Wednesday, December 31, 2008


"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

-- H. L. Mencken

Why things are the way they are

The Left-Handed Whopper

In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."

... more at the Museum of Hoaxes after the click.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Uncle Jay Explains the News

Helping little minds understand big news stories ...

... or catch the video here on YouTube.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Unrest caused by bad economy may require military action, report says

By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times

EL PASO -- A U.S. Army War College report warns an economic crisis in the United States could lead to massive civil unrest and the need to call on the military to restore order.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Nathan Freir wrote the report "Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development," which the Army think tank in Carlisle, Pa., recently released.

"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities ... to defend basic domestic order and human security," the report said, in case of "unforeseen economic collapse," "pervasive public health emergencies," and "catastrophic natural and human disasters," among other possible crises.

... more in the El Paso Times after the click.

My comment: Fasten your seat belts, kids.

Four Decades After Milgram, We’re Still Willing to Inflict Pain

New York Times

In 1963, Stanley Milgram, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale, published his infamous experiment on obedience to authority. Its conclusion was that most ordinary people were willing to administer what they believed to be painful, even dangerous, electric shocks to innocent people if a man in a white lab coat told them to.

For the first time in four decades, a researcher has repeated the Milgram experiment to find out whether, after all we have learned in the last 45 years, Americans are still as willing to inflict pain out of blind obedience.

... more in the New York Times after the click.

Hint: Ewe Betcha! Ready, willing and able to blindly follow orders.

Homeopathic Foreign Ploicy

One of the principles of homeopathic medicine is that a smaller dose is considered more effective than a larger dose. This has profound implications for U.S. foreign policy. At the moment, we have 158,000 troops in Iraq. Imagine if we had only six! According to homeopathic logic, this presence would be much more successful.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S.

Wall Street Journal

MOSCOW -- For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument -- that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. -- very seriously. Now he's found an eager audience: Russian state media.

In recent weeks, he's been interviewed as much as twice a day about his predictions. "It's a record," says Prof. Panarin. "But I think the attention is going to grow even stronger."

Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

But it's his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. Mr. Panarin's views also fit neatly with the Kremlin's narrative that Russia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after the weakness of the 1990s, when many feared that the country would go economically and politically bankrupt and break into separate territories.

A polite and cheerful man with a buzz cut, Mr. Panarin insists he does not dislike Americans. But he warns that the outlook for them is dire.

"There's a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says. "One could rejoice in that process," he adds, poker-faced. "But if we're talking reasonably, it's not the best scenario -- for Russia." Though Russia would become more powerful on the global stage, he says, its economy would suffer because it currently depends heavily on the dollar and on trade with the U.S.

Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces -- with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.

"It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time." A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. "It's not there for no reason," he says with a sly grin.

My comment: ... and Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house ... read the rest in the Wall Street Journal after the click.

R.I.P Delaney Bramlett

Played and sang with (and influenced) EVERYONE from Dylan and George Harrison, and The Alman Brothers to Eric Clapton.

Delaney Bramlett with Bonnie, George and Eric: "Commin' Home" ... appropriate somehow.

... or catch the video here.

Delaney and Bonnie with Eric Clapton 1969

... or check out the video here.

Thanks for everything, Delaney.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Republicans at their best

... engaged in attacks on the person rather than debating actual issues.

RNC candidate distributes controversial Obama song
By Reid Wilson / The Hill

RNC candidate Chip Saltsman’s Christmas greeting to committee members includes a music CD with lyrics from a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” first played on Rush Limbaugh’s popular radio show.

... more in The Hill after the click.

My comment: They don't even realize when they're being bigots. I guess it's just Family Values in action. After all, a strict interpretation of the Constitution provides that a "Negro" should be counted as 3/5s of a "White" person. (The US Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, paragraph 3. The 14th Amendment be damned!)

I wonder if they're going to put Ole' Chip in charge of the RNC's minority outreach program?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

... after an early (and leisurely) Christmas dinner of lobster and shrimp.

From two exposures, stitched together in the trusty photo editor. Winter storm warnings above 6,000 feet. There'll be snow caps on the mountains in the morning.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No child left behind ... ?

Sixty-third General Assembly / United Nations

By a vote of 180 in favour to 1 against (United States) and no abstentions, the Committee also approved a resolution on the right to food, by which the Assembly would “consider it intolerable” that more than 6 million children still died every year from hunger-related illness before their fifth birthday, and that the number of undernourished people had grown to about 923 million worldwide, at the same time that the planet could produce enough food to feed 12 billion people, or twice the world’s present population. (See Annex VIII.)

In favour:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

United States.

My comment: "They" hate us for our freedoms.

Pope attacks blurring of gender

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

His words, later released to the media, emphasised his rejection of gender theory.

Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurred the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.

Gender theory explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender, and how people perceive their biological identity.

Gay and transsexual groups, particularly in the United States, promote it as a key to understanding and tolerance, but the Pope disagreed.

... more from the Beeb after the click.

Getting informed about misinformation

Hannity was not alone in smearing, misinforming on Fox News in 2008

While Fox News' Sean Hannity earned Media Matters for America's "Misinformer of the Year" title for 2008, he was not alone in spreading conservative misinformation on Fox News. Indeed, smears of President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton were prevalent during the presidential campaign, and false claims about progressive policies, issues, and individuals were common throughout Fox News programming.

... read an interesting list of systematic misinformation on Media Matters after the click.

My comment: What's that old saw about "if you tell a big enough lie often enough, it becomes perceived as the truth?"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What do atheists do at Christmas?

The musician, Jarvis Cocker, had the idea to find out how atheists celebrate Christmas. So does Britain's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, eat turkey and open presents - or is 25 December a day like any other?

Jarvis Cocker asks Richard Dawkins ... and gets the answer here..

Money for nuttin' and chicks for free

from the Rachel Maddow Show:

But first, I here by announce the formation of the “first national bank” of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. We are turning this television show into a bank, maybe a bank holding company.

And you will be happy to hear that we are in really, really sorry shape as a bank. We are an awful bank. We are a terrible bank. We are totally on the verge of tanking as a bank. So, therefore, we will need to fill out an application for federal assistance for the “first national bank” of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

Then, I think, step two, probably we‘ll just go ahead with plans for the big holiday party. No need to delay. No need to hold back.

See, the application for free money from the government if you‘re a bank, it‘s quite literally two pages long. I thought that was a joke until I went online and I downloaded it. If you google TARP application, it just comes right up first thing and here it is. All two pages. The first page consists entirely of lines where they ask you to fill in the name and address of the bank and a primary and secondary contact person. That‘s half the application done right there.

The second half of the application? Well, let‘s do it, right? Ask for the registration number for the company up there at the top, and then the next three lines are essentially questions about how much government money you want. This next line is, essentially, how is your balance sheet. Then there‘s a “yes or no” question about whether you have gone online and read the small print at the Treasury Department‘s Web site. Yes, right, like people read that stuff, like checking that little box when you download software. Yes, sure, I read all these conditions.

The next line is, essentially, anything else we should know? And then, down at the bottom, this is—actually, this is a really tough one. Down at the bottom, they say state the type of company you are. Oh, proving.

Then, there‘s a line for the date—that‘s a hard one—and a line for the boss‘ signature. And actually, you don‘t even need to provide the boss‘ signature if you don‘t want to. It says boss‘ signature or the signature of a designee. You know, just for hoots, when we do the “first national bank” of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW application, I‘m going to say that Bilbo Baggins was our CEO‘s designee and just sign that name just to see if they even notice.

That‘s it actually. That‘s the whole two pages. That is the full application process for a piece of the $700 billion worth of our money that the government is doling out.

... more on Crooks and Liars after the click.

My comment: Actually the file is six pages but four are the instructions and guidelines for filling out the two page application. Real people and real companies that produce real products need not apply. It's just part of the "You're On Your Own" society.

On having a clear perspective ...

from The Week Magazine

... after a Catholic cardinal in Chile denounced Madonna's "incredibly shameful behavior" at a concert in Santiago and called her an "offense to God." Cardinal Jorge Medina made the remarks at a mass for the late dictator Augusto Piochet, under who's rule tens of thousands of political opponents were executed, tortured or "disappeared".

My comment: Yeah, well ... after all, Madonna is a Jew (sorta) ... Pinochet wasn't.

Stampede for 'Bush shoe' creates 100 new jobs

Guardian, UK

Their deployment as a makeshift missile robbed President George Bush of his dignity and landed their owner in jail. But the world's most notorious pair of shoes have yielded an unexpected bonanza for a Turkish shoemaker.

Ramazan Baydan, owner of the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Company, has been swamped with orders from across the world, after insisting that his company produced the black leather shoes which the Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi threw at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad last Sunday.

Baydan has recruited an extra 100 staff to meet orders for 300,000 pairs of Model 271 - more than four times the shoe's normal annual sale - following an outpouring of support for Zaidi's act, which was intended as a protest, but led to his arrest by Iraqi security forces.

Orders have come mainly from the US and Britain, and from neighbouring Muslim countries, he said.

... more after the click.

White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire


WASHINGTON — The global financial system was teetering on the edge of collapse when President Bush and his economics team huddled in the Roosevelt Room of the White House for a briefing that, in the words of one participant, “scared the hell out of everybody.”

It was Sept. 18. Lehman Brothers had just gone belly-up, overwhelmed by toxic mortgages. Bank of America had swallowed Merrill Lynch in a hastily arranged sale. Two days earlier, Mr. Bush had agreed to pump $85 billion into the failing insurance giant American International Group.

The president listened as Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, laid out the latest terrifying news: The credit markets, gripped by panic, had frozen overnight, and banks were refusing to lend money.

Then his Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., told him that to stave off disaster, he would have to sign off on the biggest government bailout in history.

Mr. Bush, according to several people in the room, paused for a single, stunned moment to take it all in.

“How,” he wondered aloud, “did we get here?”

Eight years after arriving in Washington vowing to spread the dream of homeownership, Mr. Bush is leaving office, as he himself said recently, “faced with the prospect of a global meltdown” with roots in the housing sector he so ardently championed.

There are plenty of culprits, like lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk.

But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials.

... get the rest in the NYT after the click.

My comment: Unrestricted, unregulated "free-market" capitalism is a market philosophy that pirates of the Somali coast have adopted. They invest a little capital (in AK-47s and speed boats), take a few risks and net a multi-billion dollar container ship loaded with Nike sneakers headed for the Port of Newark that they can ransom for a couple million.

The idea that an industry can (or will) police itself is absurd. Think study hall in high school when the teacher left the room.

The belief that if we keep giving money to the people who need it least will result in some of it trickling down (particularly in a global economy) is naive.

The thing that differentiates civilization from the jungle is the existence of rules. Any system that has the goal of eliminating the rules also has the goal of eliminating civilization.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Just a thought ...

"The two symbols of the Republican Party: an elephant, and a big fat white guy who is threatened by change."

-- Seth MacFarlane

Friday, December 19, 2008


‘Incompetent’ is the top word that Americans associate with President Bush

In a Pew survey released today, “just 11% said Bush will be remembered as an outstanding or above average president,” which is “by far the lowest positive end-of-term rating for any of the past four presidents.” Sixty-four percent of respondents said that the Bush administration “will be remembered more for its failures than its accomplishments.” The poll also asked people to describe Bush in a word. The top word that came to mind for 56 respondents was “incompetent“ ...

... see the rest on "Think Progress" after the click.

My comment: There are those who think the world is filled with Bush Haters, but the emotion is not as personal as they like to characterize it. Disappointment would be a good word. Surveying the Bush legacy fills me with sadness ... not hate.

Bushism of the Day

from Slate

"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system."

— G. W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2008

My comment: I remember back in the 60s, during the Vietnam War, when we were told that we had to destroy Vietnamese villages in order to save them. Nice to see that brand of logic still seems to work.

Plastic Surgery Business Sags Amid Recession

Sixty-two percent of plastic surgeons who responded to a recent questionnaire from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said they had performed fewer procedures in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, according to the latest anecdotal information from the group.


More recently, a quarterly earnings statement from Mentor Corporation, a breast implant manufacturer, reported that the number of breast implants sold in the United States decreased 5 percent during the three months ending Sept. 26 over the same period last year. In the last month, two manufacturers of cosmetic medical devices have closed.

... get the rest of the story on HuffPo after the click.

My comment: It's enough to take the lead outa your pencil!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Q: What is the percentage of total personal bankruptcies caused by health care bills?

A: A Harvard study published in 2005 found that about half of those who filed for bankruptcy said health care expenses, illness or related job-loss led them to do so. Twenty-seven percent cited uncovered medical bills specifically, and 2 percent said they had mortgaged their home to pay what they owed.

... more on after the click.

My comment: Of course, this only applies to the USA where Universal Health Care is considered socialism regardless of how pragmatic it may be as a solution to improving health care and allowing American industries to be competitive in the global market. Ideology trumps everything in some quarters.

Jehovah's Witnesses to Deliver Mail

In a move that proponents say will save the federal government millions of dollars, the United States Postal Service announced today that the Watchtower Bible And Tract Society will begin having it's members deliver the mail.

Known as Jehovah's Witnesses, they are notable for their door-to-door proselytizing and have an impressive record of visiting even the most remote of locations on a regular basis. "They cover an incredible amount of territory" says USPS spokesman Larry Toppy. "Even a bush league Witness can put the most seasoned postal employee to shame."

... read the rest on after the click.

Phyllis Diller's Christmas Card

An envelope stuffed with a torn piece of brown paper bag on which is hand written:

Money's scarce
Times are hard
Here's your f*@%ing
Christmas card ...

My comment: It isn't always easy to get into the holiday spirit, is it ...

Old Man with Cigar

What's in a Logo

The development of the Barack Obama campaign mark ... more thought goes into these things than you might think:

Part I

... or get the video here.

Part II

... or get the video here.

Stupidity like this makes my head hurt

from Eavesdrop DC by EavesdropDC

In the American Wars and Politics section at the National Museum of American History:

Woman: I am so lucky my family fled Germany before the Nazis invaded!

Man: You mean Poland?

Woman: What? The Nazis were from Poland?

Man: No - your family is from Poland.

Woman: Where were the Nazis from?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Rule of Law ... and what ever happened to it?

GLENN GREENWALD: ... Let’s just quickly describe in the most dispassionate terms, as few of euphemisms, as possible, where we are and what has happened over the last eight years. We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.

We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they’ve done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we’re deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law.

And when you juxtapose that with the fact that we are a country that has probably the most merciless criminal justice system on the planet when it comes to ordinary Americans. We imprison more of our population than any country in the world. We have less than five percent of the world’s population. And yet 25 percent almost of prisoners worldwide are inside the United States.

What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.

They have license to break the law. That’s what we’re deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn’t be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they’ve broken. And I can’t think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.

... video here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Fruits of their Labors

from Roll Call (sub. req'd)

Republicans look like the football team dancing in the end zone in the fourth quarter of a game when they’re down by 40 points [...]

Republicans need to come to terms with the fact that over the last four years, Democrats have gained control of every level of government.

In the House, Republicans had a 232-202 majority after the 2004 election. Next year, Democrats will have a 257-178 edge. In the Senate, Republicans had a 55-45 majority after the 2004 election. Next year, Democrats will have 58 or 59 Senate seats.

After the 2004 election, Republicans held 28 governorships compared with 22 for the Democrats. After Nov. 4, Democrats held 29 governorships compared with 21 for the Republicans, although the GOP will gain one back if Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) leaves, as expected, to join Obama’s Cabinet.

After the 2004 election, Republicans controlled the state legislature in 20 states compared with 19 Democratic-controlled states. Now, Democrats control the state legislature in 27 states, with the Republicans holding only 14.

And there are over 800 more Democratic state legislators than Republicans in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures Web site. Four years ago, Democrats had a mere 10-seat edge out of more than 7,000 nationwide.

My comment: No one did it to 'em. They did it to themselves.

Bread crumbs

I woke this morning at three. It's often the case.

Tonight I was thinking of old photographs and how many of them fell along the path of time from my trusty old Pentax Spotmatic - bought with the generosity of Ernie Kent's credit card (repaid over time, I must add).

Like bread crumbs along the path between then and now - did I hope I could follow them and find my way back?

Occasionally one of these bread crumbs surfaces in the seams of my pockets and I'm startled by its clarity of purpose and meaning. I'm a better photographer now but somehow the pictures are not better. They are now more contrived with less emotion and fewer layers of meaning.

A three AM cigarette on the patio, the glow of a full moon shows through the overcast. There are pictures of pictures in my mind, leading silently back along the path of time.


Pinup Model Suffered Heart Attack Last Week


Bettie Page, the 1950s secretary-turned-model whose controversial photographs in skimpy attire or none at all helped set the stage for the 1960s sexual revolution, died Thursday. She was 85.

Page was placed on life support last week after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness, said her agent, Mark Roesler. He said he and Page's family agreed to remove life support. Before the heart attack, Page had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia.

"She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," Roesler said. "She is the embodiment of beauty."

Page, who was also known as Betty, attracted national attention with magazine photographs of her sensuous figure in bikinis and see-through lingerie that were quickly tacked up on walls in military barracks, garages and elsewhere, where they remained for years.

... get the rest after the click.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Driven: Shai Agassi's Audacious Plan to Put Electric Cars on the Road

WIRED Magazine

Shai Agassi looks up and down the massive rectangular table in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom and begins to worry. He knows he's out of his league here. For the last day and a half, he's been listening to an elite corps of Israeli and US politicians, businesspeople, and intellectuals debate the state of the world. Agassi is just one of 60 sequestered in a Washington, DC, hotel for a conference run by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Among the participants: Bill Clinton, former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, and two past directors of the CIA.

It's December 2006. Scheduled to speak in a few minutes, Agassi gets nudged by the Israeli minister of education: "Be optimistic," she tells him. "We've got to close with an upbeat tone." Agassi thanks her. Optimism won't be a problem.

At 38, Agassi is the youngest invitee. Just after the dotcom boom, SAP, the world's largest maker of enterprise software, paid $400 million for a small-business software company he started with his father; now he's SAP's head of products and widely presumed to be the next CEO. But he's not here this morning to talk about business software. Instead, his topic will be the world's addiction to fossil fuels. It's a recent passion and the organizers invited him to counterbalance the man speaking now, Daniel Yergin, the famed energy consultant and oil industry analyst. Yergin gives them his latest thinking: Energy independence is unattainable. Oil consumption will continue to rise. Iran will get richer. It's not exactly what this audience wants to hear.

Now it's Agassi's turn. He starts off uncharacteristically nervous, stammering a bit. He's got something different, he says. A new approach. He believes it just might be possible to get the entire world off oil. For good. Point by point, gaining speed as he goes, he shares for the first time in public the ideas that will change his future—and possibly the world's.

... get the rest after the click in WIRED Magazine On-Line.

My comment: I read this earlier this afternoon in one of the examining rooms at the University Medical Center (UMC) in Tucson, waiting for someone to take the stitches out of the scared remainder of my recent ruptured appendix removal. I'd read bits and pieces about Shai Agassi in other places, and when I saw a lengthy piece in WIRED I was happy to have both the time and the opportunity to read something more substantive.

Several commentators have wished that a Steve Jobs would somehow surface to re-wright the auto industry model as a means of weaning us from our oil dependancy and of jump starting manufacturing in this country once again. If there is such a person, I think Shai Agassi could be excellent candidate for that position.

The article is a little on the long side but I think it's worth the read.

Without commnet

CNN’s Prisoner of War

He had been hunted, kidnapped, and told he was filming his own execution. But CNN correspondent Michael Ware had no plans to leave Iraq. Now, it won’t leave him.

by Greg Veis

“I am not the same fucking person,” he tells me. “I am not the same person. I don’t know how to come home.”

It’s October, six months after our first meeting, and Michael Ware, 39, is at his girlfriend’s apartment in New York, trying to tell me why after six years he absolutely must start spending less time in Iraq. He’s crying on the other end of the telephone.

“Will I get any better?” he continues. “I honestly don’t know. I can’t see the — right now, I know no other way to live.”

To begin to understand where he’s coming from, Ware wants you to see a movie. He filmed it. It’s just after midnight during the second battle of Fallujah, November 2004. The marine unit he’s hooked up with has cornered six insurgents inside a house, and with no air support available, the only way to take them out is person-to-person. Staff Sergeant David Bellavia doesn’t like the sound of that — odds are one of his men, or he, will die in the pitch-black of an unfamiliar house — but he knows he can’t just let these guys go. So he asks for volunteers to go with him: Three men raise their hands, followed by Ware, who as a reporter (then for Time, now for CNN) is the only one without a gun or night goggles, and still can’t explain why he went along. He just couldn’t not.

... find the rest on Men's Journal.

Just a thought ...

Will Rogers once stated, "Too many people are spending money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like."

My comment: Maybe it's time for a little self examination.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Modern Parable.

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River.

Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat.

A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people paddling and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people paddling.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were paddling.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the paddling team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people paddling the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the paddlers.

There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices, and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off one paddler, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment.

The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated paddler was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles), so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.

Sadly, the End.

Here's something to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results: TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racks up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, and collecting bonuses...


The Big Three Advertise ...

Another eBay Bargain

Strategy Page

Yet another submarine has shown up on eBay. This one is a retired Australian Oberon class boat. The city of Hastings, in Victoria state, got this Oberon (the former HMAS Otama) six years ago for use as a museum ship. But not enough money could be raised to carry out this plan. So the charitable group that owns the Otama is auctioning the boat off, in the hope that it will find a good home, and the money obtained will pay off some of the debts incurred in trying to build a museum facility to house the Otama.

The 27 Oberons were built in Britain during the 1960s, The first one of these 2,000 ton diesel-electric boats entered service with Royal Navy, while fourteen were exported (to Australia, Canada, Chile and Brazil). The last of them (the Otama) was retired in 2000.

All weapons and military equipment are removed, but otherwise the boat is afloat and could be restored to a seagoing state. It requires a military crew of 62, but a smaller crew (about 30 qualified submariners) would suffice for civilian use. The boat is 295 feet long and 26.5 feet wide. With the torpedoes and military electronics removed, there would be quite a bit more room available for the owners pleasure. The asking price in the auction is $2.1 million, and the boat is not expected to sell at this price.

... from the Strategy Page.

Monday, December 08, 2008

On knowing where you're REALLY at ...

The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World and Europe.

For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated, the Atlas gives you "Sea of Sand", derived from Arab. es-sahra "desert, sea of sand".

The 'True Names' of 1500 cities, countries, rivers, oceans and mountain ranges are displayed on these two fascinating maps, each of which includes a comprehensive index of derivations.

... find more about the Atlas of True Names here.

Trouble getting it up lately?

Pollution threatens male gender, says CHEM Trust report

By staff writers / HeraldSun, Australia

POLLUTION is damaging the "basic male tool kit", threatening the future of the male gender, according to new research.

A report released today by the charity CHEM Trust shows that male fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have been harmed by man-made chemicals in the environment.

"These findings add to mounting worries about the role of hormone-disrupting or so-called ‘gender-bending' chemicals in the environment and the implications for human health," said charity CHEM Trust.

In mammals, genital disruption in males had been widely reported including: intersex features, small penis and testes, undescended testes; abnormal testes; or ambiguous genitals.

The report, which draws on more than 250 scientific studies from around the world, concentrates mainly on wildlife, identifying effects in a range of species.

"Males of species from each of the main classes of vertebrate animals (including bony fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have been affected by chemicals in the environment.

"Feminisation of the males of numerous vertebrate species is now a widespread occurrence. All vertebrates have similar sex hormone receptors, which have been conserved in evolution. Therefore, observations in one species may serve to highlight pollution issues of concern for other vertebrates, including humans," the report concludes.

... get more after the click.

My comment: Nature has a way of compensating for imbalances in the environment. But the question that leaps to my mind revolves around whether oversize SUVs, muscle cars and pickup trucks with huge wheels is a cause or an effect of the phenomenon.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Real Bill Ayers

by Bill Ayers / New York Times

IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”

Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.” Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.

I was cast in the “unrepentant terrorist” role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the “Two Minutes Hate” scene from George Orwell’s “1984,” when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.

... more about Bill Ayres and his role.

My comment: Keep in mind that during the 1960s I was a long haired draft resister. I lived in Chicago in 1968 and, though I avoided the Democratic National Convention, several good friends were on site ... one as a medical volunteer patching the wounds inflicted during what was later characterized as a police riot. I was in Chicago during the riots that followed the Martin Luther King assassination ... barricaded in an apartment on the south side with that same medical volunteer ... the door barred, a Mauser and a Baretta nearby as we listened to gunfire outside in the street.

If you weren't a little radicalized during the 1960s, one way or the other, you simply weren't paying any attention.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sen Bob Casey (D-PA) ... for the record

I have to say also, with regard to the labor concessions -- Mr. [Ron] Gettelfinger [UAW president], I wanted to review some of those. Because I am stunned by the kind of -- when you hear the talking heads on television and when you read what some people say in this town and across the country about the mythology that's out there about how we're -- how we got to this situation. And, frankly, the scapegoating of the men and women of organized labor, and in particular, autoworkers.

Point number one: In 2005, cuts in wages for active workers and health-care benefits for retirees -- point number one. I'm reading from your testimony. Cuts for new workers, bringing the wage level down to 14 bucks an hour. How many industries are doing that? Reducing the company's liability for retiree health care by 50 percent. And I realize these have been in the record before, but it is very important.

And wages and benefits. You said yourself that they're about 10 percent -- 10 percent of the budget? You would think listening to some of the people talk out there, some of the so-called experts, that wages and benefits were 70 percent of the cost. So there's a lot of mythology, a lot of myth generally that has been put on the record.

In 20-- since 2003, downsizing by the companies has reduced their workforce by 150,000 people. That doesn't get said very often. The labor-cost gap with foreign transplant operations will be largely or completely eliminated. OK? So, it's -- I think it's important to put this information on the record for this hearing. And then we've heard this garbage about 73 bucks an hour. It's a total lie, and some people have perpetrated that deliberately in a calculated way to mislead the American people about what we're doing here. It's a lie, and they know it's a lie.

My comment: According to a bit on MSNBC the other night the average wage for a line worker at the Big Three is $28/hour. the average wage for a line worker at one of the "Transplants" is $25/hour. $28/hour is a far cry from $73/hour.

From where I sit the big difference in the price of cars between foreign manufacturers and domestic manufacturers is a health care issue. Japan, home of Toyota and Honda, has Universal Health Care. Germany, home to Mercedes Benz and BMW has Universal Health Care. Korea has Universal Health Care. Virtually every civilized country on the planet has some basic Universal Health Care. If you want to know why American companies have trouble competing in the global market, looking into Universal Health Care would be a good place to start. Our companies, in all industries across the board, shoulder the burden for employee health care. The companies based in other countries are not saddled with that burden. Products are priced accordingly ... and when employee health care costs are factored in to the price of products, that cost is a liability. I know from my own corporate experience that the health care costs paid by the company I worked for represented a 25-30% add on to my salary. It was a Japanese company and that health care factor went a long way to explain why our products were manufactured in Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam ... not here. I worked for a sales entity ... a means of transferring cash from the US to Japan. We basically bought our products from the parent company ... and product was priced in such a way that the subsidiary I worked for was barely profitable. It wasn't supposed to make money! The manufacturing arm was the place the money was made.

Why don't we have Universal Health Care? Because we don't want no stinking government bureaucrat making decisions about our health care. We'd much rather have some clerk with a high school education, working for an insurance company making those decisions. After all, getting health care is a privilege in this country - not a right. We'd rather see second rate health care (or none) for a significant segment of our population than have our industries compete on a level playing field. No! Wait! That doesn't make sense?

Sure it does ... if you're blinded by ideology!

Compuware CEO reminds Senator of Alabama's aid to foreign automakers

Note: The following letter (pdf 19 KB) was sent on Nov. 17 from Peter Karmanos, Jr., chairman and CEO of Compuware Corporation, to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a critic of bridge loans for American automakers.

Dear Senator Shelby:

On Sunday, Nov. 16, I watched with great interest "Meet the Press," during which you and Sen. Carl Levin debated the merits of (or, concerning your position, the folly) providing financial aid to America's domestic auto industry. I must admit that I was more than a little taken aback by how out of touch you really are about what Detroit's Big Three automakers have been doing for some time and continue to do to transform their businesses to both survive in today's debilitating economic climate and thrive in the future. The steps have been extremely significant and take it from me — someone who lives and works in the Motor City — incredibly painful as well.

Frankly, I could go on for pages in an effort to educate you about these measures, but I think Senator Levin did a good job of providing the high-level facts about these transformation efforts. As the ranking member on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, I can only trust that you will take some time and conduct the proper due diligence before continuing to espouse your inaccuracies. At minimum, I believe the domestic auto industry (and its millions of hardworking, taxpaying employees), which helped make America great, deserve as much.

Don't you?

The intent of this letter, however, is not to take you to task for the inaccuracy of your comments or for the over-simplicity of your views, but rather to point out the hypocrisy of your position as it relates to Alabama's (the state for which you have served as senator since 1987) recent history of providing subsidies to manufacturing. During the segment on "Meet the Press," you stated that:

We don't need government — governmental subsidies for manufacturing in this country. It's the French model, it's the wrong road. We will pay for it. The average American taxpayer is going to pay dearly for this, if I'm not wrong.

I trust it is safe to say that when you refer to "government subsidies," you are referring to subsidies provided by both federal and state governments. And if this is in fact true, then I am sure you were adamantly against the State of Alabama offering lucrative incentives (in essence, subsidies) to Mercedes Benz in the early 1990s to lure the German automobile manufacturer to the State.

As it turned out, Alabama offered a stunning $253 million incentive package to Mercedes. Additionally, the state also offered to train the workers, clear and improve the site, upgrade utilities, and buy 2,500 Mercedes Benz vehicles. All told, it is estimated that the incentive package totaled anywhere from $153,000 to $220,000 per created job. On top of all this, the state gave the foreign automaker a large parcel of land worth between $250 and $300 million, which was coincidentally how much the company expected to invest in building the plant.

With all due respect, Senator, where was your outrage when all this was going on? Perhaps on principal you did disagree with your colleagues in the Alabama State Government over these subsidies, but I don't recall you ever going out and publicly decrying Alabama's subsidization strategy. I certainly don't recall you going in front of the nation (as you did this past Sunday) to discuss what a big mistake Alabama was making in providing subsidies to Mercedes Benz. If you had, however, you could have talked about how, applying free market principles, Alabama shouldn't have had to resort to subsidies to land Mercedes Benz.

Competitively speaking, if Alabama had been the strongest candidate under consideration (i.e. highest quality infrastructure, workforce, research and development facilities, business climate, etc.), then subsidies shouldn't have been required.

The fact is that Alabama knew that, on a level playing field, it could not compete with the other states under consideration and, thus, to lure the German car builder to the state, it offered the aforementioned unprecedented subsidies. In effect, Alabama — your state — did exactly what you said government should not do: provide subsidies for manufacturing. It's no great mystery why Alabama politicians went to such dramatic anti-free-market measures to secure Mercedes Benz — they did it for the betterment of their state through job creation and increased tax revenues. And who could blame them? Is that so different than what would occur by providing financial aid to help rescue the domestic auto industry?

Such aid would save millions of jobs and millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Additionally, unlike the giveaways Alabama bestowed upon the foreign automaker in question, United States taxpayers would be reimbursed with interest (as they were when Chrysler received government aid in the early 1980s) for their investment in what is clearly a critically important industry for America’s present and future.

Best Regards,
Peter Karmanos, Jr. Chairman and CEO Compuware Corporation

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Win Ben Stein's mind

By Roger Ebert / Chicago Sun Times

I've been accused of refusing to review Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled," a defense of Creationism, because of my belief in the theory of evolution. Here is my response.

Ben Stein, you hosted a TV show on which you gave away money. Imagine that I have created a special edition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" just for you. Ben, you've answered all the earlier questions correctly, and now you're up for the $1 million prize. It involves an explanation for the evolution of life on this planet. You have already exercised your option to throw away two of the wrong answers. Now you are faced with two choices: (A) Darwin's Theory of Evolution, or (B) Intelligent Design.

Because this is a special edition of the program, you can use a Hotline to telephone every scientist on Earth who has an opinion on this question. You discover that 99.975% of them agree on the answer (A). A million bucks hangs in the balance. The clock is ticking. You could use the money. Which do you choose? You, a firm believer in the Constitution, are not intimidated and exercise your freedom of speech. You choose (B).

Squaaawk!!! The klaxon horn sounds. You have lost. Outraged, you file suit against the program, charging it is biased and has denied a hearing for your belief. Your suit argues that the "correct" answer was chosen because of a prejudice against the theory of Intelligent Design, despite the fact that .025 of one percent of all scientists support it. You call for (B) to be discussed in schools as an alternative theory to (A).

... more about Ben Stein's mind in The Chicago Trib.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Oh, how the times have changed!

Sneaking around the Constitution

Atheists want God out of Ky. homeland security

Associated Press Writer

A group of atheists filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to remove part of a state anti-terrorism law that requires Kentucky's Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge it can't keep the state safe without God's help.

American Atheists Inc. sued in state court over a 2002 law that stresses God's role in Kentucky's homeland security alongside the military, police agencies and health departments.

Of particular concern is a 2006 clause requiring the Office of Homeland Security to post a plaque that says the safety and security of the state "cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God" and to stress that fact through training and educational materials.

The plaque, posted at the Kentucky Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort, includes the Bible verse: "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

"It is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen," said Edwin F. Kagin, national legal director of Parsippany, N.J.-based American Atheists Inc. The group claims the law violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

... get the rest in the Seattle Times after the click.

On doing things your own way ...

"If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity."

-- Bill Vaughn

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More "Real"Americans

... or find the video here.

... way too real, and too disgusting.

Bush's Chances for a Place on Mt. Rushmore

Need I say more?

A Brief Apology

I haven't posted for a while. Believe me, it's not been a lack of desire or for a lack of absurdities in the world to point out. I just spent a week in the hospital (got out on Saturday) dealing with a ruptured appendix. I'm still not 100%, by any means but things are improving.

The real blessing is that we only come with one appendix.

More silliness in a bit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If the facts don't fit your story ... change the facts

Iraq Ally Lists Were Altered, Study Shows


WASHINGTON — Before invading Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration mounted a significant diplomatic offensive to rally international support, and officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department went to great lengths to trumpet those nations that joined what they termed “the coalition of the willing.”

But historians researching those early alliance-building efforts say they are troubled by what seem to be deletions of and alterations to the early official lists of nations that supported the war effort. The lists were posted on the White House Web site.

While administration officials acknowledged that the number of nations supporting the war changed over time, academic researchers say three official lists appear to have been changed, yet retained their original release date, making them appear to be unaltered originals.

... more in the New York Times.

My comment: "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

Monday, November 24, 2008

Maintaining Conservative Traditions and Values

Candidate For RNC Chair Was Member Of Whites-Only Country Club
By Greg Sargent - TPM

Now here's a good way for the GOP to make the case that it hasn't been reduced to a southern regional rump party that's held hostage by intolerant crackpots: Elect as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee a southerner who just resigned a longtime membership in a whites-only country club.

Katon Dawson, the South Carolina GOP chairman, announced his candidacy for RNC chair yesterday.

And guess what: Back in September, when Dawson was first quietly laying the groundwork for his RNC run, The State newspaper reported that he resigned his membership in the nearly 80-year-old Forest Lake Club. Members told the newspaper at the time that the club's deed has a whites-only restriction and has no black members.

... more about building bridges to the 19th Century on Talking Points Memo.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Green Living - What does it look like?

Find out.

Republicans Seek Bailout

A rescue plan for the GOP

Jesse Walker | Reason On-line

WASHINGTON — In the wake of their party's devastating losses in the last election, a delegation of Republican leaders has come to Capitol Hill requesting a rescue package of $25 billion. "We're seeing a potential meltdown in the conservative movement," party chair Mike Duncan told lawmakers Thursday morning, "with consequences that could impact directly upon millions of middle-class Americans and cause further devastation to our economy. I support the free market, but the Republican Party is too big to fail."

"There's tons of jobs that depend on the Grand Old Party," agrees Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "I don't just mean the employees of the GOP itself. I mean all our partners and suppliers, everyone from Bechtel to the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. There's the field tech at Fox News, the secretary at the Heritage Foundation, the guy who keeps the shredding machine humming at Halliburton. Yes, Sean Hannity can always go back to pitching steakhouses. But not everyone has a valuable skill to fall back on. What about Frank Luntz? What do you say to him?"

... more chuckles at the expense of Republicans at Reason On-Line.

East and West: Never the Twain Shall Meet?

If you’re American, geographically inclined and a bit of a stickler, this cartographic incongruity is a bit of an annoyance. From the US, the shortest route to what’s conventionally called ‘the East’ is in fact via the west. Going in that direction, you’ll hit the ‘Far East’ before you’re in the ‘Middle East’. And Europe, or at least that part usually included in ‘the West’, lies due east. So East is west, and West is east, in blatant contradiction of what’s probably Rudyard Kipling’s most famous line of verse:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

... find out more on Strange Maps after the click.

Mike Huckabee: The Smiling Happy Face of Theocratic Fascism

from Jesus' General

Those of us hoping that Sarah Palin might become the Republican standard-bearer are probably in for a disappointment — and it was probably far too much to hope for anyway, wasn't it? I mean, the GOP really isn't that suicidal, right? Although it's much too early to make any serious predictions, I think that if we are going to regard anyone as the most likely leader of the GOP's base of conservative evangelicals, it has to be Mike Huckabee. The reasons why he is a much stronger and better candidate for them are also the reasons why he is a much more dangerous candidate for everyone else.

Sarah Palin would have been a gift to progressives because it would have been so easy to convince everyone (except for the extremists and the base) that she shouldn't be elected. Mike Huckabee, in contrast, is the sort of person who has appeal far outside the base. Give the devil his due: Mike Huckabee can be easygoing, can sound reasonable, speaks intelligently, doesn't talk down to people, doesn't sound like a grumpy, angry old man, is by all accounts genuinely personable and friendly, takes stands on economic issues that make him sound almost progressive, and so on.

... more about the Republican Culture Wars after the click.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Experts Insist Recent Sightings of Mythical "Democratic Spine" Just Another Hoax

Michael Gene Sullivan
Dateline. Washington, D.C.

Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster. Batboy. Throughout time there have always been those who insist they have seen mythical creatures, people who swear to the existence of phenomena for which scientists say there is no tangible evidence, only hearsay, fable, legend.

But unlike the Abominable Snowman, scientists say the Spine of the Democratic Party is more than a fairy tale. Incredible as it seems today, the legend of Democratic Backbone is based on historical fact, says Prof. Wendy Heep, Chair of Political Archeology at Dartmouth College.

"The fossil record clearly indicates vertebrate characteristics during the early NeoDealistic Period." Prof. Heep explains. "Both the Rooseveltipithicus and the HueyLongicus showed strong indications of backbone, and archeological remains of so-called "Public Works," and badly eroded but still visible "Social Programs" support the theory of ancient spinal strength in Democrats." But according to Prof. Heep, these rudimentary evolutionary advancements were cut dramatically short, and archeologists and anthropologists are still at a loss to explain the political vertebral collapse.

... dig a little deeper into the palaeontological evidence after the click.

It's about the separation of Church and State, stupid!

Giving Up on God

By Kathleen Parker / Washington Post

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.

But they need those votes!

... get the rest after the click.

My comment: What was it that I was saying about the war between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party?

Did you hear the one about the drunk who picked up a barfly just before last call? They stumbled down the street just before closing and found a fleabag motel for the night. Now, sunrise is breaking over the horizon and they both have regrets aplenty! As they look each other over in silent disgust, neither can bear to look in the mirror.

I couldn't think of a more fitting description of the unholy alliance that is today's Republican Party and their collective reaction to a sweeping defeat in the 2008 Presidential election.

Note to Newt Gingrich and the rest who fervently thought they saw a "permanent Republican majority" on the horizon -- be careful who you climb into bed with when you're drunk with power. That bright, shining light you see on the horizon is just the dawning of a new day. (Much the same to the Robertsons, Falwells and Dobsons of the world, too.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God Trumps

Struggling to choose the top religion? Can't decide between Bible-thumping evangelism or benign, gentle Buddhism? Make the process fun and easy with God Trumps, our cut-out-and-keep metaphysical card game for all the family.

... cut out the whole deck of cards after the click.

Keith Olbermann's Point of View

... from inside the TV looking out.

Dollar-a-year men

As we watch the captains of our financial industry who drove the economic bus we were all riding on into the deepest ditch we've seen since the stock market crash of 1929 taking their multi-million dollar bonuses, I can't help wondering what ever happened to dollar-a-year men. In times of national strife - specifically during the Great Depression and the First and Second World Wars, wealthy captains of industry donated their talents to the government in exchange a salary of a dollar a year.

They donated their talents to the common good out of a sense of patriotic duty.

I hope our captains of the financial industry enjoy their bonuses.

How the world works ...

From Kurdistan to K Street

Mother Jones

The routine of Washington foreign policymaking is straightforward and, well, a little boring. Presidents and secretaries of state issue pronouncements in speeches. Diplomats have discussions in ornate ceremonial rooms. That's the official version, anyhow, and even if we're well aware that reality departs from the C-Span, Foreign Affairs version of things, the rhythm, pomp, and ceremony shape our understanding of how countries relate to each other.

This is a story of the other world, the one whose real power players never show up in the CNN headline crawl. It's the story of a man with a habit of popping up, Zelig-like, at the nexus of foreign policy and the kinds of businesses that thrive in times of war—security contracting, infrastructure development and postwar reconstruction, influence and intelligence brokering.

It's also the story of how this entrepreneur and middleman, in the shadowy environment created by the 9/11 attacks and Washington's advance on Iraq, seized the opportunity to propel himself from small-time businessman into global player. The trajectory of Shlomi Michaels is testament not only to one man's driven intensity, but also to the opportunities the war on terror has presented to those with the information, connections, and ambition to seize them.

... the rest of the story after the click.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Search millions of historic photos

Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.

... an unbelievable treasure trove after the click.

My comment: I grew up with LIFE Magazine. My father collected them from 1936 until they stopped publishing as a weekly news magazine in the 1970s. The photographs in LIFE Magazine represent the gold standard in photo journalism. The collection is absolutely amazing. Prepare to be lost in images for hours.

Depression 2009: What would it look like?

photo credit: Kozlowski, ©2006

from the Boston Globe

By looking at what we know about how society and commerce would slow down, and how people respond, it's possible to envision what we might face. Unlike the 1930s, when food and clothing were far more expensive, today we spend much of our money on healthcare, child care, and education, and we'd see uncomfortable changes in those parts of our lives. The lines wouldn't be outside soup kitchens but at emergency rooms, and rather than itinerant farmers we could see waves of laid-off office workers leaving homes to foreclosure and heading for areas of the country where there's more work - or just a relative with a free room over the garage. Already hollowed-out manufacturing cities could be all but deserted, and suburban neighborhoods left checkerboarded, with abandoned houses next to overcrowded ones.

And above all, a depression circa 2009 might be a less visible and more isolating experience. With the diminishing price of televisions and the proliferation of channels, it's getting easier and easier to kill time alone, and free time is one thing a 21st-century depression would create in abundance. Instead of dusty farm families, the icon of a modern-day depression might be something as subtle as the flickering glow of millions of televisions glimpsed through living room windows, as the nation's unemployed sit at home filling their days with the cheapest form of distraction available.

... more after the click.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

'Nuff said.

Church prefers flock to be sheep ... thinking for yourself is a sin

Educated Catholics have sown dissent and confusion in the Church, claims bishop

University-educated Catholics are to blame for the crisis in the Church and the growth of secularism, according to the bishop charged with tackling the decline in Mass attendance.

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent / Telegraph

The Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading scepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church's teaching they are "hedonistic", "selfish" and "egocentric", he said.

In particular, the bishop complained that influential Catholics in politics and the media were undermining the Church.

While not naming names, he suggested that such people had been compromised by their education, which he said had a "dark side, due to original sin".

Prominent Catholics in public life include Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister.

Bishop O'Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to "sickness in the Church and wider society".

... read the rest after the click.

My comment: No, this is not a clip from The Onion. The fact of the matter is, thinking for yourself IS the original sin.

The Governator Gets It Right

"Remember that so many times there's dialogue about, you know, we have to go back to our core values. What is that? What is core? How far does core go back in history in America, the word core? Does it go back 30 years? Does it go back 50 years? Because we know that Teddy Roosevelt talked about universal health care. So they're off the core for a long time ago already. He has talked about protecting our environment. So they've been off for a long time on that. I mean, let's be honest. Ronald Reagan -- let's go to Eisenhower, for instance. Eisenhower has built the highway system in America and he's poured billions of dollars into infrastructure. Where Republicans today say, well, that's spending. We shouldn't spend. That's not spending. That's investing in the future of America.

"So there's a lot of things that they have been off on, if they want to go and talk about the core values. But maybe their definition of core values is maybe different. But I mean, so I think it's all nonsense talk. I think if they just talk about one thing, what do we need now? Now, America needs to be rebuilt, because we haven't really rebuilt America for decades. So we need to rebuild America, fix the bridges, fix the highways, fix the buildings, tunnels and all of those kind of things we need to do. And then we have to go and create great relationships with our partners overseas, with the world, and to build those relationships again. And we have to take care of health care. We have to take care of our environment. And we have to build an energy future. Those are the things that people want right now. And I know in the poll numbers in America -- I mean in California, that's what the people want."

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor, California (R)

My comment: Since Nixon and the Southern Strategy the Republican core values have centered around finding a wedge issue to divide the American people. The Southern Strategy played on racism in American and if the wedge issue du jour wasn't racism it was reproductive rights or prayer in schools. Find an emotional hot button and the Republicans were all over it.

A second core value in the Republican platform has been labeling the other side as "tax and spend", forgetting that some spending is a good thing. Some spending represents an investment in the future. But Republicans, over time, evolved to the point of view that ALL spending was bad (because, of course, the world is simple, black and white and without nuance ... and it's so much easier to be against all spending than it is to differentiate).

A third core value in the Republican platform has been that "all tax is bad" ... forgetting that the only other alternative is borrowing ... which is significantly worse. No one likes to pay taxes but we're finding that servicing the debt we've run up under Republican administrations is soaking up huge amounts of our GDP ... and that just pays for the interest on the debt without doing a thing about the principle. The current debt ... the amount of borrowed money ... is $10.6 Trillion. The current estimated population of the United States is 305,110,000 people. Each citizen's share of this debt is $34,716.30 ... so, imagine each of us having $34K on our credit card that we have to pay down and imagine what just the monthly interest on that represents. Let's assume you got a REALLY good credit card rate ... like 7%. It will take you 279 months to be rid of your debt. In that time, you will pay $10,890.80 in interest. And your minimum payment to do that starts at $900 a month! ... to put icing on THAT cake (or lipstick on that pig) ... it only works that way if you NEVER use your credit card again. That's the best of all possible scenarios! Somehow, under THOSE circumstances, paying taxes doesn't sound quite so bad.

A fourth Republican core value has been that "government is not the solution". Of course, it IS the solution when the entire financial industry is circling the bowl. It IS the solution when the auto industry drives itself over a cliff because they weren't paying attention to market realities. It IS the solution when the housing market goes into the tank because we all bought into a bill of goods based on asset inflation being the same as economic growth. It's not ... and we're starting to understand what that really means.

"Cut taxes", "deficits don't matter", wedge issues that divide the people rather than unite them and "government is not the solution" may win elections but they're a piss poor way to run a country.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ugly Americans


Many conservative pundits and Republican officeholders on the national stage have reacted to the election of Barack Obama as a promising step forward in the history of race relations and democracy in the U.S. But gaining much less coverage from the national media are local reactions that are far less accepting and positive.

Away from the spotlight, many local newspapers around the country have covered recent incidents of racially motivated reactions to last week's election, from flags hung upside-down to the dangling of nooses and cross burnings. As we noted last week, a couple in northern New Jersey who had an Obama sign on their front lawn woke up to find the charred remains of a cross. Local residents today announced a "unity march" to protest the still-unsolved incident.


Parents in Rexburg, Idaho, contacted school officials this week after they learned that 2nd and 3rd graders on a school bus were chanting, "Assasssinate Obama!"

The Associated Press revealed on Wednesday, "Police on eastern Long Island are investigating reports that more than a dozen cars were spray painted with racist graffiti, reportedly including a message targeting President-elect Barack Obama. The graffiti included racist slurs and sexually graphic references. At least one resident in the quiet Mastic neighborhood told Newsday her son's car was scribbled with a message threatening to kill Obama."

From the Staten Island Advance this week: "The NYPD yesterday confirmed they are treating the Election night beating of a black Stapleton teen by a group of whites as a hate crime. Ali Kamara, 17, a black Muslim and immigrant from Liberia, said he was beaten with a baseball bat Tuesday night by four white men who shouted 'Obama,' before beginning the attack."

... there are more ... too many more on the Editor and Publisher site.

My comment: Probably a good idea to consider who your "paling around with". Guilt by association works both ways.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Implementing a Thought Avoided for 63 Years

The Genius Cabinet

Why the president-elect should surround himself with brilliant—albeit prickly, semi-autistic, and egomaniacal—thinkers.

By Jacob Weisberg /

Here's a radical suggestion: Barack Obama should pick the smartest people he can find for his Cabinet.

Brilliance has sometimes been a criterion in presidential appointments, of course, but seldom the major one. It usually takes a back seat to rewarding friends and backers, playing congressional politics, seeking diversity, and appeasing industry and interest groups. Presidents also feel obliged to avoid too many retreads and place a high premium on personal loyalty.

Obama can't avoid such considerations, of course. He needs to cultivate his congressional relationships, avoid alienating allies where possible, and rely on people he trusts. President No Drama doesn't want a Cabinet full of undisciplined prima donnas. But it makes sense for Obama to give greater weight to intellectual acumen and subject-specific knowledge than his recent predecessors have, both because of the depth of the problems he faces and because of his own style as a thinker and a decision-maker. Bush, whose ego was threatened by any outburst of excellence in his vicinity, politicized all policymaking and centralized it in the White House. Obama, happily, has the opposite tendencies. He is intellectually confident, enjoys engaging with ideas, and inclines to pragmatism rather than partisanship. He can handle a Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals" or a FDR-style brain trust. And he's going to need one.

... read the rest on Slate after the click.

Closing the Money Hole

... or find the video here.

10 Cars That Sank Detroit

Rick Newman / U.S.News

The global financial crisis is suffocating the Detroit automakers, but the problems at General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have been festering for years—even when the mighty "Big Three" were earning billions. Aging factories, inflexible unions, arrogant executives and shoddy quality have all damaged Detroit. Now, with panicky consumers fleeing showrooms, catastrophe looms: Without a dubious federal bailout, all three automakers face the prospect of bankruptcy.

There will be plenty of business-school case studies analyzing all the automakers' wrong turns. But, as they say in the industry, it all comes down to product. So here are 10 cars that help explain the demise of Detroit:
  • Ford Pinto
  • Chevrolet Cavalier
  • Chevrolet Astro
  • Ford Taurus
  • Ford Explorer
  • Jaguar X-Type
  • Hummer H2
  • Toyota Prius
  • Chrysler Sebring
  • Jeep Compass
... read about th role each of them played after the click.

Where do these people come from ...

... and why do they gravitate to the Right?

Obama Faces More Personal Threats Than Other Presidents-Elect


Threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials are seeing more against Barack Obama than ever before. The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.

Earlier this week, the Secret Service looked into the case of a sign posted on a tree in Vay, Idaho, with Obama's name and the offer of a "free public hanging." In North Carolina, civil rights officials complained of threatening racist graffiti targeting Obama found in a tunnel near the North Carolina State University campus.

And in a Maine convenience store, an Associated Press reporter saw a sign inviting customers to join a betting pool on when Obama might fall victim to an assassin. The sign solicited $1 entries into "The Osama Obama Shotgun Pool," saying the money would go to the person picking the date closest to when Obama was attacked. "Let's hope we have a winner," said the sign, since taken down.

... get the rest after the click.

My comment: Where do these people come from? I've consciously witnesses national elections in the United States since Stevenson ran against Eisenhower (even as a child I favored the liberal Stevenson over the conservative Eisenhower). Even in the darkest days of Nixon and the terrible days of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago (I lived in Chicago at the time) I have never heard a liberal friend suggest it would be a good idea to do physical harm to a president. (There may have been some, but I've never run across any.)

Even Bill Ayers, the refamoused leader of the Weather Underground, the "terrorist" President-elect Obama was supposed to have "palled around with", will quickly and rightly point out that their violence was targeted at buildings with efforts to avoid doing harm to human beings.

During the run up to this most recent election I watched news channels almost 24 hours a day. I witnessed speeches by McCain and Obama, Biden and Palen ... in some cases where TV news only presented sound bites from a particular speech, I looked for the entire speech on-line ... because the news is more than sound bites. What I observed, particularly in Palen's speeches was a pandering to the nut-base. Though there wasn't an explicit call to arms or a direct suggestion that people do violence to others who held a different view point, there certainly was a tacit approval of the audience cries of "kill him", "off with his head" and "traitor".

On the other hand, at Obama rallys when the mention of Palen or McCain elicited "boos", the response from the podium was a civilized, "you don't need to boo, you just need to vote."

The difference in tone was striking.

I don't mean to say that everyone who is conservative is out for blood or that no one on the right is house broken but it seems telling to me that the most intelligent and respected Republican conservatives ... from Colin Powell to Christopher Hitchens, from Andrew Sullivan to Christopher Buckley ... endorsed Obama and expressed dismay and shame at the tactics of their former allies on the Right. They were saying, in effect, that they felt they had more in common with the opinions expressed by the Obamaa campaign than they did with many of their own party members ... even though they admittedly disagreed with some of the details.

What ever happened to the bomb-throwing anarchist on the Left? I haven't heard much about them since the 60s ... and even then, they went to great pains to only do property damage and avoid casualties. The Liberal Left has lost many elections since the 60s but they've neither burned crosses nor issues death threats.

Now this election is over and we have cross burnings, hangings in effigy and a run on gun stores. Where do these people come from and why do they seem to gravitate to the Right?

Friday, November 14, 2008

There is nothing new under the sun ...

... and that's why its so vital for one to read the classics if one wishes to consider himself educated.

from Amb. Alexandros P. Mallias, Greek Ambassador to the United States (on Huffington Post):

Along with millions of people around the world, I, too, watched as President-elect Barack Obama graciously thanked the American people for voting him into the highest office in the land. His was an inspiring message of change and hope; in a sweeping estimation of the work ahead, Barack Obama's words resounded and reached us as distinct individuals, we singled out those words more relevant to each one of us.

As Greece's Ambassador to the United States, representing the world's first democracy in the world's current most powerful democracy, some of his words spoke particularly to me, when he said that America's "true strength... comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals".

Considering the man, I was not surprised to hear him speak these words, reminiscent of the writings of one ancient Greek in particular, Isocrates, one of Greece's greatest orators. In his oration "On Peace", Isocrates proposes to the Athenian assembly policies for lasting peace with their neighbors. Along with suggestions, it is also recorded in the most relevant and timeless handbook, Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian Wars," written some 2,500 years ago. From this timeless text, one can draw lessons on how to treat allies, how to prepare for war, on the value of good advisors, warnings as to the arrogance, as well as the limits of power.

One of the most important lessons in this oration is that justice and interest, two seemingly irreconcilable concepts, are not mutually exclusive. Isocrates argues that justice, while making us better individuals, better nations, is at the same time a means of protecting one's self interest; power without justice leads to ill repute; power without justice will not win allies. He asserts that maintenance of power presupposes the existence of justice.

... there's more after the click.

As an afterthought, (and for what it's worth) the following is a short list of my previous blog references to the classics:

Back to the Future

Building Bridges to the Middle Ages


World leaders gathering at the United Nations this week for a special session of the General Assembly to advance interfaith dialogue should have no illusions that their efforts will miraculously promote mutual respect between religious communities or end abuses of religious freedom.

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week's special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders' support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of "respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols ... therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred."

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

... the rest from the Christian Science Monitor.

My comment: Just a sde thought .. a little off topic ... Is there some irony here? Certainly there's an an oxymoron ... Is there such a thing as Christian Science? Does that mean the rules that apply to science in general somehow don't apply to Christian science? I know that science in general is pretty much the antithesis of religion. After all faith does not require proof. If it required actual proof, it wouldn't need to be faith. It could be science ... which actually does require proof.