I think we've already been "tea-bagged" by the colossal sack of the Stimulus "package", but a witty sign nonetheless. Excellent political journalist David Weigel has more shots of the D.C. protest at his website, and Jonn Lilyea is liveblogging thing. Good shit.
28 February 2009
27 February 2009
Within one week, Mary changed the bulb in the headlight of her Mercedes, cutting out a $120 trip to the mechanic. The couple made a cake for their 11-year-old daughter's birthday party instead of spending $50 at the local bakery. And Chris, who works in a management job, picked up some cans of paint from the Sears in Fair Oaks to help a friend redecorate -- seven hours of work but a savings of roughly $1,000.I have no clue what "wisteria" is supposed to be, but I'm sure these upper middle class cracker types will be happy that it's probably somewhere in that monstrous stimulus package. Good thing Obama will solve all of our problems.
"We really had to look at the equation to build in additional efficiencies," Chris Poleto said.
Consumers are weighing similar decisions across sectors. Paola Domenge, 34, of Potomac canceled her lawn service last year and now mulches the yard and trims the wisteria herself, saving as much as $500 a month -- even before she was laid off from her marketing job about a month ago and started a bakery. Alina Zhukovskaya, 28, of Arlington dismissed her personal trainer to save $60 a week.
Nothing freaks out non-country club going conservatives like the prospect of jack-booted thugs from the government coming to seize your firearms. At best, gun control is a way to tamper down on an American sub-culture that might prove "problematic" for the administration. And at worst, it's the first step to rounding up "unenlightened" Americans for the 21st century gulags. That's why Obama's "bitter" comment proved so embarrassing for him during the campaign season, because many Americans value the importance of the reasons behind the 2nd Amendment with zero equivication. This might seem completely paranoid and maniacal to you (although I'm drifting further into that camp by the day), but it's difficult to understand any sort of rationale behind Attorney General Holder's announcement to re-institute the Assault Weapons Ban. From ABC:
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.While Mexico is certainly having a crisis of security, the Mexican drug cartels are not using AR-15s, but grenades, RPGs, and automatic weapons which are not available in American gun shops. Don't expect Holder to re-think the decades long failed drug policies in America, because the man is a confirmed crusader. The left did their best in the 90s to disarm the American population by swarming like buzzards around human tragedy to portray every school shooting as the fault of the NRA. Michael Moore interviewing an Alzheimer's-ridden Charlton Heston during Bowling For Columbine showed their "by any means necessary" approach to this end. Sure, liberal weenies are funny as hell when they're crying about trees or screaming while being arrested, but these people are in charge now and their threat to freedom shouldn't be laughed off. Don't think bad shit can't happen here because it's America. [/end paranoid rant for the day]
Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.
"I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum." Holder said at a news conference on the arrest of more than 700 people in a drug enforcement crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S.
For a guy who stated that he was going to halve the deficit by 2013, the President certainly isn't off to a very good start. His proposed FY10 budget is reaching upwards of $3.6T. WSJ has the details:
President Barack Obama delivered a $3.6 trillion budget blueprint to Congress Thursday that aims to "break from a troubled past," with expanded government activism, tax increases on affluent families and businesses, and spending cuts targeted at those he says profited from "an era of profound irresponsibility."...The below graph shows the years of surplus vs. deficit leading up to 2010 and proves that no politician of any party can be trusted to govern in a fiscally responsible fashion.
...The president blamed the nation's economic travails on the administration that preceded him and on a nation that lost its bearings. His budget plan projects a federal deficit of $1.75 trillion for 2009, or 12.3% of the gross domestic product, a level not seen since 1942 as the U.S. plunged into World War II.
Where's Ross Perot when you need him.
26 February 2009
Great news. For all of you folks who got wedgied in high school for reading a copy of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and praying that a UFO would take you away from this cruel world, cheer up! It seems that it's virtually statistically impossible to not have planets capable of sustaining life. From Live Science:
Now if only NASA could get something into space without it getting blowed up, maybe we could accelerate civilization's destiny before we all end up killing each other.
There are about ten thousand billion billion habitable planets in the observable universe, and some of these Earth-like worlds could be found by a mission set to launch early next month, a leading planet-formation theorist now speculates.
Alan Boss, astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., and author of "The Crowded Universe" (Basic Books), published this month, came up with that rough number by estimating there is about one habitable planet around every sun-like star in the galaxy, of which there are about 10 billion, and multiplying that by the number of galaxies in the universe (about 100 billion).
This result is inexact of course, so give or take a power of ten or so, Boss said, which is standard for these types of estimates in astronomy.
"Based on what we already know, the universe is going to turn out to be chock full of habitable planets (i.e. Earth-like worlds), and therefore life is likely to be widespread," said Boss, who discussed these estimates with a group of reporters last weekend in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The bizarre fetishization of JTP has gone on for too damn long amongst conservative outfits like Pajamas Media. Joe recently met with The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institue and referred to them as "bi-partisan" showing a complete lack of knowledge on political matters, and a recent interview about Obama's speech last night further lauded his embarrassing imbecile credentials. Yet, he's currently being trumpeted around CPAC like he's the hot-chick version of Sully and is going to lead the GOP out of the wilderness. Influential conservative Patrick Ruffini says what we're all thinking and states the man needs to quietly go away. From The Next Right:
This culture of identity politics means we get especially defensive about the Liberal Majority's main lines of attack, because we think of our position as inherently fragile. The one that spawned the Cult of Joe the Plumber was the meme that Republicans want tax cuts only for the rich and that we don't stand for working Americans. When find a highly visible figure who contradicts this notion, we swing into action. And we go on to press the argument to the point to absurdity, replete with plungers and custom "Joe" yard signs to prove our working class chops. These are the not the marks of a movement that assumes it operates (or should operate) from a position of political and cultural supremacy.Maybe the GOP has some self-hatred they are trying to eradicate, because progressives frequently portray them as some sort of Mr. Burns admiring their own monocle collection. Any trip through middle America (or the military for that matter) would easily dispel this stereotype. But, the GOP tries too damn hard to be the "anti-elite" party by parading around guys who work for a living as a sign that they aren't a bunch of country club yahoos. This was evident in Jindal's lousy speech last night, where he laid on the extra-thick Southern accent as if he just got back from wrestling a gator at a Lynryd Skynyrd show. His attempt at folksyism was bizarre, considering the dude is a Rhodes scholar.
Lest anyone question my non-elite bona fides, I'm sitting on an air mattress right now drinking a 16oz MGD can, but I understand that people in positions of leadership and policymaking should be up to speed and know what the fuck is going on. The American Revolution was won by a bunch of pissed-off farmers who wanted the King of England out of their face, but the leadership was all well-educated Masons. Seems to have worked out pretty well, so why can't conservatives understand that?
25 February 2009
Even though Politico is busting out the knee pads to go to town on the prez, that clip from Donnie Darko pretty much summarizes the naivete of it all. Our national debt is approaching the stratosphere due to wasteful government spending combined with an over eagerness for tax cuts. The President adequately addressed this problem at the beginning of his speech, but thinks he can get us out of the mess by providing more loans, debt, and tax cuts! I know I'm not some Nobel economist, but I don't get it. If the people loaning us money (China, Saudi Sheikhs, etc.) acted like a regular repo service, the White House furniture would've been confiscated years ago and every president since Kennedy would've had their knee caps busted. Our country is living way beyond our means in material consumption and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can achieve a more frugal and responsible society. Trying to counteract market forces of slowing down excessive credit and weeding out shitty banks with the help of federal government just means people with lobbyists get to play by their own rules and continue the Ponzi economy. Sucks for the rest of us.
I also enjoyed the President's swat at "no-bid" contracts in Iraq. That would've been swell to say in like 2003, but the era of big reconstruction projects in Messopotamia is over, which the Ambassador made very clear back in 2008. Seems like Bush-era campaign rhetoric, which is pretty lame considering he's the Commander-in-Chief and could've used this speech to show some real leadership on foreign policy. The specifics of where he is going to cut the DoD budget will be of interest, and it seems rather risky in a time of war. I was generally supportive of most of the O's foreign policy so far, but I'm not so sure anymore.
As for Jindal, the consesus is he pretty much sucked (and that's from the big conservative blogs!). What was that shit about the Bullet Train to Vegas? Why does the GOP hate mass transit so much? The road between Southern California and Vegas (made famous by the late, great Hunter S. Thompson) is a well known death trap, constantly snarled with traffic, and in dire need of an alternative. That shit would pay for itself in a heartbeat. Oh well.
Next time, they should let Joe Biden just talk. Reason compiled a funny vid of his gaffes. I love that guy.
The former presidents of Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico write a chilling Op-Ed in the WSJ about how the worldwide crusade to eradicate drug cultivation is wreaking havoc, despite billions of dollars and large amounts of military resources devoted to the "drug war". From WSJ:
Over the last 30 years, Colombia implemented all conceivable measures to fight the drug trade in a massive effort where the benefits were not proportional to the resources invested. Despite the country's achievements in lowering levels of violence and crime, the areas of illegal cultivation are again expanding. In Mexico -- another epicenter of drug trafficking -- narcotics-related violence has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the past year alone.The state of affairs is truly catastrophic. About the same number of people were killed in Mexico due to drug cartel violence (5,300) last year than all of Iraq's casualties in 2008 (~6,000). If there is a huge refugee crisis and Mexicans are forced to flee the violence along the border, we will have to offer them sanctuary. Who else will? Tiny Belize to the south of Mexico? With a struggling economy, this could be incredibly problematic, much like Thailand with Cambodian refugees in the late 70s or Jordan today with Iraqi refugees. That's not to say we shouldn't be promoting foreign policy in the first place that prevents such brutal bloodshed.
The revision of U.S.-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics. The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization of politics and a politicization of crime. And the corruption of the judicial and political system is undermining the foundations of democracy in several Latin American countries.
Sam Quinones [Foreign Policy] outlines the rampant violence that has gripped Mexico in the last few years, and notes that the cartels aren't just using your run-of-the-mill assault rifles and 45s anymore. It's RPGs, Night Vision goggles, anti-aircraft weaponry, and other hardware normally reserved for a combat zone. Scary shit, especially since it's right next door.
The WSJ editorial advocates a public health campaign to prevent drug abuse rather than the incarceration method, which has led to a massive prison population in our own country:
If we want to effectively curb drug use, we should look to the campaign against tobacco consumption. The success of this campaign illustrates the effectiveness of prevention campaigns based on clear language and arguments consistent with individual experience. Likewise, statements by former addicts about the dangers of drugs will be far more compelling to current users than threats of repression or virtuous exhortations against drug use.Tobacco is less used because it is much more stigmatized these days. You don't see Rod Sterling chain-smoking on prime-time and Dentists doing commercials for Chesterfields anymore. But narcotics have always been stigmatized, so the effect of an awareness campaign will probably be a dud. Also, America's youth was bombarded with anti-drug PSAs during the 80s (remember Pee-Wee's PSA against crack) and that didn't really slow down drug use among that generation. So, with all due respect to the former heads of state, I don't understand what they're getting at. As long as people are disillusioned with society and looking for an escape from reality, there will be folks getting high. Unless we can create a utopian society where this angst doesn't exist, the best we can hope for is making narcotics available in a way that doesn't allow the rise of black markets, cartels, failed states, urban decay, and all those other unintended consequences.
Such educational campaigns must be targeted at youth, by far the largest contingent of users and of those killed in the drug wars.
24 February 2009
Anyone else feel like they're living in a time warp? The stock market tanked today to 1997 levels, the GOP is planning on using some Gingrich-style resistance in the House, and Obama's advisers remains staffed with Clinton-era leftovers. It's like I'm back in high school again popping zits and throwing eggs at the cool kids' cars. This kitsch series, which lasted about as long as The Chevy Chase Talk Show, should take you back to that bygone era too:
That's the stuff! But it's not all shits and giggles, because the House Minority Leader says government needs to fess up that it's flat fucking broke, and there's some shady meetings between the White House and the incoming Chairman for Citigroup. I didn't know the government was allowed to make back-room deals with corporations that will probably involve billions of taxpayer dollars...I suppose it's an "Executive Privelege" thing.
If you're looking for real accountability on how your money is being spent, Subrookie sent me a link of how the Porkulus monstrosity might get spent from the "Conference of Mayors" wishlist. Some examples in nearby Seattle are $412K for meter maids to have updated parking ticket dispensing tools and $100K for upgrading the heating system at the Greenwood Senior Center. I guess we can't have "geezers in freezers" anymore during those long Washington winters. Of course, with the current state of affairs, a better investment would have been for "shovel-ready" suicide booths.
As you can see above from the Gallup poll, 65% of Americans approve of Obama's strategy in Afghanistan of plussing up the boots on ground by about 17K. This along with military cooperation with Pakistan and improved intelligence sharing is certainly a good start. With Pakistan's government cutting deals with the Tehrik-i-Taliban, an aggressive policy is needed sooner rather than later for a spring that could be ugly. Ironically, more Republicans support the President's foreign policy strategy than Democrats, which goes to show that most conservatives aren't morans who want Obama to fail. Failure in Afghanistan means more of our troops and allies getting killed and reverting back to a radical Islamic state to breed terrorists. Who the fuck wants that? So, in that case, yeah, I support the Commander-in-Chief. I suspect most conservatives who rail against Obama think the stimulus bill is a big pile of dog shit rather than his foreign policy, and polling supports that hypothesis.
The above video is the local authorities at NYU breaking up some "Take Back NYU" protest, which was about free trade bagels or sympathizing with Hamas terrorists or some bullshit. They had occupied one of the campus buildings, and there's a hilarious video of these youngsters getting strongarmed by the police. Nothing will bring a smile to your face faster than seeing self-righteous college kids living off their parents trust fund get the cold slap of reality.
23 February 2009
In the wake of a very snooze-inducing Oscars, Andrew Breitbart has some ideas in his regular column for CPAC not being a complete waste of time. From Washington Times:
The millionaires and billionaires who feed the conservative think tanks and underwrite those who run for office need to join their high-rolling liberal brethren like Barry Diller and David Geffen and realize their political dollars are better spent making movies and nurturing the culture.Americans now more than ever (in our hour of despair) are going to be turning to the big screen to forget about the crushing reality of existence. Instead of conservative big-wigs spending money for Joe the Plumber to make an idiot out of himself in Israel, they could be spreading the word in cinema. Hot Air had a list of the bestest conservatoid movies not too long ago, but it neglected, IMHO, the ultimate one: Dawn of the Dead. It came out during the Carter administration when society was in a period of decay, and it represents a complete break-down of civility and absolute despair. The movie truly stokes the paranoia that your fellow countrymen are going to devolve into a cannibalistic frenzy, and in a time of Obamanomics, that doesn't seem like too big a stretch.
My biggest fear is that later this week I will be among the legions at CPAC rearranging the furniture. Instead, the conservative movement needs to think in revolutionary terms.
And the revolution must begin in Hollywood.
But a good conservative movie has to have a morally conflicted character (like Snake Plisken), who overcomes adversity foolishly orchestrated by a collective society (like Gattaca) as a method of redemption (like Road Warrior). It also has to have someone getting hit in the balls (like every single 80s comedy) along with some topless lesbo scenes (like Wild Things). Is that too damn much to ask for? Maybe Terminator Salvation will be the winning ingredient this upcoming summer if Christian Bale can hold off from screaming at the help.
Some egghead at The Atlantic has a pretty interesting read on how the recent economic collapse is going to change the demographics of America. He traces America's internal migration all the way back to the Industrial Age, which saw people leaving their subsistence farming lifestyles for cities, to the post-WWII era, which saw the rise of the burbs. He cites the decline of rust belt cities (Detroit, Buffalo, Dayton) due to a shrinking manufacturing sector, and the rise of the sun/geezer belt (Vegas, Phoenix and its associated burbs) due to real estate speculation. Basically, he says we need to nix the idea of owning a home as somehow being the American dream and we are all going to end up in the city. Seeing how home-ownership is on the moral plane of spreading anthrax with all the negative press its getting, renting more modest dwellings in the city might not be such a bad idea. From The Atlantic:
For the generation that grew up during the Depression and was inclined to pinch pennies, policies that encouraged freer spending were sensible enough—they allowed the economy to grow faster. But as younger generations, weaned on credit, followed, and credit availability increased, the system got out of hand. Housing, meanwhile, became an ever-more-central part of the American Dream: for many people, as the recent housing bubble grew, owning a home came to represent not just an end in itself, but a means to financial independence.Wired had a similar ethos a few months back, but that was due to living urban being more environmentally friendly. But this doesn't address the rampant corruption on the city councils in some of America's larger cities, and the obscene city taxes in others. With owning a home being infeasible and living in the city being too damn expensive, the only option seems to be fleeing the country. That's my plan, how about you?
On one level, the crisis has demonstrated what everyone has known for a long time: Americans have been living beyond their means, using illusory housing wealth and huge slugs of foreign capital to consume far more than we’ve produced. The crash surely signals the end to that; the adjustment, while painful, is necessary.
22 February 2009
Rachel Getting Married is up for an Oscar and scored an 87% on the beloved tomato meter, so I was stoked that they were showing it on the long plane ride back to the states. But by the end of the flick, I was hoping that a madmen would show up and murder all these people in a fit of rage and/or our plane would take a sudden nosedive into the Alaskan tundra to make the pain stop. The movie focuses on Anne Hathaway's character who recently gets out of rehab and is jealous that her sister is lapping up all the attention for her wedding. The entire ensemble can be described as self-absorbed imbeciles completely oblivious to the consideration of others as they are wrapped up in their own melodrama. A fitting tribute to our era of Obamination where "Woe is I" and everyone is a victim deserving a pat on the back from a legion of sympathizers. How come they don't make movies about an underdog redeeming themselves through personal sacrifice and hardowrk (e.g. The Karate Kid)? A sign of the times indeed.
So, most of the people I talked to in Bangkok were optimistic about President O, and I tried to do the polite guest thing and was gracious (despite my own political leanings). However, they were kind of miffed that America's foreign policy was ignoring our longtime ally in Southeast Asia, exhibited during SECSTATE Hillary's visit to the region. From the Bangkok Post:
But here in Thailand, it is nearly a month into the Obama presidency without a word from the new government in Washington. Since the US election last November, Thai exports to the US have slumped because of the recession. The business community grows increasingly worried that the new administration is determined to press protectionist measures. The ill-timed "Buy American" campaign is part and parcel of renewed calls for the US to pressure its friends and trading partners on labour issues, intellectual property piracy and the environment. Mrs Clinton will be specifically pushing this week for more action on global warming. Mr Obama, who confused Thailand with Taiwan during a campaign speech last year in his only mention of our country, will visit Indonesia later this year.Well, you can't expect the Secretary of State to visit every single country in the region, but you could've at least asked her to not so blatantly excuse human rights violations committed by the communist country of China. Hot Air has the details:
Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.Seeing how much of our monstrous debt is carried by the Chinese in the form of Treasury Notes, it's no wonder that she has to grovel at their feet. That's too bad for the Tibetans and Chinese bloggers getting mysteriously shanked in bathroom stalls, but American politicians have to keep up our ridiculous standard of living somehow.
Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.
“But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,” Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.
I apologize for not having written in awhile, but I've been out of the country for a job interview and orientation in Bangkok, plus I have to get all the shit in my house ready to move out. ABWF asked me to write something about the experience so here it goes. They say that spending time in far off lands gets you some perspective on your home country, and that was certainly evident in my recent escapades. I'm going to work for an NGO that promotes economic development in rural areas in Thailand and Cambodia later this year. They took me to some villages in the Isan (Northeastern) area of Thailand, which is characterized as the most economically depressed and depending mostly on agriculture. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't similar to wandering into a bamboo hut village in the middle of the jungle like in old Vietnam movies and it was anything but pathetic.
Everywhere you look people were loading up trucks full of rice bound for the markets in the city. Children were busying themselves going to and from schools on scooters. And, vendors were attempting to sell us coconuts with the tops chopped off for 10-20 baht a piece. In short, these people were working diligently to improve their situation and not waiting on the revolving door government in Bangkok to come give them a handout.
If you compare this reality with what's happening in America, it's downright frightening to experience how quickly our own country is declining due to our lack of gumption. The massive government giveaway program was passed by the President while I was away and our deficit is expected to approach WWII-era levels, which is no small chunk of change. It comes as no surprise that the stock market continues to tank as there is little hope for prosperity in the future under such a crushing amount of debt as politicians continue to buy voting blocs off with tax dollars. Instead of pulling ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps, most Americans just seem to be looking for more handouts to continue funding living beyond our own means. The well-deserved rant of CNBC's Santelli against using taxpayer dollars to pay for people's irresponsible investment in the real estate market was met with scorn by the White House Press Secretary. I didn't know that it was the White House's job to attack critical media, but I guess Gibbs is taking notes from the Hugo Chavez playbook. These rubes received extensive tax breaks to build their little shrines to their own egos out in the burbs, and now we have to bail out these assholes? Fuck that. And look how these sheisters are repaying us using the Puget Sound area as an example.
The traffic from Seattle to suburban Bellevue is a complete clusterfuck and in serious need of better mass transit options to alleviate congestion and uphold Washington state's green image. But skeezy homeowners are already mounting opposition. From the Seattle Times:
But that convenience would unleash construction, congestion and noise upon the area, and some neighborhood residents are determined to keep light rail away from their streets.What the hell. It's like people want to live in their own little enclaves with all the benefits of civilizations minus all the inconveniences. Hemingway was certainly correct when he opined years ago on the suburbs as having "Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds". Because of attitudes like this, I have great pessimism about the future of America. This, of course, kills me to say, because I want America to be the best and brightest and spent 6.5 years in her service. But, looking at modern trends and our sad attempt to live in a Ponzi economy, it just seems like we are going to wither away. Our best bet is going to be to make sauces and trinkets for Asian tourists who come visit our country to see what a fallen giant looks like. They say that the children are our future, but looking at how they are perceiving our current fundamentals, they aren't inspiring confidence either.
"I believe when we bought into this neighborhood we bought into the single-family lifestyle," said Renay Bennett, president of the Bellecrest Neighborhood Association. "We like the 'burbs."
10 February 2009
08 February 2009
I'll be in Southeast Asia interviewing for a job at a non-profit for the next two weeks, and hopefully it goes well. Sounds like a good opportunity, and now's not the best time to be looking for a job in America considering I'd probably just get laid off 6 months later. Anyhoo, I'll have internet access where I'm staying, but I probably won't have time to do much blogging. So please peruse the archives or some of the links on the sidebar (they're all pretty good!). I'll post some pics as they become available. Thanks!
The fiscal stimulus bill being debated in Congress not only won't help the economy, it will make the recession much worse, says Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital.This Ponzi economy may very well bankrupt the nation much like the Weimar Republic in 1920s Germany he goes to argue. At best we can hope for some uber-nanny state like Great Britain (thx to St Ives Cornwall for the great vid on England's demise), but I'm sure it will be much worse. Sucks for us.
Schiff scoffs at the notion the economic decline is starting to level off and concedes no government action means a "terrible" recession. But the path of increased government intervention will lead to "unmitigated disaster," says Schiff, who gained notoriety in 2007-08 for his prescient calls on the housing bubble and U.S. stocks.The problem, he says, is the government is trying to perpetuate a "phony economy" based on borrowing and spending.
While violence has dropped significantly in Iraq, it still remains an active combat zone. For obvious reasons, that's why it's a big no-no to specifically discuss the movement of Generals or VIPs around Iraq/A-stan in open source media. Apparently, Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) thought his Twitter account was some kind of secure connection because he wrote this not long ago:
Moved into green zone by helicopter Iraqi flag now over palace.Headed to new US embassy Appears calmer less chaotic than previous here.Whoops. Milbloggers get it beaten into their head to not violate OPSEC, and it seems like some of the DC elite could benefit from the same training. Brandon Friedman has the scoop on this CODEL visit and says OPSEC violation seems to be a Republican problem, but it's truly a bipartisan endeavor.
06 February 2009
Not bad. This is much more reassuring than our election results, where I was in an emo-like funk for 9 days crying myself to sleep, haha. Go democracy!
Phenomenal that he managed to keep from panicking after a bird strike over a populated area. MSNBC has a full transcript of Flight 1549 and Air Traffic Control at La Guardia before the plane was landed in the Hudson River. I figured it was going to be more like Bill Paxton flipping out in Aliens (Game Over man!). A testament to his professionalism.
Early in the week, the President sent out a fear-mongering mailer for all of his devoted followers to ramp up the information campaign to get the stimulus passed through the Senate. Let's have a look at what some of the bigger Go-Bama blogs are saying about this unprecedented mountain of new government spending:
- Daily Kos wonders why no Democrats are talking to the media about the stimulus (I thought you guys were the "new media")
- Think Progress notes that the 2/3 of spending will come within the first 18 months, despite what Congressional Republicans were saying about the CBO report. Good to know that we will be saddled with a cumbersome debt early.
- Crooks and Liars sticks it to that perpetual enemy of American progress, Fox News, by wondering why more economists besides Krugman aren't coming out in support of the stimulus (probably because many economists think it's a bad idea)
- Kevin Drum says the honeybee insurance that opponents have touted as porky waste is actually disaster insurance for livestock. I got bored about two sentences into the post and started staring at the ceiling, so I'm not sure if it's accurate.
- Arianna Huffington is very upset that someone on Teevee called her "clueless" on economic policies and, in turn, she calls him "clueless". Wow, what a zinger.
05 February 2009
This is video from an Al-Jazeera embed in northwestern Pakistan that shows Paki armor and troops being forced into retreat (it's near the end of the clip). Bill Roggio analyzes:
The Taliban drives off what appears to be a company or battalion-sized assault of Pakistani troops. Pakistani tanks race away from the fighting, and the Pakistani infantry moving in behind them does the same shortly afterward. The reporter describes the Pakistani troops as "clearly shaken" and the commander calls in for airstrikes, placing the civilians in the line of fire.The great news just keeps coming!
Keep this in mind when reading reports of successful Taliban operations in Swat. The military may be able to make short term gains, but the Taliban in Swat have repeatedly shown the ability to strike back and regain control of the region that is about 100 miles from the capital of Islamabad.
The President is set to announce a new strategy that will more comprehensively engage Pakistan to defeat extremism. Seems like a good idea.
Great business leader, Lee Iacocca, took a dollar-a-year salary when Chrysler was about to go bankrupt to show shareholders and employees that he was serious about getting the company back on track. That attitude seems to have flown out the corporate boardroom window as the media continues to crank out stories of suits living it up on their outrageous "business expenses". So Obama's move is welcome, but Allahpundit suggests that it's all smoke and mirrors:
Read the fine print and you’ll see it’s not quite that simple. The cap only applies to companies that need “exceptional” assistance from TARP and contains an exception for stock options, provided they vest after taxpayers are fully repaid. (Non-exceptional TARP recipients can pay execs whatever they like so long as they disclose the amount.) Still, it’s a populist masterstroke, perfectly timed to bump Daschlepalooza and the cratering polls on the stimulus off the front page.There's a strange meshing of private industry and public accountability going on with the banking sector, and no one in DC knows how to deal with it. That's probably something they should have thought back in September when people rushed to dump money in these banks to prevent a recession. That worked out so well for us (note: the stock market bombed today further into the 7000 territory and unemployment is up again).
Article I.If you are getting out and are not a complete shitbag, prepare to be talked to by no less than 100 or so senior enlisted and officers about why "staying in" is the way to go. You'll also hear stories about guys who got out, had to go live in a trash can like Oscar the grouch, and wish they never left the military. But stay strong! You did your time and a career in the service isn't for everybody.
I am an American short-timer. I serve in the forces into which I was so carelessly drafted/enlisted/recalled/stop-lossed. I am prepared to leave them at the time so designated by the Department of the Army, or sooner if at all possible.
I will never extend or re-enlist of my own free will. If I am in command, I will never allow my fellow short-timers to fraternize with the lifers.
If I am called before the Commanding Officer, I will continue to resist his re-enlistment talks by all means available. I will make every effort to escape.
If I should become the victim of an involuntary extension, I will keep the faith with my fellow short-timers. If I am the shortest, I will assume command; if not, I will obey the shortest.
When questioned, should I become the object of a re-enlistment interview, I am bound to give only my name, rank, service number, date of birth and date I am due to be discharged.
I will never forget that I am an American short-timer, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which have made carefree, happy civilians out of thousands of short-timers before me.
Not to disparage the great game of Disc Golf or the great city of Austin, but does $880K of funds for a new course really need to be part of a federal stimulus package designed to jump-start the economy? The real porker part of the package is going to come when the states get dished out a bunch of cash to do "shovel ready" projects. From WSJ, a highlight of the more ridiculous examples:
These are among 18,750 projects listed in "Ready to Go," the U.S. Conference of Mayors' wish list for funding from the stimulus bill moving through Congress. The group asked cities and towns to suggest "shovel ready" projects for the report, which it gave to Congress and the Obama administration.Reason has a great article about how we are in an era of complete irresponsibility with the federal government vastly stepping outside its constitutional role to meddle in the economy. Saving money is now tantamount to sin, and wasting money like a frat-boy in Vegas is the new patriotism. At least we'll all be able to toke a doober and throw some frisbees around in the park Uncle Sam buys us.
Although the bulk of proposals are roads, sewers and similar projects, some wouldn't require a shovel at all. The mayors group sees a potential 1.6 million new jobs from the projects, though a few of them wouldn't create any.
Some localities are using a kitchen-sink strategy. "Our approach has been to list everything, because we don't know what the final guidelines will be or what the final dollar amount will be," says Greg MacLean, public-works director in Lincoln, Neb.
Among entries on Lincoln's list is a $3 million environmentally friendly clubhouse for a municipal golf course. "From a public-perception standpoint, I see how it could be an issue," Mr. MacLean says. But, he says, construction would create 54 jobs.
Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA) is listed as Treasurer for American Rights at Work. This organization is strongly lobbying for the Employee Free Choice Act, which seeks to have voting on unions at the workplace be a non-secretive affair, thereby leaving the employee open to a lead pipe to the face if he or she doesn't comply. Unions have a right to organize, but should a congresswoman so obviously in the tank for Big Labor be allowed to serve the American people. Weekly Standard say their might be some ethical problems:
A seemingly innocuous letter sent to the Clerk of the House of Representatives last Thursday by President Obama's Secretary of Labor nominee Hilda Solis raises serious and troubling legal questions about her nomination and apparent violation of House ethics rules. Not only was she involved with a private organization that was lobbying her fellow legislators on a bill that she has cosponsored, but she apparently kept her involvement secret and failed to reveal a clear conflict of interest.Sharp political journalist, Dave Weigel, says that everyone on the Hill already knows about her "extracurricular" activities at a lobbyist group so no one is going to make a big stink, even though Obama pledged to not have any lobbyists in his cabinet. It's comforting to know that DC critters all know about each other's dirty laundry so no one will speak up.
04 February 2009
Saw this 1986 Daschle ad on my beloved right-wing noise machine, and I thought it's something everyone could enjoy regardless of political persuasion. It's Daschle claiming he's a regular guy because he drives a 1971 Pontiac hoopty instead of having a limo and driver. 20+ years later, I guess it's okay to be a man of the people as long as you don't report the limo and driver on your taxes. Of course, we should have known Daschle was a phony back in those days, since every respectable working stiff in the 80s drove a Dodge, like this guy:
This woman's confession sheds some light on where the female suicide bomber networks in Iraq were originating. From the Herald Sun:
A WOMAN suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.That's pretty fucked up.
Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to recruiting the women and orchestrating dozens of attacks.
In a video confession, she explained how she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets.
"We arrested Samira Jassim, known as 'Um al-Mumenin', the mother of the believers, who was responsible for recruiting 80 women'', Major General Qassim Atta said.
"She confessed her responsibility for these actions, and she confirmed that 28 attempts had been made in one of the terrorists' strongholds,'' he said.
Great googly moogly, that's a lot of pervs! From NYT:
“Almost 100,000 convicted sex offenders mixing with children on MySpace — shown by our subpoena — is absolutely appalling and totally unacceptable,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a statement. “For every one of them, there may be hundreds of others using false names and ages.”Facebook is answering a similar subpoena for names of kid-touchers. This number is pretty high, and suggests that anyone out there on the internets could be rubbing vaseline all over themselves in some anime-covered rumpus room. Lest you think that all bloggers are pervs (probably a high percentage number), you'll see that neither "Nixon" or "Lt. Nixon" is in the registered sex offenders list in my geographic location.
Last year, MySpace, owned by News Corporation, and Facebook.com agreed to set security standards after the Web sites were criticized for not doing enough to protect minors from sexual predators lurking on social networking sites.
Donkey transports through mountain passes might be what our troops are stuck with as troubling news comes out of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Paki Taliban destroyed a bridge used by NATO supply convoys in the Khyber Agency, closing the Pak-Afghan highway again. Also, the Kyrgyzstan air base at Manas has been shut down due to meddling by Putin. Hot Air explains:
Just two weeks after supposedly agreeing to expand supply lines into Afghanistan, Russia cut one of the more important supply lines available to NATO. Vladimir Putin gave Kyrgyzstan over $2 billion, and the Central Asian country not-so-coincidentally booted the US from their air base.This will require some robust strategic and diplomatic solutions from our Commander-in-Chief, but he seems to be getting way too bogged down with federal interference in the economy to maintain standards of living that no one could afford in the first place. The problem with democracy is that people expect the President to be like the tooth fairy bringing them free goodies instead of a leader.
Good news. Acrassicauda, the excellent metal band that had to flee Iraq during the worst of the religious-fueled violence, has been granted asylum in the states and got to meet Metallica (that's the greatest band of all time, not like I'm biased). From NYT:
And on Sunday night, two days after the last of the band’s four members was resettled in the United States, they enjoyed what any metal fan would have to call heaven: bearhugs and “Wow, dude” heart-to-hearts backstage with Metallica at the Prudential Center in Newark. It probably wasn’t necessary for James Hetfield, Metallica’s lead singer, to surprise them after the show by handing over one of his guitars, a black ESP, and signing it “Welcome to America”; their minds were already blown.This brings up the question of why more Iraqi refugees (not just the ones who can thrash) aren't allowed to settle in the United States (particularly those who helped us out). There's been less than 20,000 a year, despite the fact that there is already a large Iraqi community in Dearborn, Michigan which could easily assimilate more. Following the fall of Saigon, 135,000 refugees were allowed into America and the Vietnamese community in Los Angeles/Orange County quickly rose to affluence. Clearly, a revamping of our immigration policy, which is a bureaucratic clusterfuck, is needed. The Whitehouse.gov website has some terse language addressing immigration, but it's probably on the backburner as Obama feebly struggles to save the economy by running up the national debt.
“That’s for keeping the faith,” Mr. Hetfield said, adding as he disappeared with his entourage down a corridor, “Write some good riffs.”
Our nation has done well over the past 400 or so years because the best people from all over the world who have the courage to start a new life have crossed onto our shores. No reason to stop that now. A new metal band to electrify the genre highlights this point.
Dr. Mohammed, a blogger and dentist from the once blood-soaked Adhamiyah district in Baghdad, gets some space at the NY Times to discuss the recent provincial elections in Iraq. He offers mixed reaction: pleased that there was no violence but bummed out by the low turnout. From NYT:
Many people I spoke to had no faith in the credibility of the elections, thinking that the winners were already decided. But they wanted to do their part, hoping they might be wrong. Others voted to satisfy their consciences — especially after some religious leaders announced that it would be a sin not to participate.The initial results indicate that the sectarian politicians did not fare well, including ISCI which has strong ties with Iran. So that's good. But the Anbar tribes are threatening to take up arms against the Iraqi Islamic Party (the religious Sunni-party) due to fraud allegations. So that's bad. We'll see where things go from here.
I opened the door and I felt a very soft breeze. The weather was great, neither hot nor cold, perfect for a walk in the car-free streets, a walk along the sacred road to democracy. Yet with every step my hopes were crushed by a sad reality: there were far fewer people heading to the polls than there had been in previous elections. Still, there were some scenes that filled my heart with joy: for example, an elderly woman, so stooped she could barely walk, pushing her husband to a polling station in his wheelchair.
A Prius driver in Colorado is being charged with felony road rage after ramming some poor old guy in a Chevy pickup and repeatedly shoving him against a door. From the Gazette (h/t DB):
The victim, a man who wasn't identified, told police that Cox followed him and intentionally sideswiped his Chevrolet pickup three times before both drivers stopped at Lake Avenue and Venetucci Boulevard, police said.This reminds me of when a group of greeny Seattle bicyclists beat up a motorist last summer. The combination of white guilt, self-righteousness of saving mother earth, and misguided rage of these people will continue to provide some hilarious sissy-ass'd slap fights to make the headlines.
When the men got out, Cox pushed the victim several times into the doorjamb of his truck, police said. The man complained of back pain. The Prius sustained more damage than the pickup, Cirka said.
"I think the only damage was where the pickup's wheel ran up against the Prius," he said.
Tax cheat and crooked politician Tom Daschle, who couldn't figure out how pay his taxes on his Limo & Driver, has just withdrawn as Health and Human Services nominee. His sacrifice into the molten vat of steel which will erase the media scrutiny will help keep the squeaky clean image of the Obama administration. This is the first senior Obama nominee to run into controversy, unless you count:
- Bill Richardson, (withdrawn Commerce Secretary), being investigated by a grand jury for pay-to-play allegations
- Rahm Emanuel (Chief of Staff) being involved with impeached Governor Blagojevich's Senate seat heist
- Tim Geithner (Treasury Secretary) being late on paying his taxes after working for the IMF
- Eric Holder (Attorney General) involved with shady gambling commission in Illinois possibly involving the mob
- William Lynn III (Deputy Defense Secretary) being a top lobbyist for Raytheon depsite the fact that Obama said there would be no lobbyists in his administration
03 February 2009
Sharpshooting corporate excess might be a intellectually lazy endeavor, but it should piss you the fuck off if they got bailed out! ABC has the dirt on Bank of America, who received $45B in bailout funds, but decided to spend an obscene amount on some meathead monument at the Super Bowl:
The bank refused to tell ABC News how much it is spending as an NFL corporate sponsor, but insiders have put the figure at close to $10 million. The NFL Experience was on top of that and was inked last summer, according to the bank.No surprise considering most of the bailout money was unaccountable in the first place. Does anyone still think Bush's TARP scam was a good idea?
The NFL said it was a "multi-million dollar" event and that it was also spending money to put on the event. A Super Bowl insider said the tents alone cost over $800,000.
There's also graphs that go all the way to the 70s, and the malaise even bottoms out further than when disco reigned and Carter was in office. You can probably attribute the American satisfaction-meter being high during the tech bubble burst of 2000-2001 because of post-9/11 patriotism. That and seeing the wedgie-deserving nerds who started crummy websites like pets.com fail probably brought a smile to many people's faces.
And you thought Groundhog Day was just a fun-spirited movie and a metaphor for an Iraq deployment. This journalist from Michigan is dead serious about offing Punxsutawney Phil because it's too depressing to hear that winter is going to drag on. From The Flint Journal:
But something about that damned gopher (groundhog, mole, whatever) in Punxsutawney, Pa., makes me think dark, murderous thoughts.Groundhog-Human relations have already been strained this year as the NYC mayor got bit today, and further economic collapse might make groundhogs a possible addition to beef stew for struggling families.
Why is a rodent allowed to make me wonder, even for a moment, if winter really is going to last six more blasted weeks? I know he's just a mole (gopher, groundhog, whatever) but still the little furball gets in my head when he doesn't predict an early spring, and I don't like it.
For a political party seeking to re-brand itself as one of fiscal responsibility, Sarah Palin is fast becoming a serious embarrassment. She must have taken a page from the Nadya Suleman playbook (the crazy woman who juiced herself up with fertility drugs to crank 8 little tax burdens in California), because she traveled to DC this weekend to grovel at the feet of The Obama to get in on the stimulus pie. Jazz Shaw at The Moderate Voice weighs in:
As Mayor of Wasilla, Palin quickly mastered the art of working the spigot on federal funds, allowing cash to flow into her town. As Governor she wasted no time in setting records, making Alaska the highest per capita feeder at the federal pork trough. She seemed to undergo an amazing reformation during her vice presidential bid into some sort of mavickery pork buster, but now that she is - at least temporarily - out of the national races, it’s probably not surprising that she’s back in town with her hand out.There's also a strange backstory to the governor everyone loves to criticize, as Ken Layne already notes. She blew off the Republican leadership for something called the Alfalfa Dinner that was hosted by Obama. It's some Southern society wingding to honor Robert E. Lee, who led a bunch of rabblerousers 150+ years ago but was squashed by the glorious Army of the republic. Why the President would continue this odd tradition is beyond me, but the irony was not lost on him:
"Many you are aware that this dinner began almost one hundred years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused,” Obama said.Alaska is already the porkiest state in the union, so the pride Palin takes in being the head of a "fiercely independent state" makes for easy scrutiny. Other governors are jumping on the bandwagon to fleece the federal taxpayers for more loot, and you can expect others to follow suit. Politicians tend to stay in power by providing freebies to their constituents so that voters come to depend on government largesse and become afraid to vote the bums out of office. You'd think there would be more hesitancy in a time of massive budget deficits to slow down this sort of corrupt behavior, but it appears to be ramping up.
02 February 2009
Judging by some of these media bylines, you'd think that the only exposure to stoner culture these people had was watching Reefer Madness while attending an anti-drug symposium at Oral Roberts University. CNN writes that "Phelps Admits Bad Judgment After Marijuana-Pipe Photo", and the AP writes that "Phelps Acknowledges Pot Pipe". Regardless of whether or not you get high, referring to a bong as a "Pot Pipe" will make you a pariah at the house party faster than dropping a toilet-clogging deuce.
Like it or not, weed has been an important part of our cultural landscape that has spanned at least three generations. From Scooby-Doo to the famous stoned Mac user chick to Harold and Kumar, it's hazy outreach is undeiable. And, ignorance of the proper terminology in inexcusable. So here's a brief tutorial:
That's Phelps smoking a bong, and possibly carbing to get that monster rip.
That's a pipe, often referred to as a "bowl" (at least when I grew up).
That's a hallowed-out apple, which can be used in a pinch if your snooping folks stole all your zig-zags, but isn't for the novice.
And that's the stoned pizza guy who'll be delivering your Super Bowl double pepperoni special. Best to give him an understanding nod of approval of his wake-n-bake activities lest you be labeled "uncool" by the staff at Dominos.