Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 8:14 pm

Odds and ends for May 27

Back from vacation. Let’s get to work, shall we?

The U.S. government is still good for something — in this case, finally taking on the continuing criminal enterprise that is FIFA. (My daughter has been saying for two years that the organization’s leaders were committing fraud and worse. She’s 16.) I suspect the reason we’re doing it instead of, say, Switzerland, is that we can — because soccer’s popularity here is so low that no one will raise much of a defense of the indefensible.

I love this pope. He has been, in the opinion of this outsider, better for the Roman Catholic church than anything since Vatican II. But he still has a couple of enormous moral blind spots.

Paid Microsoft support for the U.K. government’s many computers still running Windows XP ran out in April 2015. The transition to Windows 7 or 8.1 was supposed to be complete by now, but it isn’t for many government agencies, which will have to negotiate their own, much more expensive service deal with Microsoft. Meanwhile, those machines aren’t getting any more security upgrades and thus could become vulnerable to hacking. (I have a perfectly good XP machine that isn’t powerful enough to run Win7, so when Microsoft stopped providing security updates to consumers a year ago, I turned it into a Linux machine. Still works like a charm.)

My heart and some of my money are going out to the victims of Texas tornadoes and flooding. But I’ve got to point out a couple of things. First, the increasing severity of storms such as this is a direct result of increased mean atmospheric temperature. As we learned in school, the warmer air is, the more moisture it can hold, and the more moisture is in the air, the more severe storms are. So global-warming denialists in Texas, particularly in its government, really need to sit down and shut up now. Second, I assume that all the hot air from Texas politicians about the Jade Helm military maneuvers will now cease while those same politicians ask the federal government for millions in disaster relief. Right?

Quasi-relatedly, as H.L. Mencken observed (sort of), it is difficult to make a man understand something when his bonuses depend on his not understanding it. That’s especially true of climate-science deniers and extraction-industry executives. (Note that the market value of remaining extractable carbon fuel runs into the dozens of trillions, and we’d only need to burn another $1 trillion worth to screw ourselves sideways, climate-wise.)

Related to that, crony capitalism continues in Raleigh as extraction interests continue using their bought-and-paid-for legislature to fight solar energy. They have become more vicious because they are more desperate: They know that solar will become economically feasible for replacing more than half of global electricity generation within the next 10 years.

The Supreme Court ruled debtors’ prisons unconstitutional more than 30 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of places from jailing people just because of fines and/or fees they couldn’t pay.

Pretty much everyone who isn’t working in the White House or Congress understands that the NSA’s vast warrantless data-hoovering surveillance program isn’t worth what it is costing us in liberty. So, of course, N.C.’s senior senator, Richard Burr, is arguing for more of it.

At what point is N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory going to realize that the person running the state Department of Health and Human Services, Aldona Wosis incompetent?

And at what point will N.C. voters realize that McCrory himself is incompetent? He has staked his re-election on two proposed bond issues, one for highways and the other for other infrastructure — and hoping that voters won’t realize that if not for his misguided leadership and that of his legislative pals, much of this work could have been done through the ordinary state budgeting process, rather than sinking the state $2.8 billion into debt.

North Carolina doesn’t want to kill messengers. It only wants to sue and/or imprison them.

State officials (which is to say, mainly, state Republicans) are now into their fifth year of arguing that climate change isn’t really a thing, apparently not realizing or caring that “the Atlantic isn’t waiting to see who wins the argument.

Speaking of resisting the inevitable, N.C. lawmakers are still trying to stop gay marriage by unconstitutional means.

The chairman of the UNC System’s Board of Governors, John Fennebresque, says he wants a “change agent” to replace politically fired UNC System president Tom Ross. But he won’t say what he wants changed and says the board doesn’t have a job description even as it runs a nationwide search for Ross’s successor. Let’s be real clear here: Fennesbresque and the board wouldn’t come out and say they fired Tom Ross for political reasons because they knew the public wouldn’t stand for it. And they aren’t saying what they want Ross’s successor to do for the very same reason.

Steven Long, vice chairman of the academic planning committee of the UNC System’s board of governors, says regarding program eliminations, “We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.” No, schmuck. Education is a public good, and the state university system has a duty to provide benefits to the state as a whole, not just students whose preferred  majors happen to be momentarily popular.

So Charter Communications may buy Time Warner Cable, my personal cable/Internet provider. Is there any reason to think this would mean anything but higher prices and crummier service? Thought not.

Whew. I need another vacation.

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 7:48 pm

Odds and ends for April 1

I hate April Fool’s Day. Morons spend the day trying to prank news outlets, it’s Amateur Night for everyone you know who has a bad sense of humor, and social media becomes absolutely worthless. That said, all these items either are factually true, untrue only by accident, or my opinion.

Again, this is not an April Fool’s “joke”: The Palestinian Authority is now a member of the International Criminal Court. I think I’ll just hold my breath while Hamas militants are prosecuted for war crimes. Not.

Also not a joke: Generous welfare benefits make people more, not less, likely to want to work, a study finds.

Surprise! N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s privatized lottery plan has failed. And Big Chicken wants to take his “ideas” national.

Some very conservative Roman Catholic priests and lay people are rebelling against Pope Francis’s modest efforts to restore Christianity to the church. The Vatican’s response? “Excommunication is automatic.” Boom!

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has been indicted on public corruption charges in Florida, where he is accused of using his office to promote the business of a big donor.

First, Rep. Tom Cotton and the Gang of 47 tried to take over foreign policy with Israel. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to take over foreign policy as it relates to climate change. Fortunately for the world, McConnell seems to have the reverse Midas touch: Everything he touches turns to shit.

The liberal news/analysis magazine The Nation is suing the federal government over its monitoring of the magazine’s international communications. Seems a good time to remind folks that the Patriot Act sunsets this year unless Congress extends it. Now would be a good time to tell your congresscritter to consign that law to the scrap heap of history and for us all to remember that we’re Americans, not East Germans.

Indiana is discovering that “religious freedom” means different things to different people. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination has decided to move its 2017 convention from Indianapolis to some other, less benighted venue.

Arkansas follows Indiana’s lead with a so-called “religious freedom” bill that legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ folk, despite Walmart’s — Walmart’s! — plea for it not to do so. It’s so bad that pro-Tea Partier Asa Hutchinson, who is the governor and used to be a congresscritter, said he’ll veto the bill unless some of the most extreme parts are deleted. If you’ve gone so far off the deep end that Asa Hutchinson refuses to go with you, you really need to turn around.

North Carolina’s own version of that law has begun to attract opposition not only from Democrats and liberals but also from Republicans and some businesses, and Gov. Pat McCrory has said he won’t sign it. (That’s not an outright vow to veto, however.)

Within 30 years — within my kids’ lifetimes, and possibly within mine — North Carolina’s sea level could rise almost 10 1/2 inches, with widespread and expensive ramifications. The legislature has semi-crippled state government’s ability even to talk intelligently about the problem. But, as this blog is fond of saying, you can ignore reality, but reality will not ignore you.

To the extent that North Carolina is growing, it is doing so because of its urban areas, particularly Raleigh and Wake County. So why do state Republicans hate them so?

And although Republicans in the Lege claim their top priorities are jobs, roads, and education, the evidence shows that it’s actually regulating ladyparts and the ladies who use them.

 

 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 7:28 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 10

Terrorists are winning the war on terror, primarily because, more than a decade after 9/11 and despite all the costly lessons we’ve learned since then, the U.S. persists in playing the terrorists’ game instead of its own.

Dean Smith‘s public memorial will be 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, in the Smith Center. Which leads me to wonder: Where will they hold Billy Graham‘s, once he passes on? Bank of America Stadium? Charlotte Motor Speedway? The National Mall?

There’s just one teeny-weeny little problem with the four plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case now before the Supreme Court that could, perhaps, lead to the Affordable Care Act’s being struck down: None of the four appears to have standing to be suing in the first place.

Could the hammer at long last be coming down on rogue Swiss(-ish) bank HSBC? I’ll believe it when/if it happens, but the Honorable Senator Professor Warren is on this like white on rice. (And just how rogue? Check this out.)

Jim Crow lynchings: significantly more common than previously reported.

I’m not the brightest bulb in the fixture, but I could tell in 11th grade U.S. history that “right-to-work” was Orwellian doublespeak. Unfortunately, that ain’t all it is.

Debtors’ jail, ostensibly illegal in the U.S., apparently is alive and well in Ferguson, Missouri. A lawsuit seeks to change that.

“Trials” at Guantanamo: No, Casey, nobody here can play this game.

If you’ve never worked in newspapers, you probably thought newspaper executive editors couldn’t get any stupider, and that if they did, it wasn’t your fault as a reader. You were wrong, as Robert Price of the Bakersfield Californian is pleased to demonstrate:

Several weeks ago, [director of audience development] Louis [Amestoy] and I introduced a set of new expectations for reporters and editors. Chief among them was that reporters and editors shall write publishable content every single day. Not blow-out, eight-source 30-inchers (although they have their place), but quick-hit 4-inchers based on as few as a one source or even personal observation — “what I saw driving in to work” stories. So far I have seen almost none of these.

These are required and will be measured on your annual reviews (which are coming up). Please think about how you might start creating these. If you’re like me, you may think some stories (weather related, seen on a business marquee, etc) just don’t clear the bar of importance. Not true, in most cases. Readers gobble this stuff up. [emphasis added; along with the unmistakable sound of Our Lord and Savior weeping bitterly]

#StealAlltheGrammys According to Google, Annie Lennox, Kristen Wiig, Prince (“almost”), Kanye West, Sam Smith, Frank Ocean, and Pharrell Williams’s funky park ranger hat, among others, “stole the Grammys.” Thought you’d want to know.

 

 

Saturday, January 31, 2015 9:43 am

Odds and ends for Jan. 31

Every decent parent loves his kids. But even the best parent has days when he doesn’t much like his kids. So it is, this non-Catholic thinks, with Pope Francis and the Curia members who answer to him.

Late-night TV hosts mourn that Mitt Romney won’t be running for president again. Still a lot of clowns in that GOP car, though.

One of those clowns is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Last time around, Jindal tried to market himself for president as an unthreatening technocrat and an immigrant son of the American Dream. It didn’t work, but at least it was well-intentioned and, I think, had some appeal across party lines. This time around, though, he has gone full-metal Pat Buchanan and pulled the immigrant ladder up after himself. I’m not sorry to delight in the fact that that won’t end well for him.

You Can’t Make This Up Dept.: The House Rules Committee is having a hearing on repealing Obamacare. On Groundhog Day.

told you people on Twitter that using the hashtag #Blizzardof2015 like there would only be one was hubris. And now the impending new winter storms in New England have reduced the National Weather Service to transmitting random Whitesnake lyrics instead of forecasts.

Speaking of Twitter, for sheer joy, follow the hashtag #ThingsBetterThanScarborough. MSNBC put Joe Scarborough on in prime time last night in place of Rachel Maddow, and her regular audience was not amused. My favorite contribution to the stream was, “live interns.”

Most Facebook tiffs are just that, but this one, in which I participate with my usual (ahem) charm, is a bit more noteworthy, in that N.C. Rep. John Blust makes it clear herein that he thinks the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, to which he swore oaths of loyalty as an Army officer and a legislator, is a bunch of hooey. When I first met Blust in 1998, I found him to be a likable, if painfully naive, politician. Now he’s just trolling us.

What in the pluperfect hell was this Seattle cop thinking?

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has had it with you wackaloon conspiracy theorists. SCIENCE, bitchez!

My Tar Heels and Wildcats both have big games today, and I’ll likely miss both for working. So it goes.

 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 10:13 pm

Odds and ends for Jan. 27

RIP President Obama’s plan to kill the tax exemption for 529 (college-education) accounts, age 7 days. You people who think the deduction for mortgage interest can be repealed are so cute.

In the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates in Legal Jeopardy race, Rick Perry takes the early lead!

You people tweeting #Blizzardof2015 like it’s gonna be the only one? Also cute.

Speaking of Twitter, it wants me to follow Franklin Graham. Yet more reason to believe it’ll be a loooong time before Skynet becomes self-aware.

No Stephen Curry? No problem: My Davidson Wildcats just keep winning.

Greensboro is getting its first (legal) distillery since Prohibition. That’s the good news. The bad news: It’ll be making rye and bourbon. Meh.

Relatedly, the World of Beer restaurant chain is coming to Greensboro. But as for me and my house, we shall worship the Wall of Beer.

Everybody in Greensboro but me has been talking about the controversy at UNCG over its firing and attempted prosecution of three employees. I’m still not talking about it — nothing I could add — but perhaps this means we can soon move on to talking about other, happier things.

Google Fiber is coming to Charlotte and Raleigh. But not Greensboro. *sigh* All the more reason for Greensboro folks to get behind CityFi.

Don’t drink and drone.

Duke plays undefeated Virginia Saturday evening. I’ll be eating dinner with my bride and Tony and his bride. We win.

Monday, January 26, 2015 6:57 pm

Odds and ends for Jan. 26

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 6:57 pm

I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time at North Carolina’s Ocean Isle Beach, which, among many other virtues, is a hatching sanctuary for sea turtles. A big mystery: Female sea turtles, despite swimming thousands of miles a year, return every year to pretty much the same spot to lay eggs. How do they know? Now, UNC researchers think they know how the turtles know: They use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate. Good. That remains, I believe, one of the few things about the planet that we can’t mess up.

I hear there’s some snow in the forecast. No, not New England. Us.

Sunday, January 25, 2015 11:03 am

Odds and ends for Jan. 25

I’ve had trouble finding time to blog at length about anything lately. (Working two jobs will do that to you.) So instead I’m going to return to the birdshot approach I’ve used under similar circumstances in the past. Blogging experts will tell you this is not how to maximize your audience, but blogging experts usually have only one job.

The News & Record’s Janice Carmac, a part-time employee to whom the paper wisely grants column space to from time to time, has a well-grounded, understated column today on the literally life-and-death importance of health insurance in general and the Affordable Care Act in particular, based on her family’s experience. Naturally, the paper didn’t put it online. UPDATE: It’s now online here.

Also in the N&R and of particular interest to Greensboro folks, columnist Susan Ladd righteously dopeslaps both Earl Jones and Mike Barber for their egregiously ill-intentioned dialogue over the International Civil Rights Museum and the larger issue of race in Greensboro. This is one of the few times where “both sides do it” really is accurate and contextual criticism.

My Davidson Wildcats beat George Mason on the road in OT last night to go 5-2 in the Atlantic 10 and win their second straight game (the first was against No. 22 Dayton) without their starting point guard. Someone remind me again how the ‘Cats were supposed to finish in the conference cellar this year.

If I were in charge of the Republican Party’s presidential-election efforts, I think I’d be doing everything short of human sacrifice to make sure that the first good look the nation got at my candidate pool wasn’t watching the richest of them suck up to two sociopathic billionaires right out of a James Bond film followed by watching the lot of them pile out of a clown car to genuflect in front of Iowa’s batshit insane religious-right GOP base.

Even as a final Supreme Court decision likely affirming the constitutionality of same-sex marriage approaches, some politicians — primarily Southern Republicans — continue to fight, pardon the expression, rear-guard actions against fairness and equality, as by threatening the state salaries of public officials who facilitate such marriages. The heathen rage for they know the end is near. And although I know that anecdotes are not equal to data, I must say that my own, different-sex marriage appears to have been remarkably unaffected by the advent of same-sex marriage here in North Carolina.

My Braves appears to have written off 2016, perhaps in hopes of fielding a strong team in 2017 when they move to a suburban stadium. No link; this is  just my (very disappointed) impression.

Politics 1, science and the future of humanity, 0: The U.S. Senate pretended not to be insane by voting 98-1 for a resolution stating the climate changes is real, then spoiled the effect by failing to approve (60 votes were necessary) a resolution saying that it is largely driven by human activity.

“Why do people in positions of power ask so many stupid questions?”

We’ve finally got teleporters. But still no jet packs. Grrr.

That’s all I’ve got. Time to work. A good week to all.

Thursday, December 5, 2013 5:42 pm

If you want to lay money on how well Obamacare is going to work …

… then you might want to pay attention to where insurance companies are putting their money, as insurance executive Richard Mayhew points out:

I was at physical therapy this morning.   As I did my stretches and balancing exercises for my ankle, the local generic “alt” rock radio station was being piped through the speakers and Good Morning America was on the wall television.

On the rock station, I heard a Healthcare.gov “I got covered” ad, an ad from my company advertising its Exchange product.  I heard two other competitors advertise their on and off-Exchange products.  This radio station’s typical advertising rotation is a combination of bars, strip clubs, debt consolidation agencies, cash for gold and structured settlement companies.  The normal advertising mix assumes a fairly young, male and broke listening audience.  This is a prime demographic for the subsidized Exchanges.

On Good Morning America, I saw another Healthcare.gov ad, and three ads from two other insurance companies in the area.  One was the same company on the radio, and the other was the fourth private plan advertising.  The pitch for the last one was “You need to sign up by Dec. 23 for Jan.1 coverage and even if the government website is jacked up, we can help you at 1-800-555-5544″

[That] four  insurance companies are putting their money behind the relaunch with the advertising campaign is a tell that entities with real money to lose if they guess wrong are guessing that things are working right.

But Obamacare will never work. It can’t work!

Monday, October 28, 2013 7:33 pm

Why Healthcare.gov problems shouldn’t be a surprise

Clay Johnson of the Sunlight Foundation and co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Obama’s online 2008 campaign, on the rollout:

Well, government doesn’t have a lot of people to choose from when they’re looking for contractors to build this stuff. And I think part of the problem is that the same people that are building drones are building websites. When government is building a website like this, they have to use a system called procurement, which is about 1,800 pages’ worth of regulation that all but ensures that the people who are building this stuff are the people with the best lawyers, not the people with the best programmers. And so, you know, you have this sort of fundamental lack of talent amongst the contractor ecosystem that’s building this stuff, that it’s bound to be bad work—that, combined with the fact that in 1996 Congress lobotomized itself by getting rid of its technology think tank, called the Technology Assessment Office. So when they’re writing bills, they don’t understand the technology that they’re requiring in their laws. This is what you get when you have a Congress that is basically brainless on technology, and government who can only pick from a few old, stodgy contractors. You’re bound to have this result. And, in fact, the standings group came out earlier this week and pointed out that over—for all procurements over $10 million, 94 percent of them fail.

We can thank the Republicans for getting rid of the Technology Assessment Office, inasmuch as they controlled both houses of Congress at the time and facts are just so darned inconvenient.

Meanwhile, adding to the site’s problems, a data center built and run by Verizon went down Sunday, halting enrollment in all 50 states. I eagerly await Darrell Issa’s subpoena of Verizon’s CEO, and/or Issa’s call for the CEO to be fired.

Monday, April 15, 2013 5:57 pm

Quote of the day, James Madison just-because edition

This isn’t, as they say on Twitter, a subtweet. It’s not intended for anyone in particular. It’s not related directly to anything in the news (although it could relate to almost everything). I just read it at Charlie Pierce’s place — he concludes each day with a Madison quote, which is a nice and thoughtful way to conclude a day, and this one is from Friday — and I liked it and thought you’d like it, too:

In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

— James Madison, Papers, March 29, 1792.

Friday, June 15, 2012 7:42 pm

Calling Wells Fargo out

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 7:42 pm
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I don’t think I’ve ever met George Hartzman in real life — and I apologize to him if I have and don’t remember. In the local blogosphere, he runs the Triad Watch blog, with a related Facebook group of which I am a member for reasons that date back to my social-media work at the News & Record. He also has a personal blog.

George has filed a complaint with the N.C. Securities Division against Wells Fargo, alleging violations of Sarbanes-Oxley. That would be the same Wells Fargo for which he currently works.

I’ll let you read it for yourself. But my gut reaction is that there are two and only two possible explanations for his doing so.

1) He is delusional.

2) He is, whether right or wrong, stone-cold certain he has caught his employer violating the law, has tried to work within the company to have the violations corrected and has failed to do so, and is pursuing the only avenue he sees left to protect his clients’ interests.

If the correct answer turns out to be No. 2, I’m not sure how he even gets in his car every morning, what with those big, brass balls clanking around and all.

(h/t: Ed)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:38 pm

Odds and ends, school break edition

I’m really enjoying not having to study, but I haven’t been hit by the inspiration for anything lengthy. So here’s what’s going on:

* * *

Pretty much everybody thinks Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run a media company. And, hell, we know that. But when Parliament thinks Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run a media company, well, that could have real-life, tangible, bottom-line consequences. Because the UK doesn’t let just any old thieving, lying, wiretapping raper of the hopes of the parents of kidnapped children own a media company the way the U.S. does. No, News Corp. could have to actually divest itself of its 40% share of BSkyB. Ouch.

* * *

So on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, Obama shows up in Afghanistan and commits this country to spend, at the current rate of $2 billion a week, one and a quarter trillion dollars over the next dozen years in that country. One and a quarter trillion dollars, I hasten to add, that the United States cannot spare. I mean no disrespect to the victims of 9/11, and a great deal of respect to the Americans who have had to fight the resulting military campaigns, when I ask: Tell me again who won the war on terror? and/or, Have you people never heard of Pyrrhus?

* * *

I see that not only do the Republicans want to wage war on women, they insist that only straight men can join the fight.

* * *

Finally, Fec reflects on MLK’s call for a national guaranteed minimum income, varieties of which have been endorsed by such wild-eyed liberals as Milton Friedman (who called it a “negative income tax”):

Consider, if you will, that the oligarchy, by virtue of access to the Fed’s ZIRP [zero interest rate policy — free loans to banks], has already achieved the status of guaranteed income. Was MLK in reflection so terribly wrong? As we contemplate the end of unemployment benefits for 700k of our citizens, and underemployment for many more, do not the ravages of outsourcing and global corporatism render a circumstance where the least of us is just as entitled to at least a wage of existence as the bankster supping at the .25% discount window, especially as the proceeds are immediately fed into a gamed engine of guaranteed profit?

If we are bailing out the Europeans for their folly, is it nor more just to provide subsistence wages to our own whose only fault is absence of opportunity, particularly by design of the corporatists who enjoy the very same protections manifold?

Are we not finally at the point where Bernanke‘s famous helicopter drops cash upon the least of us, as it has surely rained bountifully upon our most fortunate?

I assure you that the poor have no wish for anarchy or the imposition of some stringent biblical reconstruction. They merely wish to enjoy those essential things we all aspire to: a full belly, a comfortable home and freedom from financial worry.

To those cretins who proclaim such an idea is socialism, I reply they are too late. Socialism is rife among the fortunate; it is merely those left out who have yet to commit this supposed sin. Is not the greatest act of fairness to now include everyone with income, given that the most criminal among us have already lined their pockets to the point of embarrassment?

If we are headed toward a great conflagration of currency devaluation and hyperinflation, is it not right that the poor finally be allowed to join the bacchanal before its end?

Actually, of this much I am sure: No matter exactly how this country goes down, it will go down never once having given any serious policy thought to the true needs of the least among us. That just isn’t how we roll.

(Also, although I am somewhat sympathetic to my friend’s view of the Occupy movement as it manifested itself today on what was supposed to be a big, national show of strength, I also am somewhat sympathetic to Charlie Pierce’s take: “From the start, I said that the best thing about the Occupy movement was that at least they were yelling at the right buildings. … What I do know is that, if it weren’t for the people in the streets last autumn, the Obama people would be running a very different campaign and Willard Romney wouldn’t look half as ridiculous as he does.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:11 pm

Just the facts, ma’am.

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:11 pm
Tags: ,

More Americans have died in weather events in the past 10 years than in terror attacks (including 9/11).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 8:00 pm

Earthquake

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:00 pm
Tags:

Everyone else has been blogging and twittering about the earthquake today, so I guess I will, too.

Not that there was much to it. I was in my office and felt a little rumble. A train goes by the spur line on the eastern edge of campus a couple of times a month, taking supplies to a concrete plant northwest of downtown, and I just figured that’s what it was. The pictures on my wall didn’t rattle, the lights didn’t blink, the floor didn’t sway.

The last such I can recall feeling was eight years ago. No big deal then, either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:44 pm

Interesting hypothesis

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:44 pm

… offered by DougJ at Balloon Juice, although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it elsewhere:

Never lose sight of the fact that conservatives are mostly motivated by the desire to piss off liberals. It explains almost everything they do.

Sweeping generalities alert:

Obviously, not all conservatives believe what they believe and do what they do specifically to piss off liberals, and vice versa. But I think it’s true of some conservatives (and liberals), and of proportionately more conservatives than liberals.

That’s only a guess. But I think it’s a fair one because, in general, liberals tend to worry about what’s fair and what works more than conservatives do.  That happens, I think, for a number of different reasons that stem from both theological (God of Law vs. God of Love) and secular roots and from the fact that conservatives tend to be more authoritarian in nature and more willing to accept authority (often favoring scriptural “authority” over, say, science) than liberals.

That notion of fairness also helps explain, I think, that to the extent sociopaths and the malicious have any political philosophy, they tend to show up more often among conservatives than among liberals. Liberals might not mind that achieving a policy objective pisses off conservatives, and some of them may even celebrate that fact. But they tend to see pissing conservatives off more as an incidental benefit than as a motivation, whereas conservatives really do sometimes seem to get into pissing liberals off. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to make the heathen rage because they think that if they do that, then God is smiling down from Heaven. Or maybe they’re just jackasses. Either way, it’s not real attractive.

It’s also wrong if anyone does it, but wrongness has levels and shadings. For someone with privilege and power to treat the less fortunate this way is orders of magnitude worse than the other way ’round, just as humor flows, and satire races, uphill.

Monday, August 15, 2011 8:19 pm

Fire on the left

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:19 pm
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There’s a bit of a dispute going on right now among Democratic bloggers. I’m drawing a very broad outline here so I’m probably overlooking some nuances, but in general, those involved divide into two groups: those who think it’s proper and effective to criticize President Obama from the left and those who think Obama has done as well as any Democrat could under the circumstances and that any fire should be concentrated on Republicans. The former group is led, or at least exemplified (“leading” Democratic bloggers is even more meaningless than herding cats), by Jane Hamsher, founder and principal blogger at FireDogLake. Prominent members of the other camp include John Cole, principal blogger at Balloon Juice, and the pseudonymous blogger/Twitterer Shoq.

Inasmuch as I think Obama, for better or (mostly) worse, is doing exactly what he has chosen to be doing on most policy issues, I’m not sure this dispute, whether either side wins, will have much effect on policy outcomes. And, just to complicate things, 1) I’m a Republican and 2) I’ve already called for Obama to be impeached for ordering the extrajudicial assassination of a U.S. citizen, even as I grant that a lot of good stuff has happened under him that would not have happened under John McCain, so it’s not like I’m the world’s most objective observer.

My best guess is that an excess of Obama criticism, without an accompanying, workable solution, will just lead to a lot of Democratic (or anti-Republican) voters staying home in 2012, as happened in 2010. And if that happens, given the GOP field, I see no way disaster does not befall the country.

But David Atkins, who blogs as “thereisnospoon” over at Digby’s place, cites a report by Dave Dayen at FDL to offer an intriguing suggestion of what the Obama critics on the Left might be able to accomplish … based on what they already have accomplished. You may have heard over the weekend that GOP hopeful Mitt Romney defended corporations by saying, “Corporations are people” — a claim that is legally accurate but, in this economy, incredibly tone-deaf. It was an unforced error, and while I doubt it will hurt Romney’s quest for the nomination (which already faces signficant obstacles), if he does get the nomination it could kill him in the general election campaign.

Turns out that the group that prompted that error was one of those that criticizes Obama from the left:

In fact, the exchange with Romney started when an Iowa CCI member asked why shouldn’t we lift the payroll tax cap to bring long-term balance to Social Security. “The only position we have is no cuts, scrap the cap,” said Goodner.

Goodner acknowledged that the Supreme Court takes an attitude on corporations being people that is very similar to Mitt Romney. Goodner referenced a tweet by Ezra Klein, which said that Romney was right in the eyes of the law. “I don’t think the average Iowan is going to be sympathetic to that view,” Goodner added, however. “It shows how out of touch Romney is. From what he said, he stands on the side of big money corporations on Wall Street against everyday people.” Similarly, George Goehl, the Director of National People’s Action, a leader in the New Bottom Line project, said in a statement, “The corporations Mr. Romney believes are filling people’s pockets are the ones who crashed our economy and hijacked our democracy.”

Goodner and his group were not pleased with Romney’s full answer, where he touted so-called “progressive price indexing” (which would have to cut benefits well into the middle class to generate any savings) and raising the retirement age. “He’s talking about benefit cuts that are going to hurt seniors, the elderly, the poor and the disabled,” said Goodner. “And ask for nothing from the wealthiest Americans, and the companies on Wall Street.”

This sounds similar to what President Obama has been saying recently in support of a balanced deficit solution. But Iowa CCI isn’t exactly enthralled with his performance of late either. “Our members are very upset and angry at Obama,” Goodner said. “He was the one who put Social Security and Medicare on the table. We delivered a letter to his campaign office in Des Moines, telling him to back off, to take this off the table.” As it turns out, Obama will be in Peosta, Iowa next week, as part of a Rural Economic Forum. Iowa CCI has members there, but it’s not a public town hall meeting, so they are still strategizing about how to reach the President with their message. In the meantime, they are speaking to their representatives in Iowa (all of whom, Democratic or Republican, voted against the debt limit bill), or any other Democratic representatives, telling them to deliver their message to the President. It turns out that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is at the Iowa State Fair today, so we’ll see if anything transpires.

And they are adamant on this point. “Anytime a candidate or the President comes to Iowa, we’re going to bird-dog them,” Goodner said. “We put principles above party. They’re all going to hear from us.”

Atkins asserts:

These are the sorts of activists who are persistent and get things done. They’re the sorts of activists who will be there on behalf of Democratic principles come rain or shine, come Republican or Democratic Administrations. All the Democratic Party needs to do is have their back, and they can make magic happen. Iowa CCI just did more for the Obama re-election campaign than $50 million of advertising dollars could ever hope to do, against the candidate whom all the polls show would likely be Obama’s most formidable opponent in the general election.

I question whether activists of this type get as much done as Atkins seems to be claiming in terms of policy outcomes, but he’s quite right that the party needs these folks for electoral success

The Coles and Shoqs of the blogosphere (both of whom I read and admire, I should point out) dismiss people like this as “Firebaggers” and PUMAs, which stands for Party Unity, My Ass. (The phrase arose during the epic combat between Obama and Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.) I don’t know who’s right, but I think their position might be a little simplistic: As long as you still turn out to support your party’s nominee, whoever it might be (given what’s likely going to be offered by the other side), why not pressure your party’s candidates, including the incumbent, during the primary season to hew to your view on the issues you care most about?

In fact, if not then, when? Once the nomination is sewed up, your ability to affect the framing of the issues is going to be diminished as long as candidates hew to the conventional wisdom that you win a general election by moving to the middle. (The merits of that conventional wisdom are questionable, given the current make-up of the electorate, but that’s a post for another time).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 8:52 pm

“It was like Salvador Dali had somehow snuck into Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving portrait”

This short documentary about Richard Blackwelder, an autistic man in Davidson, N.C., has been up on YouTube for 2 1/2 years, but I’ve only just discovered it. Both Richard and barber Ken Norton, one of the people interviewed in the film, were fixtures in town when I left Davidson almost 30 years ago (Norton cut my hair, and his father cut my dad’s hair in the early 1950s). I knew Richard by name because I often ran into him on Main Street, but a lot of my friends referred to him primarily as “the walking man” because we tended to see him walking up and down Main Street, often in something of a hurry and always looking as if he knew exactly where he was headed.

Richard tells his own story engagingly, but the comments of other Davidsonians also are interesting. Documentarian James Billy Hill has neatly captured a kind of community that tends to get discounted in the age of social media — and how easy it would be for a person like Richard to fall through the cracks, or worse.

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:19 pm

What could possibly go wrong?

The Obama administration is accused of having suppressed scientific information on what the worst-case scenario might have been in the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill.

So how’s that “more open, more transparent government” thingie workin’ out for ya?

Truth is, there wasn’t much to suppress. Everyone knew the worst-case scenario was an Earth-extinction event. That’s because the worst-case scenario is always an Earth-extinction event, whether you’re talking about an oil spill, nuclear war, a rogue asteroid or the mysterious deaths of the honeybees that pollinate our crops. Duh.

Actually, that’s not quite precise. The worst worst-case scenario would be an Earth-extinction event preceded by a global shortage of beer.

Monday, October 4, 2010 8:01 pm

Intelligent life in the universe?

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:01 pm
Tags:

Friend: What’s that on your computer.

Me: It’s my screensaver.

Friend:

Me: It’s SETI@home. When I’m not doing anything on the computer, it analyzes data gathered on the 1.4GHz frequency by these giant radio telescopes in Puerto Rico  from stars a long way away. It looks for non-naturally-occurring patterns in the data that aren’t from Earth and therefore might be signs of intelligent life.

Friend: Find any yet?

Me: Nope.

Friend: I’m not surprised. I look in my e-mail every day for signs of intelligent life, and I don’t find any there, either.

Saturday, September 25, 2010 5:55 pm

Playing catch-up

As blogging goes, I have been slackeriffic of late, so let’s see what I can do to get caught up here.

Damn. Maybe I should just stop now.

Ah, well, like the man said, I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

  • But we’re not giving it up without a fight: Barack Obama believes he has the power to order American citizens executed without charge or trial. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are fighting that.
  • Some of America’s greatest leaders? Would be considered terrorists today.
  • They’re everywhere: Government at multiple levels in this country is blurring the distinction between dissent and terrorism. In Pennsylvania, where activists are opposing new oil drilling (entirely understandable, if not ultimately a good idea, in the wake of Deepwater Horizon), opponents are being monitored by the state Department of Homeland Security, and when the governor was asked about it, he at first defended the program.
  • And it ain’t just government: Monsanto hired Blackwater to monitor activists who oppose genetically modified seeds, despite the risks they pose.
  • Double standard: When the Democrats nominate someone who’s insane for the U.S. Senate, they disown him. When the Republicans do it, they embrace her and give her lots of money.
  • But, no, we’re not racists: The National Federation of Republican Women has Sen. Glenn McConnell attend dressed in a Confederate Army uniform and pose with African Americans dressed as slaves. In 2010. For reals.
  • Enthusiasm gap: If Democrats and the White House wonder why their base is so much less motivated to turn out in November than the GOP base, they might consider issues such as this and conclude that warning against “the return of George W. Bush” is pretty pointless when you’re going Bush one better.
  • In deep: How could the Deepwater Horizon disaster happen? When Interior Department regulators are being bullied by the industry they oversee and undercut by their managers, I’d say anything is possible.
  • Risk assessment: Emptywheel poses a very good question: Is the greatest danger to our financial system really terrorism?
  • Well, at least he’s honest: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla., tells the American people to, quite literally, eat shit.
  • Scheduling an election is not rocket science. So would it be too much to ask that states get ballots to troops overseas in time for those ballots to be cast? Sheesh. (h/t: Fred)
  • Questions of ownership: GMAC, one of the nation’s largest home-financing firms, tries to foreclose on a home whose mortgage has been resold only for a judge to conclude, quite reasonably, that, hell, no, it can’t foreclose on something it doesn’t own; further investigation suggests GMAC may be executing 10,000 fake documents a month related to mortgages. As a result, GMAC foreclosures are on hold in 23 states. But the real fun, not obvious at first glance, is that dealing with this issue is going to make it harder for a lot of insolvent banks to hide the fact that they’re insolvent.
  • Maybe somebody should have shot the deputy: Charlie Munger, populist billionaire Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, recently suggested that America’s unemployed and underemployed should “just suck it in” and added, “Thank God for bank bailouts.” Why would he say such a thing when BH took no bailout money? Uh, because companies in which BH is invested took $95 billion, maybe?
  • You will know him by his trail of dead: Howard Fineman, one of the most relentlessly conventional journalists in American history — and, therefore, a guy who has whiffed on most of the significant political stories of the past 15 or so years — is deserting the sinking ship at Newsweek to go work for the Huffington Post. Conservatives everywhere should be of good cheer; if he does there what he did at Newsweek, HuffPo will be dead inside of three years.
  • Who broke the Senate?: Something called “Gingrich senators.” That’s a very short way of describing what is actually a pretty well-documented phenomenon.
  • Apparently we need another war on poverty. Sigh.
  • Fight the police state: Reason magazine offers tips on how.
  • The Washington Post’s problems in just three words: It. Can’t. Think.
  • Funniest line ever posted at PowerLine, by Paul Mirengoff on Christine O’Donnell: “It’s great to hear that O’Donnell learned from her experiences dabbling in witchcraft. You wouldn’t want a U.S. Senator who dabbled in witchcraft and learned nothing from it.” Heh. Indeed.
  • Genetically, we’re not only close to apes, we’re pretty close to jackals: Nancy Nall on scrapping, physical and financial.
  • Corruption in Afghanistan: Not that big a deal after all, the administration decides.
  • When was the last economic recovery that WASN’T jobless?: Oh, about 20 years ago.
  • Question for everyone who still believes in “the liberal media”: What do you think would happen if DEMOCRATS had filibustered a defense appropriations bill? And, naturally, John McCain lied about the reasons for it.
  • He is the egg man: Austin “Jack” DeCoster, whose company was implicated in the recent problem with salmonella-tainted eggs, may have been the guy responsible for introducing salmonella into the U.S. egg supply in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
  • Larry Summers gone: The problem is, unless his replacement is named Warren, Krugman, Bakker Baker, Shiller or DeLong, we’re going to have the same problems we have now.
  • Fannie and Freddie weren’t the ones who broke the economy: So said Barry Ritholtz a while back; so says the FHFA now.
  • Alternatives to bank bailouts: Let me show u them. We did, in fact, have some, which is worth remembering two years on.
  • Chain of command: I’ve got little but contempt for Bob Woodward’s “reporting” these days, but if he has accurately reported that Gen. David Petraeus told colleagues that President Obama “is f—ing with the wrong guy,” then Obama should fire Petraeus and thank Woodward for bringing that insubordination to his attention.
  • The Tea Party isn’t just about deficits and taxes and spending: Whether it started out this way or not, it is rapidly being taken over, if it has not already been, by the Christian Taliban. (More here.) Despite already having called for Obama’s impeachment, I’m not under any illusions about what else is going to happen next year if the GOP regains control of Congress in November. Nobody else should be, either.
  • Kidding themselves: Even such normally sensible outlets as Zero Hedge are buying into this silly-assed notion that businesses aren’t hiring because of an “atmosphere of uncertainty.” No. There’s always uncertainty in the business world, not least every election year. The problem this time isn’t uncertainty, it’s that no one is buying anything because no one has any money because they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, unemployment/underemployment is at its highest level in three-quarters of a century and even the people who have jobs are afraid they’re going to lose them. Moreover, consumers are afraid, probably with good reason, that things will get worse before they get better.
  • Stop the presses!: The new version of the GOP Contract on America was written by a former lobbyist for Exxon and AIG.
  • Pre-emptive strike: Is a newly discovered super computer virus the means by which Iran’s nuclear threat will be nullified? And did the virus originate in Israel?
  • Apparently neither a joke nor an urban legend: Good news, ladies! Having unprotected sex, although it can put you at increased risk of sexually transmitted disease if you’re not really careful and picky and can, of course, get you pregnant, also can render you significantly less likely than your latex-dependent friends AND your chaste friends to suffer from depression. And there’s actually a chemical reason for this!
  • Even Napoleon thought the third time was enemy action: Glenn Fine, inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, expects us to believe that three separate FBI investigative efforts of the Thomas Merton Center’s anti-war activities during the Bush administration were isolated, coincidental and in no way politically motivated. He also expects us to believe in unicorns, too, I guess.
  • On the road to recovery: Uh, not so much, says well-known liberal Paul Volcker.
  • Here’s the thing about Republican congresscritters and stimulus spending: The most offensive thing isn’t that they’re hypocrites for criticizing the program while still trying to land some of its money for their districts. It’s that they’re lying when they say it doesn’t work.
  • Good news, bad news, Internet edition: Radio spectrum being abandoned by TV as it moves to hi-def could be made available for next-generation WiFi at little cost to the public or, in the alternative, be auctioned off for that purpose at huge benefit to the Treasury. But that’s not going to happen.
  • I want to play Roy Blount in poker: The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri challenged Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan to six debates … and then backed out of four of them after she took him up on it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:44 pm

Not without a fight

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 9:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I don’t do predictions on politics, so I don’t know whether the Democrats can keep the House this fall or not. In 435 separate races, weird things can happen.

There’s a lot of talk about the “enthusiasm gap” between likely Republican voters and likely Democratic voters. That gap is real, although several different reasons, some conflicting, go into it. A lot of people are unhappy with Democrats because of health-care reform, for example, although some of those people are unhappy because it went too far and quite a few, myself included, are unhappy because it didn’t go nearly far enough.

As a group, House Dems face a tough fight this fall. But mistermix at Balloon Juice makes one very good point:

… the fact remains that John Boehner is not popular, that doing nothing in the middle of an almost-depression is not popular, that sneering at teachers, cops and firemen is not popular, and that tax cuts for those making $250K or more are not popular.

Exactly right. If Democrats lose the House, it won’t be because the House wasn’t winnable for them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 11:35 pm

Catchin’ up on stuff; or, Odds and ends for Aug. 22

  • Questions more people need to be asking about the deficit, answered.
  • Why, if I lived near DC, I might be tempted to burn a Confederate flag at Glenn Beck’s upcoming rally.
  • I think the F-bomb has become a highly convenient excuse to keep adolescents from seeing a movie that shows how the American government screwed over an American hero and lied to his family.
  • Apparently it’s OK for American journalists to write highly inaccurate articles as long as they do so in the right (pun intended) way. Relatedly, these days, a DC journalist, given the choice between giving a deserved screwing to a colleague and giving an undeserved screwing to the American people in general, will screw the American people every time.
  • Governmental foot-dragging has its intended effect: Tom DeLay walks free. There are no consequences. There is no accountability. Rule of law? Ha.
  • The Internet will be the death of the music bidness as we’ve known it. Of course, no one who has known it will shed a tear, but that doesn’t mean the bidness is going down without a fight. Now they’re partnering with the National Association of Broadcasters, another powerful lobby, to try to get the government to mandate the inclusion of FM radio in future cell phones. Good luck with that. Oh, and die already.
  • The question isn’t why “Dr.” Laura Schlessinger “quit” her radio show after dropping about 11 N-bombs. The question is why any responsible broadcaster ever allowed someone with such obvious mental problems on the air dispensing advice in the first place.
  • Despite rising wheat prices caused by Russia’s drought-driven ban on exports, U.S. wheat farmers aren’t sure they should plant more wheat. Why? They’re pretty sure the wheat market is rigged, just as it was a few years ago. Now someone explain to me again what social utility investment bankers serve. Relatedly, Harper’s makes the case that they’re just playing games with the world’s food supply.
  • August: Stupid American Month.
  • If The New York Times or CNN had contributed $1 million to the Democratic Governors Association, do you think the country would have responded with such a yawn? Me, neither.
  • So will all the Wikileaks critics shut up now that the Pentagon’s own evidence shows Wikileaks tried to work with the Pentagon to redact sensitive information but was rebuffed? Yeah. I thought not.
  • The oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster? Government reports to the contrary, it’s mostly still out there.
  • When it comes to protecting our rights and our privacy, those commies in Europe are eating The Land of the Free’s lunch.
  • You know how the government has always claimed Guantanamo detainees are “the worst of the worst”? In fact, the government lacks enough evidence to charge 3/4 of them with any crime at all.
  • The $75 billion Home Affordable Mortgage Protection Act is a bust … because Congress, after approving the money, did nothing to ensure that bankruptcy judges would use so-called “cramdown” provisions to make sure the money would do what it was supposed to do. What has happened instead has left a lot of homeowners even worse off than if the government had done nothing and has hampered the recovery of the housing market. And the administration hasn’t bothered to try to get Congress to do the right thing. Heckuva job all the way around.
  • Memo to Army Maj. Gen. Charles E. Chambers: Your punishing soldiers who opted not to attend a concert by an evangelical Christian rock band should carry punishment of its own: loss of your stars and your pension. You violated your oath to protect the Constitution, General, plain and simple.
  • Robert Frank has an interesting proposal that could help both government and consumers: The government should buy up consumer debt, on which consumers are paying 20% and up, and charge consumers 8%. This would put more disposable income in consumers’ hands and give the government a substantially better return on its investment than the 2.8% or so that 10-year bills currently are paying. It makes so much sense that there’s zero chance Congress will pass it because it would hurt deny banks their current flow of blood money.
  • Shorter Paul Volcker: Lending deregulation was bad because allowing higher interest payments on risky sub-prime loans encouraged banks to make more risky loans.
  • Barry Ritholtz: We’re good at saying “What if we had done nothing?” about the bailout, but an even better question is, “What if we had done the right thing?”
  • COOL (as it were): Scientists are working on a way to use carbon dixoide and certain kinds of bacteria to convert crude oil into cleaner-burning methane — while the oil is still in the ground. A separate effort is working on using solar power to convert CO2 to carbon, or carbon monoxide to, in turn, synthesize hydrocarbon fuels.
  • I have found my Official Anthem for the Summer of 2010. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too R-rated to link to, but I’ll give you a hint: It’s by Cee-Lo, from his forthcoming album.
  • Colombian Supreme Court to U.S. military: Don’t let the sun set on you in Bogota. Oops.
  • Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, leaves the Wall Street Journal and tears U.S. news media several new orifices on the way out the door (whether he also grabbed a beer is not clear).
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has apologized for a blog post suggesting that the male-female wage gap and the glass ceiling aren’t real problems, which might actually mean something if it would apologize for everything else it has said and done in that same vein for the past several decades. But it won’t, so it doesn’t.
  • The American Family Association apparently believes our soldiers in Iraq died for nothing. Actually, so do I, inasmuch as that war was illegal from the git. But you know why the AFA believes it? Because Iraq is not a Christian nation.
  • Would someone who considers him/herself a deficit hawk and supports extending George Bush’s tax cuts for millionaires please explain to me how we can afford to do that but cannot afford to put people to work?
  • And, finally, this week’s tasteless joke, from D. Aristophanes at Sadly, No!:

A priest, a rabbi and an imam walk into an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero. The bartender says, ‘What’re you drinking?’ and the imam orders him beheaded because sharia law dhimmitude Allahu Akbar alalalalalalalalala flabberty jabberty jabber etc. etc.*

You’ve been a great crowd! We’re here all week!

*Also the priest molests the bartender’s kids and the rabbi drinks their blood.

Sunday, June 27, 2010 6:42 pm

Hot

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 6:42 pm
Tags:

Working outside when it’s 95 is never pleasant, but it can be a lot less unpleasant with the right tool, the right blade for the right tool, and just a little shade.

Scraping paint off windowpanes. Ick.

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:29 pm

Climate/environment sustainability and theater

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , ,

G. Rendell, writing at Inside Higher Ed, notes that global-warming denialists and envirohaters like Cal Thomas equate sustainability advocates with weakness and cowardliness. But not only is Thomas’s argument weak and cowardly, Rendell writes, it’s just flat wrong:

Thomas, for all his faults, has a good grasp of popular American imagery. Sustainability, environmentalism, liberalism and intellectualism are all the territory of nerds. (You know that’s true, in the popular mindset.) And nerds are weaklings. And weaklings are cowards. And cowardice is un-American. You don’t need to do the math — the images are familiar and the result is pre-ordained.

But sustainability and environmentalism don’t have to be nerd territory. They could just as readily be associated with outdoorsmen, and outdoorsmen are (The Lumberjack Song aside), rugged and masculine. (Not sure how far I want to go with that “masculine” thing, of course. Still . . . ) Pioneers, cowboys, family farmers, hunters, fisherfolk, even lumberjacks and -jills. Daniel Boone. Davy Crockett. Lewis and Clark. Et al. (Lots of al.)

Thomas mentions George Washington (if only to ding Obama) in his column. George Washington heated Mount Vernon by burning biomass. If it was good enough for him . . .

And why are people who ride bikes less rugged than folks who drive cars (usually alone)? Which one’s the weakling in that comparison? (And, by Thomas’s own extension, the coward?) Even walking to the bus stop builds muscle mass better than backing out of your driveway.

Which reminds me, I need to lose some weight. Again. (sigh)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 6:03 am

A serious question

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 6:03 am

If capital can cross borders freely, why can’t labor?

Saturday, May 8, 2010 9:55 pm

Why Elena Kagan will be Obama’s Supreme Court pick

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 9:55 pm
Tags: ,

Because, as Glenn Greenwald points out, the liberals hate her:

(1) University of Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos, who previously expressed shock at the paucity of Kagan’s record and compared her to Harriet Miers, has a new piece in The New Republic entitled (appropriately): “Blank Slate.”

(2) Digby examines what a Kagan selection would reveal about Obama, and she particularly focuses on Kagan’s relationship to Goldman Sachs.  That relationship is relatively minor, but it is illustrative in several ways and will certainly be used by Republicans to advance their attacks on this administration as being inextricably linked with Wall Street.  The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein has more on the Kagan/Goldman Sachs connection.

(3) Following up on the article published yesterday in Salon by four minority law professors — which condemned Kagan’s record on diversity issues as “shocking” and “indefensible for the 21st Century” — Law Professor Darren Hutchinson of American University School of Law today writes that Kagan’s record is “abysmal.”

Regardless of your particular views on these matters, that diversity is both vital and fair in the hiring process has long been a central plank in progressive thinking.  It takes little creativity to imagine what Democrats would say about a Republican Supreme Court nominee with a hiring record similar to Kagan’s.  The question is whether they will be as consistent as these law professors are in applying their claimed beliefs to their own side.  This is the issue that caused Linda Monk to rescind her endorsement of Kagan.  Will Kagan-defending progressives now suddenly say that diversity is irrelevant?  Will they try to claim that there were no qualified minorities for the Harvard Law School faculty?  How will they reconcile everything they’ve always said about diversity with Kagan’s record as Dean?

(4) This headline, from law.com, is a darkly amusing and quite revealing one to read about the Obama White House’s front-runner to replace John Paul Stevens:  “Supreme Court Watchers Wonder:  How Conservative Is Kagan?

(5) Law Professor Jonathan Adler persuasively argues why Diane Wood would be easier to confirm than Elena Kagan.

(6) The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage today explains that executive power is one key area where Obama’s choice could bring about major changes to the Court, given that his selection would replace Justice Stevens, who was so stalwart about imposing limits on such power.  As Savage writes, Kagan’s record (to the extent such a thing even exists) “suggests she might generally be more sympathetic toward the White House than Justice Stevens.”

(7) Perhaps most revealing of all: a new article in The Daily Caller reports on growing criticisms of Kagan among “liberal legal scholars and experts” (with a focus on the work I’ve been doing), and it quotes the progressive legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as follows:  “The reality is that Democrats, including liberals, will accept and push whomever Obama picks.”

Now there are two dynamics at work here.

One is that it is conventional wisdom in Washington that to be Taken Seriously, you have to punch a hippie. That means no picking a truly progressive nominee. And if there is one thing that Obama has shown in his time in office, it is the ability and willingness to punch a hippie, on subjects ranging from torture to health care.

The other is the notion that the hippies will take the punches and like it because they have nowhere else to go.

Greenwald, to his credit, says that anyone who really does think that way shouldn’t — that if they have serious philosophical or policy differences with Obama or his nominees, then they ought to, well, differ. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same thing he said back in 2006 about Republicans/conservatives who differed with Bush. Of course, back then it was just Glenn being partisan.

Me? I think any potential nominee of either party and whatever political philosophy who can be mentioned in the same breath as Harriet Miers without the speaker’s being laughed out of the room has no business on the Supreme Court. But beyond that, I have no idea.

Monday, April 19, 2010 8:54 pm

Duke College Republicans oust chairman. Why?

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: , ,

Was the chairman of Duke’s College Republicans ousted because he had mismanaged the group and embezzled funds, or because he’s gay? The link includes both student-newspaper article and the articles of impeachment. The comments add some perspective and context, although they’re all pseudonymous so I don’t know how much credibility to give them.

There’s a lack of hard information, a lot of he-said/she-said, and a whole bunch of ethical questions to be derived from this situation.

One disturbing element is that, at least according to commenters, the chairman sent an e-mail to other group members attempting to address the issue and asking that they keep it in confidence, and at least one member chose not to. Without smearing the whole group, I’m going to say that that was an incredibly ill-advised decision … but I also think that no one in this kid’s position should have thought for a minute that anything he put into an e-mail would remain confidential.

If the guy mismanaged and stole, then he should have been impeached, obviously. That said, it’s disturbing that some sort of meeting to change the impeachment rules apparently took place just beforehand.

Beyond the merits of the decision to impeach, it’s not clear to me just how “out” this guy was — perhaps not even to his own parents. If he wasn’t out before, he sure is now, what with the publication of the news in both the Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill student papers. I’d be interested to know what sort of ethical discussions, if any, took place around the respective papers’ decisions to publish their stories. Involuntarily outing someone can have all kinds of unforeseen negative consequences, and the bulk of the comments seem to indicate that the kid was told the papers were going to publish with or without him, although at least one commenter disputes that and says the kid himself asked for coverage. Again, we need more facts. 

Finally, I’m amused that the Duke College Republicans site’s header includes rotating photos of the Manhattan skyline.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 10:44 pm

I had not realized this …

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 10:44 pm
Tags:

… but the retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens is the high court’s only Protestant. Protestants constitute 51.3% of America. Outside the arena of abortion rights, I am unsure how significant this fact is — indeed, it may not signify much of anything.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 10:50 pm

A few Tax Day thoughts on the teabaggers

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

No overarching conclusions about the group’s beliefs/motives here, but a few things have emerged from the primordial media ooze to gain purchase on the shifting sands of my awareness:

  • In general, I, too, worry about budget deficits. But, having not slept through Econ 101 (got a B, in fact), I understand that when consumer demand has collapsed and jobs are hemorrhaging, the government has to spend because no one else is going to. And it’s funny how so few of those NOW worried about deficits worried about them between 2001 and 2008.
  • One thing I don’t worry about is the notion that federal income taxes are unacceptably high by any recent historical standard, because they’re just not. On the other hand, a recent CBS/New York Times poll found, teabagger concern about those taxes appears to have been overblown by anecdotal media reports: “Most [Tea Party movement supporters polled] describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as ‘fair.’”
  • And, finally, although I’m willing to give teabaggers in general the benefit of the doubt on race issues, that doubt is significant all the same for this reason: that same poll found that:
  • 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.
  • They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

UPDATE: If the Christian Science Monitor is mocking you, you probably should just give up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 11:35 pm

Gasping for breath

The deluge is not over, but the worst of it has passed, and I now have a wee bit of breathing space. So, let’s see, what has happened while I’m gone? Nothing good, it seems:

I have no idea when I’ll be back, so this’ll have to do ya for a while.

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