break ribs and administer 20 seconds of heart stopping electroshock torment. 

Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate
The United States government has an entire department dedicated to finding ways to terrorize and inflict pain on people without killing them (too often).  Some new examples are below. 

The Pain Ray (aka) Active Denial System
It's been described as an open air microwave oven. This device inflicts an agonizing burning sensation, like your skin has been set on fire. While the Pentagon has been afraid of to deploy it in Afghanistan because if could be used as a torture device, the LA County Sheriff's Department has some for use against jail prisoners.

The Personal Halting and Simulation Response weapon (You just know some Trekkie named this.) is designed to blind any crowd of people it shoots. Because the US has signed a treaty against weapons that permanently blinds people, the Pentagon has been trying to get around the treaty by claiming their PHaSR (damn stupid name) only blinds people temporarily. They have even given it a cute descriptor (the Dazzler) to make it sound more like a toy than a weapon.

Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)

We can blind crowds, how about making them deaf too. The LRAD can project an extremely painful ear-splitting noise harmlessly over the heads of your own people to afflict an oncoming crowd. It was deployed, but not used, by the NYPD during the Republican National convention in 2004, the Pittsburgh police for the 2009 Super Bowl, and by the Toronto police for the 2010 G20 summit. Hearing damage caused by the LRAD can be permanent.

Pulse Energy Projectile (PEP)
This is a real Phaser. And a really real torture weapon. This is a laser weapon that stimulates all the pain receptors in the human body all at once. Fired at a crowd and you would have the fun of watching hundreds of people falling to the ground writhing in agony all at once.

Mellow Gas
Using chemical weapons against civilians is illegal (that doesn't mean we don't do it). But, what about a gas that turns a restive population into compliant drug-addled sheep?

More Details At:
Alternet - 6 Creepy New Weapons
Cracked - Non-lethal Weapon That Will Make You Wish You Were Dead

Sunday, August 07, 2011

News of the World

When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose. ~ Bob Dylan
Syrian protests continue in the face of tank assaults on citizens.
Riots in London after police shoot and kill a man in the Tottenham district.
Spaniards protest massive unemployment as well as the brutal suppression by police of a prior protest.
Soldiers attack starving people in Somalia to steal their food.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The US Defense Budget As Holy Scripture

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has taken as stand. Better that children starve and the elderly be sent to early graves than US soldiers in Afghanistan sweat while sleeping like they were peasants.

The US Defense budget is a bloated obscenity. It has long ago ceased being a sacred cow and is worshiped today like an obscene golden calf .
If Panetta sees this he'll want it for an Air Force toilet.
The facts are that the Pentagon budget could be cut in half and it would still be larger than it was when George Bush Jr. took office in 2001.
In real dollars, adjusting for inflation, the United States Defense budget is higher than anytime in the past 65 years. The Korean War, even the Vietnam War, were mere blips compared to what the United States is spending today during our current military orgy.
The United States spends six times more money on defense ($700 billion) than No. 2 China ($114 billion). The United States is responsible for almost half of all the military spending in the entire world. We spend nearly 5% of the nation's GDP on defense compared to the global average of 2.6%. (source)
Who are the enemies we are fighting that justifies this spending? A few thousand Muslim extremists. What have we gotten for the money? A military that has spent a decade failing to win a war in a country the size of Texas with the economy of the poorest third of El Paso.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Texas Heat Wave

Thoughts as Texas enters its sixth week of 100 degrees F temperatures.
Satan went to Dallas to cool off.
If I owned Hell and Texas I would rent out Texas and live in Hell. ~ Gen. Philip Sheridan (1866)
The devil, we're told, in hell was chained,
And a thousand years he there remained,
And he never complained, nor did he groan,
But determined to start a hell of his own
Where he could torment the souls of men
Without being chained to a prison pen.

So he asked the Lord if He had on hand
Anything left when He made the land.
The Lord said, "Yes, I had plenty on hand,
But I left it down on the Rio Grande.
The fact is old boy, the stuff is so poor,
I don't think you could use it in hell any more."
~ Hell in Texas, author unknown

Gov. Perry prayed to end the Texas drought on April 22. God laughed.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Stock Market Blues

It's a good thing there was a debt ceiling agreement or else the stock market might have crashed this week.

Never Negotiate With Terrorists

Negotiating with terrorists empowers them. That simply encourages more terrorism. The theory is the same when you are talking about Hamas bombers or Tea Party Republicans.

The debt ceiling debate went something like this: Republicans took the American economy hostage, strapping explosives to it and threatening to blow it up. President Obama sat down with them as if they were reasonable people and negotiated a deal where Republicans agreed to disarm the bomb in exchange for almost everything they wanted except the demand that Obama publicly humiliate himself by stripping naked and singing the Whiffenpoof Song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Still, the American economy is free and safe so negotiations work. Except Republicans have already started taking new hostages and demanding further concessions or they will blow up something else.

Negotiating with terrorists is weakness. It doesn't matter if the weakness is compassion (I don't want innocents killed.) or fear (What will people think of me if the terrorists fulfill their threats.). Once terrorists have seen weakness they will exploit it again and again.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Gov. Perry's Empty Rally

One of the first lessons in politics I learned is never schedule an event for a room larger than your audience. It can be smaller, even way smaller, it can be so much smaller the fire marshal is having a hissy fit over code violations. It's better to have 30 people squeezed into a room that only fits 20 than to have 100 people rattling around in a hall that seats 1,000.
Not a great photo op.
For months now Texas Governor Rick Perry has been planning this huge seven hour day of prayer and fasting (and Presidential campaign rally) for Reliant Field in Houston. Reliant seats 71,000. So far Perry has signed up only 8,000.

It's hard enough to get people into the park for Astros games when the concession stands are open. Promise to starve them and most people will find some other way to spend a summer's day.

There are a few ways Perry can still save his day.
  1. Gather his paltry crowd into a couple of sections and hire several hundred security guards to keep press photographers from getting the bigger picture. 
  2. Trash that fasting nonsense and offer free meals and free beer.
  3. Wet t-shirt contests.
  4. Have local churches declare failing to attend a mortal sin.
  5. Call out the Texas National Guard and force them to attend.
  6. Buy 50,000 cardboard cutouts of Justin Bieber.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2011

    My Favorite TV Villains

    Anything that isn't the federal budget. I was going to a "best" list except my favorites rarely show up other people's lists. This is a personal list (suck it if you don't agree) and in no particular order.

    Callisto (Xena)
    To me, it is important to love your work and nobody loved being a murderous warlord like Callisto. She always had an insane smile on her face as she thrust a dagger into someone's heart. A shark jumping moment in the series was when they made mad Callisto an angel.

    Dr. Miguelito Loveless

    But only the Michael Dunn version from the original Wild Wild West. Dr. Loveless was a deranged megalomaniac who wanted to take over the world just to make it a better place. He proved that you could be an evil genius and still be a perfect gentleman.

    Wo Fat (Hawaii 5-0)
    The original Wo Fat played by Khigh Dhiegh is far better than the version in the current series. Communist Chinese agent, evil mastermind, Fu Manchu look-alike, Wo Fat was the one criminal that Steve McGarrett could never defeat. One thing I loved is the respect that McGarrett and  Wo Fat had for each other, enemies ought to respect each other.

    Angelus (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer)
    There were so many great villains on Buffy - Dark Willow, the Mayor, Glory, Spike, Drusilla. But that half season when Angel lost his soul and became Angelus was special. Angelus would inflict the most vile torments "with a song in his heart." What made it special is that Buffy was in love with someone who had become an unforgivable monster.

    #6 (Battlestar Galactica)
    No, not Gaius Baltar who was mostly a wuss. Number 6 would kill without remorse because she was a machine. She could seduce without falling in love because she was a machine. And she was that really hurtful voice in Baltar's brain that could always seduce him into doing something horrible.

    Angélique (Dark Shadows)
    Lara Parker from the original soap opera. Dark Shadows was so low budget they would never do a second take so all kinds of mistakes from boom mics and stage hands in the frame to horribly flubbed dialogue would passed through. Angélique was a witch who had cursed Barnabas Collins, making him a vampire. And she had this wonderful maniacal laugh whenever she had done something evil, which was frequently. She would laugh until she had to suck in air to continue laughing. It was cute as a puppy.

    The Brain (Pinky and the Brain)
    Two lab rats - one is a genius, the other insane. The genius has only one goal, proving his mousy worth through global conquest
    Brain: We must prepare for tomorrow night. 
    Pinky: Why? What are we going to do tomorrow night? 
    Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky - try to take over the world!