Friday, December 21, 2007

Fascism by Another Name...
I didn't want to have to write about this, but I was asked about it recently and so I feel compelled.

The source for this little screed is one Mike Huckabee, one of the seven or eight morons presently engaged in making an ass of himself on a national stage for the purposes of becoming the nominee of the republican (small 'r' intentional) Party in the 2008 Presidential election.

Huckabee is something of a marvel these days; a candidate with no money, none of the experience you would think a man should have when he stands to ask the people of this country to make him their leader. He is the former governor of Arkansas, which is sort of like being the Master of Arms of the Loyal Order of Buffaloes of Flintstones fame. If you asked 100 Americans where Arkansas was on a map, 98 might hesitate for a moment and then draw a lazy circle with their finger around New England. Assuming they found the United States on the map in the first place, of course. The other two would indicate that Arkansas was the northernmost province of Mexico, and a make a compelling argument for it. I would hazard to guess that at least 80 of them probably attended college, too.

Anyways, Huckabee is doing something which the 'conventional wisdom' says it impossible (it never ceases to amaze me how often conventional wisdom is wrong, because it's always being proved as such) and he's making a case for himself in the 'all-important' primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he might, just might, knock all the 'establishment' candidates off the battlefield.

As an aside, primaries and caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire should not be considered 'all-important' because they truly prove nothing at all; the myopic views of self-interested ('who will promise me more useless, but lucrative, ethanol subsidies?') farmers in Iowa, and stubborn, hard-headed self-important Yankees (who believe they are the only 'normal' people left in the US) in New Hampshire are not representative of anything. Except for the idiosyncracies of people who live in sparsely-populated states in constipated states of mind which cannot be altered short of dynamite. Yet somehow, we listen to these folks for their prognostications as if the fate of the free world depends upon it. It's sort of like asking the Pope what play your quarterback should run on 4th and 10, down by 3, with 28 seconds left to play, and no time outs.

Anywhoo, Huckabee has performed in such a way as to have people stand up and take notice. Now, this in and of itself is not an issue: we should be willing and able to hear as many ideas and see and listen to as many candidates as possible. When we don't, we wind up with second generation Bushes and Clintons, and that's not good for any of us. No, the issue is not Huckabee the man, it's the way in which Huckabee makes his case and to whom he's making it.

Mike Huckabee makes no secret of his being a Christian and ordained Baptist minister. On his website, the words "Christian Leader" appear, and Huckabee makes reference to the Almighty just about every four minutes or so in his speeches and public appearances. And that's all well and fine; if he's a believer, who am I to begrudge him his beliefs? However, it's also quite apparent that this is all Huckabee has to offer (I'm religious, dammit!) and it explains his recent rise in the polls; he's picking up the religious vote within the republican party that had no place else to go with the current field.

For the faithful of the Repubs will not vote for a Mormon (Mitt Romney) since many Baptists, Evangelicals, Catholics and other Christian denominations consider Mormonism to be a cult, and a deranged one at that. They claim to be open-minded on matters of faith, but they aren't; they're bigoted against Mormonism. Rudy Giuliani makes a mockery of all they hold dear; thrice divorced, cross-dresses as a joke, lived with a homosexual, favored abortion rights. The 'darling' of the Conservative wing (supposedly) was once Fred Thompson (of Law and Order fame), who it appears requires a jump-start with a Die-Hard attached to his testicles just to say anything at all. On TV he's an awesome actor; in real life, he's duller than unbuttered toast. When it comes to non-religious issues, John McCain is a conundrum, like the "new" knife in the kitchen drawer that has had two handles and three blades. He's too unpredictable for their tastes.

And so, Huckabee is the man on the rise because the extreme right is gathering under his banner, and it is the extreme right who votes in these stupid primaries because a) they don't seem to have jobs, and b) when Pastor Bob says 'get to the voting booth and pull the lever for this guy or the Good Lord will take me', they listen to him.

However, Huckabee has a major problem; his religious schtick works just dandy with primary voters, but will get him absolutely nowhere in a general election. And he's pouring it on extremely thick, too. He can't go more than a few minutes without a prayer session, and he can't make himself attractive to the vast majority of voters who care about politics, but who could give a rat's ass about religion. Especially when it comes to extolling the virtues of a brand of Christianity which is infinitely more persnickity, obnoxious, and bigoted than most other strains.
There are some Evangelicals and Baptists in this country who are only a camel and a worn pair of sandals removed from the Taliban.

The interesting thing to watch is this; Huckabee is pandering (obviously) to the religious right now, will he continue to do so if/when he wins the primaries and becomes the candidate, following the old dictum of 'run right in primaries, move center in general elections'?

If he does the first, we will have, in my opinion, make the first crucial step towards fascism in this country (for democrats, the first step towards fascism is a vote for Hillary Clinton), and no, it will not be of the Mussolini/Hitler type; it will wrap itself in the flag and carry the Cross before it, claiming to be the movement which will save the United States from itself with a program of forced morality, a return to good ol' fashoned 'merican values, and a resurgence of belief in God...whether we want it be resurgent or not.

If he does the latter, then all that will have happened is that the republican party will have been forced to run a very weak candidate who could be beaten by just about any democrat in the field (even that complete moron John Edwards could beat Huckabee) by a bunch of bigoted fanatics.
These are the people who send money to Televangelists who claim that God tells them to send cash to a post office box. Now the republican party is going to let them select it's candidates?

I've said this before, and I will say it again; the republican party had best wean itself from this cuckoo in it's nest, even if it means political oblivion for the foreseeable future or there won't BE a republican party anymore.
A Very long, and Educational, Hiatus...
Yeah, I know. I ain't been around to bitch at y'all for some time. Well, there's a bunch of reasons for it, some of them little more than lame excuses. But, there's always this...

To begin with, I've been trying (still!) to obtain permanent work in my chosen profession, I have recently come to a clear and terrifying realization: my chosen profession no longer exists. It hasn't for quite some time, despite protests to the contrary.

See, 22 years ago I got into Computer operations. Back in the day, this was a fantastic job; it was interesting, it paid well, opportunities abounded and in terms of the future, the sky was the limit. We were on the cusp of the Information Age, and there I was, at the tender age of 18, in the vanguard. While my contemporaries were attending college studying drama and anthropolgy (which prepared them well for their future careers as waiters, file clerks and hotdog vendors at Yankee Stadium), I was earning a living. A very good one, too, by the standards of 1985.

The technology kept evolving, and becoming infinitely more complex and interconnected, so that the field became increasingly an interior one; there were no schools to teach people how to run mainframe-based data centers (there still ain't for the most part) it was reserved, basically, for those who did it and those who knew about it. Those of us who were there in the beginning simply did what so many others before us had done: we learned by doing, we learned every aspect of the job, we worked long, hard hours, and then we got rewarded. We followed a career path that would have been recognizable to anyone: computer operator, supervisor, manager, and then we branched into one of the specialty fields surrounding operations (communications, programming, technical support, et. al.).

That, of course, was before The Business Model Changed.

The Business Model of that golden age was simply this: you produced a useful/superior product/service, you supported the hell out of it, improved it whenever you could, and then delivered it to your customers for a reasonable price. If you did this, you made money. Lots of it. The New Business Model threw such quaint notions right out the window.

The New Business Model no longer revolves around providing quality for a reasonable price; it revolves around narrowing the consumer's choices and then squeezing every last penny out of him while maximizing 'shareholder value', which is a codeword phrase for 'screwing your employees' while stuffing the executive's pockets . As an example, I toss out the last company I worked for, CitiGroup.

CitiGroup is a conglomerate of 16 (and counting!) financial services companies: CitiBank, Smith-Barney, Primerica, Travelers Insurance, and a few other companies you've probably never heard of, but you get the point. It exists to provide it's customers with every financial service they could ever require all in one place. Need a checking account? No problem, open one at CitiBank. Need a retirement plan? No worries, see our professionals at Smith-Barney. Need a mortgage, call Primerica. You get the idea. Sounds like a wonderful idea; I can get all this STUFF, that I NEED, all IN ONE PLACE!

And then you realize that your Checking acoount no longer pays interest, like it used to. That you get charged $50 just for the privlege of having an account, and God forbid you bounce a check (that's $50 a pop). Smile while you pay $2 to use an ATM at your own bank, let alone some other bank's, because you're a 'valued customer'. Your stockbroker charges you fees for basically granting him the privlege of handling your money. If you make a trade on your stock account, expect to pay half-a-dozen processing fees and a double-digit-percentage commission on top of it. Don't make trades all that often? Be prepared to pay a fee for having an account with money in it, but no activity. Static accounts still require people to keep track of them, auditing and paperwork needs to be filed with the government, not to mention mailing you your statements. Of course, your stockbroker is an agent of the state; he has to report your trading activity and holdings to the Fed'ral Gubmint for tax purposes, and that costs money too, you know. Buy insurance and you very often discover that your responsibility is to simply pay the premiums and the insurance company's to find every way it legally can NOT to pay you when you DARE to invoke your policy. All the while, CitiGroup takes your fees, pools it all to make CitiBank look like a huge cash-cow (which draws even more money to it) and then distributes it all to it's shareholders (the preferred ones, not the peasants with common stock) and executives, and when that isn't enough to sate their greed, it "trims the fat", which means it lays workers off, cuts their benefits, freezes their wages..and then uses the money saved to line the CEO's pocket, bribe a politician to help then make some more money, or to buy another firm to add to the collection. The cycle continues ad nauseum.

In the modern world of business and finance this process is being repeated in every conceivable human endeavor.

Which brings us back to my original proposition; my field no longer exists.

See, one of the problems I 've been having with finding a steady job is simply this: the steady jobs have disappeared. They have been shipped overseas to Third-World countries where people may be just as smart as I am, but they work cheaply and don't require benefits (assuming they know about them!). This is called outsourcing, and the idea behind it is that when you don't have to pay workers high wages and benefits, shareholder value is maximized because you have held onto more profit. So, when you ask around about Operator jobs, you find there are none. When you ask about Technical Analyst jobs, you get much the same answer. When you ask about Management positions, you quickly realize there is nothing to manage. Today's IT manager doesn't manage anything: he simply fills a chair in meetings and generates the proper reports (which no one reads, incidentally).

But WHAT there is a lot of is what's called "Contract-to-Hire" (CTH from now on) positions. Basically, a Contract-to-Hire is the technical equivalent of migratory farmwork. What happens, typically, is that you are told that there is a "Unique CTH opportunity" available; the contract will last a year, pay a fantastic amount of cash, and the employer in question "has a good track record" of hiring it's CTH's to fill later full-time positions (presumably the position that you yourself will be creating with your own work!). So, you sign that "one year contract" (which has a provision in it stating that the employer can declare the contract null-and-void any damned time it pleases), and you show up for work.

On your first day, whoever it is you report to will try to explain what is expected of you. I say "try" because he/she is often very much in the dark about what is expected of THEM, except that "this project must be finished within the alloted time" because "it's very important to the future of this firm"or some other such bullshit. You are basically left to your own devices; the systems you're working on have been programmed by people who left there (or were laid off) 5 years ago, and who are unavailable to you to ask rudimentary, but often necessary questions. Nothing is documented. Your support staff is in Calcutta, Shanghai or Moscow, or worse, aren't even employees (even foreign ones) of the company you now work for, but employees of a third-party vendor hired by your employer to relieve it of the necessity to pay for it's own support staff, and they're probably in Singapore (if you're lucky!). You're already flying blind; you have no practical experience of the specific systems you need to work on, with it's nuances and peculiarities, and there is no one to explain the why's and wherefore's of this particular system or application to you.

Unless you wish to spend five hours a day on the phone with Sanjay, who doesn't have any clear idea, either, but at least he's a pleasant fellow. But I digress.

You are now being harranged on a daily basis to "make progress". The sooner you get this project done, the better your evaluation will be, and this poositive evaluation will "go a long way" to helping management decide wether they wish to keep you as a full-time employee once the project is complete. Of course, you see very few "full-time employees" anywhere in the office, just other CTH's, but that's beside the point. They hold out the hope that you could be one.

After slaving like a three-legged sled dog for a few months, one of three things happens:

a) You complete the project early and competently(God only knows how)...and you have your contract nullified.


b) You take "too long", defined as "having the audacity to take the words One Year Contract literally, believing that you do, in fact have a year to work...and you have your contract nullified.


c) The bean-counters upstairs, who know nothing about computers and data processing and system's prgramming and all that stuff, but who originally demanded the project you're now working on be made a reality, post-haste, are handed a report which causes them to "consider a rapidly-changing business environment" and they now decide that the idea that they just poured several million dollars into and signed you to a contract to complete and gave you ulcers and migraines for is no longer necessary, and therefore, no longer a justifiable expense...and you have your contract nullified.

And just like the migrant lettuce-picker, it's off to the next field, taking whatever terms you can get, working on a day-to-day basis, utnil the crop is in or the bossman decides he doesn't need you anymore. That is what the world of "High Tech" is like nowadays: real "Grapes of Wrath" stuff...only with a tie. It's time to start looking into another field of endeavor.

Plumbing sounds good. Because this entire experience has taught me that there's a good living to be made in shit.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Campaign Finance Reform was supposed to, I think, end this sort of thing, but it hasn't.

Some dude named Hsu (already a fugitive from justice, no less!) has found himself, through his own actions, in a firestorm of controversy over political donations. This is not the first time Mr. Hsu has run into problems with the legal system; he had been indicted and convicted three years ago in an investment scam that bilked folks out of their savings. Mr. Hsu promptly disappeared, many believing he fled back to his native Hong Kong, to avoid his jail sentence.

Now it turns out that Mr. Hsu, far from 'laying low' while 'on the lam' has instead been writing checks. And he's been writing them to the likes of Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, Gavin Newsome, Barabara Boxer, et. al.

I want to know this; how is it that a convicted felon is able to write checks to a political campaign or party, and no contrivance apparently exists to ensure that those checks are rejected? Secondly, I wish to know how it is that a convicted felon on the run from Federal law enforcement can write checks and no one follows those checks back to their source and thus finds the guy?

Clinton, Obama, etc., have all made great shows of 'giving the money back' --- although I'm not sure who they give it back to. Certainly not Mr. Hsu, and so far as I know, it wasn't even his money to begin with. When they aren't doing that they're making a great show of donating the ill-gotten gains to charity. As if that erases the fact that the money found it's way to them from a criminal in the first place.

For some candidates, like Mrs. Clinton, a little circumspection and perhaps a less-lax attitude towards fundraising and identifying the sources of those funds is in order; her husband has a long history of questionable (and illegal) contributions on his record, and she has had questions raised about her own campaign finances in the past, as well. When you couple this proximity to 'dirty money' to the Clinton Presidential Library's refusal to release thousands of pages of legal documents relating to Mrs Clinton herself, it's almost impossible not to believe that all of this is simply symptomatic of any Clinton's apparent predelection for subterfuge and dishonesty. It certainly makes her less attractive (as if that were possible?) as a candidate for any public office, up to and including dog catcher, anywhere in this country. Let alone as President of the United States.
Of Restrooms and Politics...
RE: The recent scandal involving one Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and his coulda-been-mighta-been-smells-like-alleged- homosexual antics in a Minneapolis airport men's room:

First; why is it that homosexuals (allegedly) seek sex in bathrooms? Is it because in the process of doing one's business one might be expected to be partially disrobed already? Is there some sort of cheap thrill to be derived from doing the nasty in an unusually nasty place (i.e. a place where scores, if not hundreds, of other men, most with notoriously poor aim and a great many with no sense of decency, make an unsanitary mess upon the floor, fixtures and whatnot)? Is this some sort of sick mental disorder that makes people seek out sex in public place, where the threat of being caught (not to mention catching something other than a quickie) adds to the experience?

Secondly, what does this say about a great number of men who profess themselves to be 'conservative'? In the last year, Ted Haggard (evangelical icon, advocate for all but stoning homosexuals, afficianado of gay escorts), Mark Foley (republican congresscritter, alleged pedophile) and now Craig (famous gay marriage opponent) have all been caught, more or less, doing unto others (or trying to do it)what they all say is sickening, disgusting and immoral. It's quite fair, in light of these incidents, when critics of 'conservatives' point out the glaring hypocrisy. But I think it all says something more about 'conservatives' as a whole.

You see, people like Haggard and Foley and Craig ride the 'conservative' movement to power; taking money, votes, and moral support for mouthing the proper platitudes about our decadent society and declining moral values, all the while indulging in the guilty pleasures of the flesh and denuding the value of character in secret. And after they're caught, they typically spout a stream of nonsense, always invoking the words 'sin', 'forgiveness', 'God', 'repentence' and 'rehab' --- all the while denying their guilt, and simultaneously asking for absolution. "Do as I say, not as I do" aside, it's hardly credible that all these men were victims of an organized campaign to sully their characters and erode at the foundations of their crusades. If that were the case there would be evidence that they were unfairly targeted and the claims could, often I would assume, be easily dismissed.

These situations, in effect, prove something I've said about 'conservatives' for a very long time; they'll buy anything --- so long as you mention God a few times and harangue gays and harken back to a supposed "Golden Age" of American life that was supposedly morally superior to that which reigns now. All the while some, like these three examples, reap the rewards heaped upon them by the gullible; the money, the votes, a measure of fame, and the acquisition of political power. They never achieve even a modicum of what they advocate, and then are typically leading secret lives in public lavatories, but they still always manage to gain support.

As Orwell once wrote (paraphrasing), "the greatest danger to a civilized society is a political movement led by privileged hypocrites preaching the Sermon on the Mount."

When men like Haggard, Foley and Craig are dragged into our consciousness, hoisted upon their own petards by their hypocrisy and stupidity, that axiom becomes clearer to even the sleepiest minds amongst us. Once again, I implore 'conservatives'; drop the religion, or at least temper it with reason, and apply the lessons of Haggard/Foley/Craig when you next select a candidate for office. Neither Craig nor Foley would have had a very long shelf-life in republican politics but for the support of conservatives enraptured by their words and hypocritical facades, not to mention the (dubious) moral support (and the ability to gather resources and votes) of men like Haggard.

If character counts, then make sure character exists. Regardless of whether or not it's couched in Christian dogma and the 'right' (defined in narrow, mentally-constipated concepts) point of view.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Stifling of Dissent...
Vis-a-vis my *ahem* FreeRepublic problems, this was posted the very same day that I was banned"

"Jim (Jim Robinson, founder of the FreeRepublic website) recently banned a whole bunch of FRiberals (code word: those who don't completely and unquestioningly tow the 'conservative' line) who had been here for a long time. It seems that there were some longtime posters who were Republicans who joined because they hated the Clintons, but they also showed that they didn’t care for conservatives either."

The parenthetical comments are mine.

Now, if true, this is a fascinating statement. Jim Robinson is now, apparently, psychic. He also has the power to see into men's hearts and divine their motives.

Well, that explains everything, doesn't it? Omnipotent Jim read my brainwaves and figured out that I was a republican dissatisfied with Clintonian control of the government and diametrically opposed to all conservative ideology (I hesitate to call it "thought"). Of course, there was also a bunch of other folks, who incidentally, are still able to harass me by posting (to whom I cannot respond, how convenient?), but since most of the harassment revolves around a) name calling and b) expressions of glee that I have been banned, I wonder if it is actually worth worrying about or not.

Now, let's go back to that statement again.

I am NOT a republican who doesn't care for conservatives. Far from it. I have a great deal of respect for conservatives of the William F. Buckley/Mark Steyn type. They make sense and are at least thoughtful individuals. What I DON'T care for is a certain brand of conservatism that seem to originate in folks who couldn't tie their own shoes with both hands and a government program, for who the word 'conservative' is little more than an accoutrement with which to adorn their tribal affiliation. That affiliation revolves around a seemingly-Calvinist brand of Christianity which was abandoned about 100 years ago, and in which there is a widespread belief in some "Golden Age" of America where the culture was less coarse, less degraded and infinitely more God-friendly. It is an American Utopia in which the familiar forms of Americana -- the yeoman farmer, the small-town factory worker, the Norman Rockwell vision -- was alive and well, and was insidiously destroyed by the combined forces of immorality and political manipulation.

Of course, that such a 'Golden Age' never existed (certainly not in the form these folks envision it) is besides the point. American society has ALWAYS had it's seedier elements, it's criminals, it's dirty little secrets. They just weren't seen all that often, and certainly never DISCUSSED in 'polite company'. It went ignored because to pay it any attention to these issues would be disturbing to all 'decent' people. What these folks really object to is not the coarsening of the culture, per se, but that it's so much more visible and obvious. When it's obvious, you can't ignore it, and that's what these folks are best at: ignoring that which is inconvenient, or inconceivable, to them. So, in the end, what this brand of 'conservative' is can basically be summed up thusly:

a) They live under the impression that the past can be resurrected.
b) They invariably refuse to stare truth in the eye. That which is inconvenient and distressing can be safely ignored.
c) God exists, and is a benevolent force, rather than a superstition used to bludgeon folks into submission.
d) That we can go back to something that didn't exist.
e) That anyone who is not of their ilk (small-town/Midwesterner/Christian/Delusional) cannot possibly understand them, and therefore, must be ignored, and if THAT isn't possible, then they must be villianized before they are able to convert or convince others.

To their credit, I will give them this:

a) They are tenacious.
b) They are completely correct with regards to abortion.

After that, they're akin to Nazis.

THIS is the brand of conservative I object to, because they're whiny busybodies who rail aganist the (liberal) government and it's power to destroy 'decent' society, but who wouldn't lose any sleep if the same government formed a special police force to peek in people's bedroom windows looking for those enegaged in sexual acts proscribed by Scripture.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time to Clean House...
Re: The slavish devotion of the GOP to religious whack-jobs -- perhaps it's time to cut the umbilical. Time for a good-old-fashioned cost-to-benefits analysis in terms of what do social conservatives bring to the Republican party as opposed to what they cost it.

On the Pro side:
* Money - social conservatives are willing to spend considerable dough to see their pet-peeves addressed: abortion, Supreme Court nominations, reigning in of permissive society.
*Voting blocs - churches are enormously successful in gathering constituents and directing their votes in a certain direction. Many people in this country simply won't do anything without the permission of Pastor Bob and his assurance that God said "it's alright".

On the Con Side:
* Artificially-skewed primary process - the need to mollify that wing of the party results in a primary system in which their issues enjoy a place of prominence and must be addressed in a way they find acceptable if a candidate is to make any headway. This leads to two phenomena:

a) Candidates who have to take the entire social-conservative agenda seriously, to the point where positions they formerly held might have to be changed (i.e. McCain on immigration, Romney on Abortion and Gay rights, Giuliani on same). This leads to an interesting circumstance; the candidate MUST tow the line, at least publicly on these issues, but then gets hammered by social conservatives who play the "gotcha" game -- you flipped-flopped. Social conservatives LOVE to feel superior to the rest of us, you see, and there's no better way to make them feel superior than to present them with the opportunity to call you a hypocrite. They set the rules, when the rules get followed, they then complain that you didn't really mean it; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy which might deprive us of truly good candidates, but which gives the panty-bunched the opportunity to pat themselves on the back.

b) Once the process described in a) is complete, what's left standing of the original field of candidates is hardly the best and brightest. Having engineered a process which is assured to produce the liar...errr...candidate closest to their positions, they wind up setting up a candidate who will then have an extraordinary test ahead of him in winning a general election. Socially-conservative positions are not popular, as a rule, and therefore, the candidate who advocates them is not as popular as he might be.

Separation of Church and State: the Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion, and while courting the support of social conservatives is not, de facto, recognizing a particular religious belief or system it is, de jure, elevating one religion over others, and has the effect of tainting the political process with religious belief. If you don;t tow the Christian line, you will not get elected.

Political Oblivion: Eventually, when one wing of a party gets too powerful or exercises too much influence over the business of the party, that wing ultimately destroys the party from within. Having once gotten a taste of the power they wield within the GOP (which has jumped to address their concerns with indecent haste) the religious wing of the party continues to hammer away with greater fervor in successive elections, drawing the party ever further right, ever closer to becoming an advocate for religion and shoving it ever further from being representative of the majority of it's members. At some point, the religious right in this country will either transform the GOP into a Taliban-like party (based on Christian principles), or it will make it so unpopular as to preclude the winning of any office ever again.

Short-sighted as most politicians are, however, they will opt to take the money and organized voting blocs and ignore the negatives for as long as they possibly can. Therefore, I hold out no long-term hope for the GOP so long as it is dependant upon the money and primary votes which religious organizations and churches can provide.

A third-party is not a viable alternative; there is no existing third party that can actually make a serious run for national office, and thanks to the "Conservatives" who brought us "Campaign Finance Reform", starting a new one has been made a nearly impossible task. It is time for rank-and-file republicans (Classical Liberals) to take their party back.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

FreeRepublic Update...
Hmm, it seems I can still read FR posts, just not respond to them.

Message received: just listen, we don't want any feedback, thank you.
Banned From Free Republic!
Sigh. Go figure. I was just banished from FreeRepublic for having the temerity to ask the following question:

"Why is it that Ronald Reagan who was divorcee, had children who hated him (one of whom is thought by many to be gay, and another with a drug habit who posed for Playboy) deified, and Rudy Giuliani (with much of the same bagage) villified? Why the double standard?"

After arguing (fruitlessly -- some of those folks are out and out incapable of having an argument, it's either their way or the highway) with an idiot, who then reported my lack of orthodoxy to the moderators. I found that when I went to respond to his post, that my posting privleges had been revoked, thusly:

"Posting privleges revoked
Reason: trolling for Rudy"

Naturally, this occured AFTER I had made it clear that I would prefer Newt Gingrich be President of the United States.

The real problem is, of course, is that I called Reagan (and the angelic vision of him) into question, and hoisted the angry poster on his own petard: he never answered the question, and merely recycled a bunch of boilerplate excuses, most of which revolve around small variations of degree, and which never come close to the unvarnished truth; Reagan promised a Constitutional Amendment banning abortion, and said he would prayer back in the schools. Rudy hasn't. Naturally, Reagan did neither, but go figure. All that counts, apparently, is that he said the magic words.

They don't care about the position, I guess, they just want to HEAR THE WORDS. It gives them the impression that they are being taken seriously. Because, you know, normally they shouldn't be.

Good to know that "conservatives" (defined as mind-numbed robots who don't have a thought that didn't originate in Scripture -- sort of like the Taliban, only they sorta-kinda believe in the Constitutional republic) still believe in Free Speech and the application of fairness, huh?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ridiculosity...(Not a word, but it should be)
I have written about this before, so I truly hate to sound like a broken record, but this whole "a pill for every (minor-bordering-on-insignificant) malady that ails you...." nonsense has finally gone too far.

A new commercial has been airing for a medication called "Mirapex", which apparently is to be prescribed for the "disease" known as "restless leg syndrome". I don't know about you, but when my legs get "restless" I simply shift position or take a short walk. I mean, how ridiculous does the very concept of "restless leg syndrome" sound in the first place? Now, if the made-up disease wasn't bad enough, the drug that treats the made-up disease might be even worse.

One of the announced side-effects of taking Mirapex (besides all the usual symptoms of diarrhea, headache, backache, sexual dysfunction, psoriasis, leprosy, scurvy, scrub pox and Athlete's tongue), is this little gem (paraphrasing): "an increased urge to gamble". I'll repeat that: an increased urge to gamble.

So, now taking a medicine for a disease that doesn't really exist can cause you to go out and toss your life savings away at the slot machines? Actually, that's not all that far a leap: if you are taking Mirapex, you've already thrown money away on: a) A doctor who diagnosed you with a made-up "syndrome' that could be cured by getting off your ass and taking the occasional walk, b) paid to purchase a drug designed to address a problem that doesn't exist and which is advertised 120 times day at couple-hundred-grand for every 30 second spot.

This is the biggest problem in American health care today: there is entire generation of folks who believe in this shyte (i.e. restless leg syndrome, chronic dry-eye, and a few others), and who believe that every one of life's little aches, pains and inconveniences should be cured by a tiny little pill, and who gives a good Goddamn about how much it costs? Especially when you're almost old enough to stick the taxpayer for it, and plan to do so in the future?

I'm talking about Baby Boomers, of course.

They want pills for everything: leaky bladders, creaky prostates, to achieve erections, to achieve erections on a schedule, to hide their herpes. That each drug comes with a litany of side-effects, and that many people might take multiple drugs, apparently never occurs to anyone. Particularly not doctors, it seems, who are more than willing to go along with this rip-off. Take Mirapex to treat your fake-restless-leg-syndrome, then gobble some Zocor to alleviate the increased risk of heat attack Mirapex might represent, then a few slabs of Enzyte because Mirapex made you hornier than a faggot in Boy's Town, and so on and so on, as the cycle continues for each new side effect: high blood pressure, blurred vision, uncontrollable sweats, loosened stool.

God only knows what Mirapex will do to you if you take Propecia (a medicine to treat advanced pattern baldness which is so toxic that they actually warn pregnant women not to be in the same HOUSE with a broken tablet of this stuff).

It's no longer about health with these people anymore. It's about vanity and stupidity. And that vanity and stupidity piled on top of the previous generation's (the..ahem..Greatest Generation) propensity to a) live longer than they have any right to and, consequently, b) suck up more Social Security and Medicare money than they ever had a right to, and you can see exactly how phucked this country is going to be in 20 years time vis-a-vis health care.

I have the perfect cure for "restless leg syndrome" -- amputation. Quick, relatively painless, no expensive drugs required, and when it's all over, no more Restless Leg Syndrome, except for that psychological need to believe you can still feel that leg. That, incidentally, was the same mental impulse that led you to believe you had "Restless Leg Syndrome" to begin with.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Nation of Laws?
Via TownHall this morning, written by Rebecca Hagelin:

Ah yes, what a wonderful example of the loopholes in our fabulous Immigration system:

If you’re a Cuban and can evade the Coast Guard, and then float, swim or wash ashore, you can stay -- because you’re politically oppressed and you have powerful lobbies (i.e. Cuban Exiles, the left-over Cold-Warriors) in Congress fighting tooth and nail to let you stay.

If you’re a Mexican or Central American and can sneak through a hole in a fence, wade across a river or manage to survive a day or two in the desert, and you manage to evade the Border Patrol, you can stay, because you’re poor, and you have powerful lobbies in Congress fighting tooth and nail to insure that you do (i.e. both political parties, the small business lobbies, tourism lobbies, labor unions, et. al.).

If you are Chinese, all you need to do is claim that the One Child policy of the People’s Republic is depriving you of your rights (whether you ever actually conceived, planned to conceive, had a child, are pregnant, were forced to have an abortion, or even to be sterilized, is often besides the point; you only have to assert that you were oppressed in this regard), and there will be powerful lobbies in Congress to ensure that you can stay.

In many cases, if you happen to have a skill (say, computer programming) which American companies lack (mostly because they shipped those skilled jobs overseas to begin with, removing the incentive for Americans to take those skills up), you can get an H-1B visa, and then you will have powerful lobbies in Congress who will fight for your right to stay (mostly because you work cheap).

And don’t worry about anything, because the American taxpayer, whose wages you're undercutting and whose communities you are wrecking, will foot the bill for it all. There will be powerful lobbies in Congress to ensure we do, whether we want to or not.

This makes sense? At what point did sympathy for the plight of others and friggin' logic diverge?

One set of immigrants who sneaks into the country is not welcome, and yet another is. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I think it's time we stopped making any kind of distinction and remember that these people BROKE THE GODDAMNED LAW!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Keith Olbermann is a Ninny...

It's bad enough that Bill O'Reilly and Hannity and Colmes have become all but unwatchable, but does MSNBC have to follow the same path?

My complaint this time is about Keith Olbermann. Now, normally I don't watch Olbermann and his Countdown show because, well, Keith is an idiot. He was an idiot on SportsCenter on ESPN, and whoever decided he was a "serious journalist" should be taken out an neutered. In the most painful fashion imaginable. However, occasionally (like when O'Reilly drops journalism for the tea-leaf reading that is "Body Language Analysis" or his weekly confab with Geraldo) I do pop in to MSNBC, just on the off-chance that something is being discussed which can hold my interest for at least 3 minutes.

Keith Olbermann ain't that tonic, though.

First off, Keith is a one-trick pony; he can do nothing except report bad news from Iraq, complete with infantile analysis and bad puns, to boot. When he isn't doing that, he's crying about O'Reilly. I swear, I have probably popped into Countdown at least half a dozen times in the last month, and every single time Keith does his "Worst of the Week" shtick, Bill O'Reilly always comes in first (or is it last?). He's obsessed with O'Reilly, almost as much as O'Reilly is obsessed with himself.

Secondly, Keith Olbermann is not quite as smart as he likes to think he is, second-grade witticisms aside. In fact, I rather doubt Keith writes much of the crap that he spouts, but that there is an entire division of MSNBC devoted to making him appear at least Rhesus-monkey clever. If there is, every member of the "Make Olbermann Look Smart" team should be fired, because they invariably fail. Horrendously.

It says a lot when the "best" news shows these days happen to be Tucker Carlson and, two days out of five, Chris Matthews -- and that's only because the competition has been so consistently bad since the beginning of the year, at least.

I sort of remember Daniel Patrick Moynahan once complaining about the "Dumbing Down" of America. He was speaking of the schools and the media, and their ability to withhold any actual information from the public. I'm certain the late Senator tunes in from the Great Beyond at 8 p.m. every evening, watches Olbermann, and wincing, gets disgusted because he was right.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Some Up-Close and Personal Observations...
In the last couple of months, I have had some very close encounters with Arabs. I'm not talking about the guy who runs the gas station or the newsstand, I mean up-close, personal, and business contact, which has caused me to re-evaluate what I guess one would call personal beliefs.

At one time (actually at several points in the recent past) I have wavered on the moral question of whether or not the Muslim world should survive. I mean that in the literal, actual life-and-death sense. My previous experience with Arabs and Muslims, was, indeed,very limited, and most of it was negative; after all, I had witnessed the terror attacks of September 11th, and the sight of 3,000 people murdered in the name of religion and misguided political nonsense will do that to you.

As the horror of that day was fresh in my memory, and my anguish and fear were my primary concerns, I did advocate the genocide of the Muslims. I'm not afraid to admit that, and I think, given the circumstances, it would be understandable, if still disgusting. As the fear and pain subsided, I recognized such ideas to be despicable and impractical and came to the conclusion that it would solve nothing vis-a-vis the problem of Islamic terrorism. I probably wavered between advocacy of outright butchery and some sense of morality.

However, recent history and events have made me reconsider this position (once again!). And this time, the decision is FINAL. No more wavering for me.

The Muslim world is diseased. To any casual Western observer, this should be obvious. Forget the nonsense that we cannot judge a non-Western society by Western values, because this now seems to me one of the dumbest fucking platitudes ever invented. We damn well SHOULD view the non-Western world through the lens of Western values, because when we don't, we give every asshole on the planet an excuse to take advantage of the irrational guilt and stupidity that created the problem (cultural non-judgementalism) in the first place. The disease that runs through the Muslim world is has an entire smorgasbord of symptoms: rank stupidity, cultural backwardness, an irrational fear of women, devotion to a cult of death dressed up as a "tolerant" religion, arrogance, and a by-now genetic inferiority complex.

The individual events which caused me to change my mind are too numerous to list here, and I won't. Just suffice to say that every Arab/Muslim I've come into contact with the last few months reinforces my belief that the Middle East requires an injection of new DNA. Probably something genetically-engineered to eat sand and crap oil, with about the same level of awareness common to the amoeba. That form of life would be far superior to what calls itself a human being in that part of the world.

This idea was finally crystallized for me last night at, of all places, a minor league baseball game, which I attended with my family. There was a fireworks show at the end of the game, and people had lined up around the stadium to view it. Being on the NYC waterfront, it was also an incredible vantage point to catch the annual Macy's fireworks show, as well as shows in neighboring New Jersey.

I never saw so many headscarves in one place in my life. I never knew there were this many of them on Staten Island, and all of them had a minimum of five kids in tow. They were rude, they were smelly, they were disgusting examples of the selfish human archetype on full display. They had no manners. They acted as if they owned the planet and demanded courtesies they would not even dream of extending to anyone outside their group. There must have been at least 70 women in headscarves in the crowd outside the stadium, and near to the gates where I was that night, and so I guess, were 70 potential suicide bombers (their husbands). Many of them attempted to enter the stadium where the game was being played, without buying tickets, so as to get a better seat for the fireworks show, and some even attempted to crash the gates, complaining loudly of racism and prejudice when they were denied entry just because they hadn't bought a ticket. One moron even commented, upon seeing an Orthodox Jewish family in seating near to the gate, that "Of COURSE they'll let Jews in and keep us out!" Stadium security and New York's Finest kept things in check.

They came in droves, because, well Muslims are enamoured of things that go BOOM, I guess.

I have changed my mind, this time for good. The problem of Islamic terrorism can ONLY be solved when there are no more Islamics. The issue is NOT the West, or Western culture -- the issue is that these folks are outright INSANE . The West has a duty, not only to itself, but to the rest of the planet to advance our system and our values, because these are the only circumstances under which humankind may progress, prosper, and ultimately survive. No more pussy-footing around it; Islam must be dismantled, it must be shown, in unmistakable terms to be morally, ethically, politically, scientifically, economically BANKRUPT. Until that happens, any attempt to bring "democracy" to the Middle East will fail, and we will continue to have 9/11's and Glasgow-style truck bombings.

We should also stop importing these degenerates in such large numbers. Stop the immigration spigot, right the fuck NOW.

This is not hyperbole: the survival of all we hold dear depends directly on whether or not these insane scumbags can be kept in check.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bill Richardson: The Snowball and the Infernal Regions...
Bill Richardson is the latest democrat (small 'd' intentional) to throw his beret (they all wear them, ya know) into the ring for the race to the Presidency in 2008. The current Governor of New Mexico has a stellar resume: Former cabinet-level post (Secretary of Energy), former U.N. Ambassador, former National Security Advisor (I think), spent a term or two in the Congress. All-in-all, being fair, the best-qualified (in terms of actual work) of all the candidates of both parties, to be a nominee.

Unfortunately, he'll never make it.

Because qualifications no longer matter. What matters is that you are able to vilify your political opponents in a way which "energizes your base" while avoiding the pitfall of making people so disgusted that they tune you out. In other words: what really counts in American politics today is which candidate can walk the tightrope between being sort-of-offensive and being too- obviously-offensive.

In the offensive department, we have a whole string of democratic party second-stringers, most of whom (with the exception of Dennis Kucinich and Joe Biden) most people have never heard of, nor care about.

In the too-obviously-offensive category we have the democratic superstars; Edwards and Clinton. Barack Obama, despite the fact that he's an obvious pandering, lying sack of you-know-what, at least comes across as a genuinely nice man. Edwards and Clinton can lie to your face, pretend to be whatever you want them to be, say whatever you need them to say, and it's perfectly obvious that they're lying and pandering, but it doesn't matter; the hand-picked crowds love it. They love it even more when they're in full-throttle attack mode, and it never gets more full-throttle then when it comes to Bush-hatred, which goes beyond politics and ideology and is evolving into a mental disorder.

And here is where a guy like Bill Richardson has the proverbial snowball's chance: The political left has become so unbalanced, so infected by pathological-hatred on individual personalities (Bush, Cheney, Gonzoles, Libby, etc), that there is no longer a point at which a candidate can become too-obviously-offensive. The worse picture you can paint, the better.

Bill Richardson is not that kind of guy. He doesn't have that sort of mean in him. He's not programmed to spew venom 24/7 and then claim victim-hood afterwards. He's not constructed for the ad nauseum repetition of absolute lies. He's a decent man.

And that's what will end his run. He can't keep up with the slime machines of Clinton and Edwards. He can't compete with the media-made-sexiness of Obama.

And it's a crying shame, because while he might be a democrat, I can recognize a pretty good guy when I see one, and Bill Richardson seems to be one. As far as government service goes, he's got the pedigree. The only person I can think of who's had that sort of resume in recent times has been Bush pere, and in retrospect, he seems damn-near regal, never mind presidential.

We are about to set a dangerous precedent in this country; this country will probably, in all eventuality, will have been presided over by either a Bush or a Clinton for the last two decades, depending on the outcome of the dimwit's beauty contest. Which is what makes a man like Richardson all the more valuable (and attractive as a candidate), because there's more Bush's and Clinton's in the pipeline, and Edwards and Gore won't go away until someone gives them a final death befitting the undead (a stake through the heart and immersal in holy water).

There's an opportunity here that I'm afraid we just might miss; the opportunity to re-inject civility and intelligence back into our politics, and the chance to avoid the dynastic rule of two incredibly incompetent families.

Unfortunately for you,Bill, we'll probably never get the chance to see you in action.
John Edwards: The Gift That Keeps on Giving...
I've never liked John Edwards. I've always felt he was a hypocrite and an empty suit, and above all, an arrogant bastard, who's considered opinion is that everyone else on the planet hasn't the same sense that God gave to a retarded Irish Setter.

The phony populism was always easy to spot: the "Two Americas" routine, the "do as I say, not as I do" sort of conspicuous consumption, the hypocritical (and public!) rebuke of Wal-Mart at the very same time he was twisting arms for an X-Box, or whatever it was.

I could hardly believe it could get worse. I was wrong.

By now, we've all heard about the famous $400 haircut. That caused a bit of a stir; a man claiming to be a champion of the poor avails himself of an expensive coiffure and still demands to be taken seriously. It just didn't wash. Especially when Edwards, in defending that haircut, makes a ridiculous statement about his staff making the arrangements and polishes it off with this humdinger (paraphrased):

"I was not personally involved in that haircut. I had nothing to do with it."

That's how stupid he believes you are. The man sat in the barber's chair. It was his hair that was cut. But he wasn't involved.

It's "I didn't inhale" and "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is", all over again.

Now we find out that Mr. Edwards, stalwart defender of the poverty-stricken, makes speeches at 40K a pop (twice the official "poverty level" yearly wage, for a family of four, no less!) and was recently paid $55,000 for speech on (what else?) poverty at the University of California, Davis. I rather doubt Mr. Edwards sees the logical problem here. It turns out by the way, that UC Davis is a public university (meaning it is supported by the taxpayer) which has plans to up it's tuition by 7% next year because, well, at 55k a pop for bullshit, it can't afford to educate folks at the old levels of funding.

This comes on the heels of the discovery that after being soundly whipped in his bid for the job of President and John Kerry's lap dog in 2004, Mr. Edwards went to work for a hedge fund. A job for which he was paid (I believe) $2 million a year. He claims that he took the job in order to study the economics of poverty. Let me repeat that -- the economics of poverty. He said that with a straight face, too -- give him credit for balls, at the very least.

He's also got a proven record of utilizing personal tragedy for personal gain. The tragic death of his son in an automobile accident vaulted him into a Senate seat (which he barely sat in, because he began campaigning for the Presidency five minutes after he was sworn in). He's used his wife's recurring cancer to garner sympathy and push his "health care plan" which basically amounts to "band-aids and eyedrops for thee...I can afford real insurance, thank you".

John Edwards: the answer to the question that no one has asked. If someone has asked it, please shoot them -- they cannot be allowed to reproduce.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More "All the News"...
Just a quick thought on this subject; how is a newspaper supposed to make money when it gives the news away for free on the Internet?

It should be the first question asked when it's an almost-daily occurrance where a major, print news organization in this country announces a new round of lay-offs, or decides to outsource it's 'local' reporting to a foreign country.

Now, I've blogged a bit about something along these lines in the past, and so has John Derbyshire of the National Review Online. I don't put myself in the same class as Derb, but we had a similar problem;

When I lived in Charlotte, NC, I used to receive the Charlotte Observer, which wasn't much of a newspaper unless you loved NASCAR, seventeen pages of inane church tattle, interspersed with Wal-Mart advertizing. Anyways, I found myself receiving the Observer, even though I never ordered it. Never asked them to deliever it, they never called to ask me if I wanted a subscription --- it just showed up on my doorstep. At first, infrequently, and then with more regularity. No one ever came to my door to ask me to pay for it, and the notes I left to the carrier who was mistakenly delivering it went unheeded.

Wouldn't you know it? At about the same time I was having this issue, so was Derb. New York Newsday (I believe) was showing up on his doorstep under much the same circumstances. Derb, being a much more dynamic and driven individual, actually took the trouble to find out why. Turns out that in many instances, newspapers will print far more newspapers than they can sell, knowingly, and then just distribute them, to boost circulation numbers in order to set advertizing rates. In this regard, it doesn't matter whether the Charlotte Observer actually sells 300,000 copies a day, so long as it can be said to distrubute that many.

That the practice is, one the one hand, wasteful, and on the other, dishonest, apparently doesn't enter into the equation. In the end, it's counter-productive. But then again, counter-productivity is management's job.

So, in a day and age when newspapers are being produced in order to be given away (for free), when news is given away online (for free), why should we be surprised when the same idiots decide that getting Indian reporters to cover City Hall in Pasadena, California, via the Internet, from the comfort of Calcutta, is such a bad idea?

I'll say this much for the idea; those Indian City Desk writers probably have a better command of English than their American counterparts.

One other thing about the stupidity and hypocricy of the American press; whenever I attempt to read an article that originated in the New York or Los Angeles Times, I am asked to sign on to their site with my e-mail address, presumably so the Times can monitor my reading habits and e-mail me about similar articles which might be of interest (the idea being that if the Times can increase internet hits by bringing back people who can read, and who wish to be semi-informed, their advertizing dollars increase). I can honestly say this; neither the New York Times, nor the Los Angeles Times have ever e-mailed me with a notification of a particular article I might find interesting, nor have they ever made an attempt to contact me to as much as to just say "hello".

My mailbox, both the one online and on the front stoop, however, are full of spam and junk mail. If I had to guess, the sign-in registry for Times articles has nothing to do with news and everything to do with selling my name and address to a bulk-rate spam operation.

I wonder how the Press in this country would react to a little of thier own medicine, and had a little 'investigative journalism' performed against them. The main thrusts of this investigation should be:

- What makes anyone think artificially inflating circulation numbers in order to fleece advertizers is legal or ethical?
- Why is it bad for the government to know my online habits, but the New York Times fairly demands it before I'm allowed to see it's product in a format which is free? The Times has spent years railing about the government using people's online habits as a means by which to invade privacy, but the Times should be allowed to invade my privacy so that they can make money?

To see John Derbyshire's July, 2004 Diary where he mentions the Newsday brouhaha, click here:

It doesn't take much to see why print media is dying in this country.
Time to Choose?
Appropos of nothing at all, the theme of John Edward's presidential campaign (the Two Americas, redux) entered, quite unbidden, into the darkest recesses of my deviant mind.

The premise as put forward by Mr. Edwards: there is a great divide between rich and poor in this country. The divide is growing on a daily basis, and it is causing much of the social unrest and dislocation that we witness in American life. If only the dividends of the rich could be somehow redistributed (through force, naturally) more equally, then perhaps we'd live in a more peaceful, prosperous society. It's for certain that the American middle class has been sold out, betrayed by it's politicians, it's business leaders and it's own sense of comfort (achieved at the cost of eternal personal debt).

This is standard socialist boilerplate, to be certain, with a dash of southern populism added for spice.

Now, as to what I've been thinking about it;

To begin with, perhaps John Edwards is not the best messenger. After all, the man is a multi-millionaire who made his fortune (allegedly) defrauding the medical and insurance industries, so when John Edwards speaks about universal health care and such, perhaps he's not the best person to ask how it's to be done. His expertise in the health care field is limited to figuring out how to fleece the system for personal gain, not in re-inventing it to provide service for others.

Then there's the matter of Mr. Edward's home. A man who lives in a mansion (and this is not an exaggeration; it is a palatial estate, by any definition of the word, and I haven't seen a political figure with such luxurious digs since Saddam Hussein). Now, the republican right-winger-free-market-capitalist in me says, "Well, Matt, he earned the money to pay for it, we can assume legally, and therefore, why shouldn't he be required to enjoy the fruits of his labor?" Well, true. But then Edwards starts running his mouth about 'the rich" this, and 'the wealthy" that, and it never occurs to anyone that he IS rich. That he IS wealthy. And then it begins to sound hypocritical, because you know that when it comes to redistributing wealth to pay for whatever he wants to give to the lower classes, his wealth will be the first to be protected.

Don't even begin to think otherwise.

And then we come to the second part of my thought process:

Given my personal experiences of the last four years, there is a certain appeal in what he has to say. You do have to make an effort to apply logic to it in order to avoid falling into the trap of believing that a) he actually means it and, b) that the American taxpayer can afford what he speaks of without inciting a second Revolution. Which brings me to the point of this screed.

There is no way to avoid it, but, at some point, the people in this country are going to have to make a choice about their long-term financial security. This choice will be based upon a very simple proposition; at current rates of growth, the Federal tax base will not be able to support both Social Security and some form of extended health care system (Medicare) without tax hikes that will ultimately destroy the tax base, and leave the federal government incapable of doing anything else but providing free Viagra and cutting social security checks for the two wealthiest generations in American history (the remnants of the "Greatest Generation" who have milked the system for far more than they ever paid in, and the selfish "Baby Boomers" who believe the world owes them a living because they went to Woodstock).

Now, it's bad enough that our "economic geniuses" on Wall Street and in the hallowed refuges of the Executive Washroom are shipping our jobs overseas, making those who can find employment work longer hours for less pay and fewer benefits, and bribing our government to allow unfettered illegal immigration in order to re-establish what true liberal policies once eliminated; slavery within the borders of the United States. Eventually, there will be no jobs, for anyone, no paychecks being collected, no taxes generated and all of our wealth shipped to China, Bangladesh and Singapore. And then what will we do? No money for defense, no money for bribing the unproductive, no cash to keep Grandma in Claritin, ultimately, no money for the rest of us. For anything.

So, it's time to make a choice; if you're one of those who believes, like John Edwards, that the government should provide health care to the masses, then you must be prepared to give something up. Like Social Security, perhaps. If you're one of those who believes Social Security has outlasted it's usefulness to American society and should have a stake driven through it's black heart, then you should also realize that it will soon be impossible for any American (except the shrinking ownership class) to afford to have an eye exam or get a cavity filled, and that it is now inevitable that some form of national health care is in the offing. And that it should be paid for...somehow.

In lieu of the Sturm und Drang of the Iraq imbroglio, I have yet to hear anyone bring this topic up. Probably because it isn't 'sexy' and because both sides would rather have the issues left ambiguous in order to gin up grievances for electoral purposes.

but eventually, that sort of choice is going to have to be made. America, start thinking about it; you can be mollycoddled in your old age, or you can be kept healthy enough (perhaps) to reach old age, but not both.

As for John Edwards, brazenly hypocritical doesn't even begin to describe him. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.
All the News That's, Yada, Yada, Yada...

Check out this blurb from,2933,271577,00.html

Then ask yourself this; at what point does it become impossible NOT to laugh at today's corporate manager?

Outsourcing your LOCAL reporting to Bombay? I shake my head in disgust at both the need to maximize profits, at all costs (including that of credibility), and at the fact that the people who made this decision are also the people who decide what we read in their paper.

It's a sad commentary on the state of the media, at the very least.

Friday, May 04, 2007

No More Debates, Please...
We've had two Presidential Debates thus far. That is one adjective and one noun too generous, in my estimation.

We had 9 or 10 (it's hard to count people that intellectually small as actual human beings) democrats the week before last, and this week, it was the turn of the 10 or so republicans. This is the state of American politics; 19 people are vying for the chance to spend an estimated $1 billion (of other people's money, of course) to be publicly humiliated, to have every aspect of their lives pried into in a manner which makes a proctological examination seem like a good way to spend the off-evening or two, to run themselves ragged attending prayer breakfasts in Iowa before jetting off for the hog-wrestling in Alabama, and then off to the Jackhammer -Iron Man-Face-Rodeo in San Francisco (all in the same day), all for the purposes of obtaining a job that pays $200,000 a year, and comes with the added benefit that it will age the hell out of you, probably destroy your health, and drive you insane with the amount and vigor of the criticism aimed at you.

But you do get the swanky address and that really boffo helicopter. Oh, and the nuke privleges. Anyways...

What does that tell you about the Presidency, and more specifically, the type of people who run for the office? I could start at "shameless", move on to "hypocritical" and then really get all warmed up with "narcissistic", and I truly wouldn't even be getting started.

But what really gets my goat about this process thus far, is that the quality of candidate seems to have sunk to all-time lows. We can expect the usual nonsense; which democrat can adequately convince you that he or she is the second coming of Lenin (only with compassion and a better wardrobe), as opposed to which republican can convince you with a straight face that they understand concepts like responsibility and propriety. Neither side apparently knows anything about the Middle Class, which they all "speak to", but who are being tossed aside faster than panties on Prom Night. What was totally unexpected, by me, in both debates, was the general lack of anything appealing ---- in all 20 individuals. Never mind ideology, give me someone who isn't molded, reshearsed, focus-grouped and demographically-approved!

Personally, I think instead of debates we should hold steel-cage matches --- first one to emerge with a serious brain injury gets inaugurated.
Sean Hannity: Unhinged...
Can we finally stop? Please? It hurts too much.

Raw, unbridled partisanship, unfortunately, permeates every nook and cranny in our society. It's beginning to become counter-productive and detrimental to our continued existance as a unified, democratic state. Nowhere was this more vividly on display than on last night's edition of Hannity&Colmes, which despite the war in Iraq, despite the Republican nominee's debate, despite a million other important things. started it's show with a...ahem...debate...about Time magazine's list of the Hundred Most Influential people in the Universe.

I watched Sean Hannity in full, excruciating, near-menstrual dudgeon over the fact that Time's readers managed to compile a "100 Most influential" list that had Usama Bin Laden on it, but not George W. Bush. This sent Sean into paroxysms of panty-bunching as he debated (snicker, snicker) Juan Williams over who is more influential; a has-been Terrorist leader who might be dead already, or a soon-to-be-has-been President who might sometimes wish he were dead, given the criticsm (deserved or no) heaped upon him? Ex-Senator Rick Santorum came along, apparently to add 'gravitas' to Sean's position, or maybe because the guy from the BudLight "Rock, Paper, Scissors" commercial wasn't available. In any case, Santorum did nothing but echo Sean, while Williams floundered attempting to answer questions that are, in effect, about style and personal tastes, rather than substance.

In terms of informative, provacative television that makes you think, I think I would have preferred it if FoxNews just televised the activity in Britt Hume's fish tank for that sixty minutes (assuming Britt has one),or pehaps ran re-runs of "Love Boat". It would have been far more entertaining, vastly more informative, and overwhelmingly less childish.

It wasn't all that long ago that I got fed up with Bill O'Reilly, and now Hannity&Colmes is headed down the toilet too. I never watch Greta Van Sustern because, well, who gives a damn about what she "investigates", except people who can't tell a tabloid from their butthole?

FoxNews is getting progressively worse, not better, as time goes on. Bill O'Reilly is allowed to pollute the airwaves with 60 Minutes of narcissism every night (when he isn't playing Trivial Pursuit with Steve Doocey) and now Sean Hannity is allowed to go ballistic for 20 minutes on a subject that in the world OUTSIDE narrow, hyper-partisan-eight-second-sound-bite-gotcha-tea-cup tempests 'political debate' , means absolutely shyte.?

Don't get me started on the waste of airtime that is "Red Eye".

Sean, buddy, relax. Deep breath. Calm down.

Now go get an enema...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

George Tenet is a Big, Fat Liar...
Former CIA-director George Tenet is in a snit recently, having just found out that words can, indeed, come back to haunt you.

Mr. Tenet claims that his use of the phrase "slam-dunk" relating to pre-war intelligence of Iraqi WMD potential was used, improperly, in the justification of a war against Saddam Hussein's murderous regime. Apparently, Mr. Tenet (three years AFTER the fact) is claiming that his reputation has been unfairly tarnished because anytime someone asks "Why did the United States undertake what seems to be a losing war in Iraq?", the answer involves the fact that Mr. Tenet said, at some point, that the intelligence was airtight that Saddam had WMD's, the capability to produce more, and that he had the information to prove it. Thus the use of the colloquial phrase "slam-dunk". He now claims, in hindsight, that perhaps his information was not exactly airtight and that in any case, members of the National Security apparatus (in particular Dick Cheney) had war against Iraq in their heads from the first day of the Bush administration, and that they were just waiting to hear something in order to justify it. The implication is that they (Bush and, especially, Cheney) heard only what they wanted to hear, and damned the rest.

His contention is that "the fix" was in, and whatever he said is irrelevant, so, could we stop all this foucs on "slam-dunk" and get back to the real problem at hand, which is how to surrender as quickly as possible and leave millions of Iraqis who might support us hanging in the breeze, so that he can get back to perhaps lobbying for another job in a possible democratic administration in 2009?

What Mr. Tenet still refuses to answer, however, is how his agency could have been so wrong in the first place on 9/11, terrorism in general and Iraq specifically, and why it all happened on his watch? What was he doing when he was giving assurances which later turned out to be erroneous? What the heck does CIA do besides hand out plum intelligence assignments to non-intelligence types based on apparent nepotism (the entire Plame fisaco)?

Until Mr. Tenet answers those questions, without his whining about his repurtation and the uttering of a phrase he now claims was innocuous, I'm not exactly motivated to a) listen to him or b) believe him on anything.

Iraq and democrats (small 'd' intentional)...
Benchmarks. Timetables. Metrics.

Amazing how the party that typically pooh-poohs things like "accountability" and "evidence"
suddenly wants both, post-haste, huh?

Look, I'm not going to defend the Bush Administration on the Iraq fiasco (and that's exactly what it is). I've probably posted this before, but there's a host of reasons why Iraq has not been a glowing success for the Administration to date. They are:

1. No actual "war" was fought. The Iraqi army was not defeated on the batlefield, bayonet-to-bayonet; it was allowed to run away.

2. The rather simplistic plan (i.e. bumrush Baghdad, get Saddam, open a Stock Exchange, poof! Instant Democracy!) wasn't exactly realistic. It neglected an awful lot of cultural and religious issues, and took it for granted that Iraqis not only knew what freedom meant, but would understand what to do with it once it was provided.

3. Neglected to remember that after every dictator has been deposed there is a host of would-be dictators who would love to take his place, and are willing to fight for it, too.

4. the American government is far too easily persuaded by small groups of expatriates that their homelands are fairly screaming for democracy and that the population is straining at the leash to try MTV and free-market economics.

5. Democracies are not created in a few months. Purple fingers do not a deocracy make. They are the end result of a complex process of cultural, legal, and political amalgams that requires time to work themselves out. What works stays, what doesn't gets chucked, but everything typically gets a try.

Now, as to the democrats and all this blather of not funding anything if they don't get their checklist of "prerequisites for surrender by other names"; umm, you all voted for it (this war) at some point, did you not? You can forget about the semantic arguments of 'giving the president the authority to use force, if necessary' and then making the case that Iraq was not necessary. Doesn't hold water. The American public was behind this effort when it was a three-walk cake walk, and you voted accordingly. Some democrats claim there wa sno time to debate military action; I seem to recall 18 months of debate, including a large portion of it in front of the United Nations.

Get this through your skull; the United States, for better or worse, broke Iraq (or made it even worse than it was). We (and that includes YOU) are responsible. You moreso --- you voted for the war and you voted to pay for it. Repeatedly. You can't run out on the Iraqi's and if you do, you will be rightly accused of cheapening the sacrifice of 3,500 Americans. You don't have the right to have a clean slate for your presumptive president in 2009, which is what all this crap is about. God forbid President Hilary has to actually handle a war! That's not the Clinton M.O. ---Clintons like it nice and quiet, so that they can do nothing and then take credit for everything.

Then again, Mrs. Clinton will only see the inside of the White House again when her Senate days are over and she has to take a job as a chambermaid because the Social Security money ran out, so I guess that's all wishful thinking on your part anyways.

As for the present occupants of the White House; how come you haven't made this case? How come you haven't fessed up to the mistakes you've made? How come you haven't put the case before the Iraqis that they should get off the stick? You know, you can sit here and cry that democrats beat you on an issue that should have been ironclad for you (national security and war), but you're not exactly instilling confidence in anyone, either.
Of Maniacs and Campuses...
Several weeks late and a few dollars short, time to chime in on the Virginia tech shooter.

I guess I should, I mean, everyone else has. And most of them, I think missed the mark, so why shouldn't I take a whack at it?

To begin with, Cho Sung-hui (or whatever his name is, I can't be bothered to actually look it up) was a deranged man. That should be obvious to even Ted Kennedy. Sane people do not murder 32 people, make rambling video statements, and mail them off to NBC News, apparently all on the same day.

The obvious questions have been asked; How did this hapen? Where were the police and campus security? What made this guy flip? What made him tick?And then the stupid questions were asked; Isn't this a wonderful example of why we should have gun control in this country? How many more Cho's are out there? I can answer those last two questions: no, and, who the hell knows?

There was one interesting development in this case that I noted just as soon as I'd heard it; at some point in his life, Cho was deemed insane by a judge (and we all KNOW what fine arbiters of sanity American judges are), and let loose on his own recognisence, i.e. on the premise that he get himself some help.

Now here is where I can sympathize with Cho. I certainly don't agree with what he did (I don't see how any reasonable person can), but given that shred of information and viewing his rambling video monlogue in this light, I can make a leap (and I admit, I have no idea if it's correct) and see where a guy just might get pissed off enough to shoot 32 people; someone labeled him a lunatic (whether or not he was prior to his enocunter with the legal system is immaterial to this argument) and then made no effort to get him any help.

Worse, and I can attest to this, since I've suffered from the same stigma; once you have that (you've been branded a lunatic or have a history of mental illness, no matter how slight) in your jacket, God help you. It follows you around. Want that choice job? You won't get it after your prospective employer does a rudimentary background check on you. Want insurance? You won't get it when the insurance company finds out a judge said you're off your chump.

Now, What if...

What if Cho was indeed mentally ill, but that it was an illness of such a nature that it was treatable with therapy and medication, and would not impair him or cause him to be a danger to himself or others? Is that fair to him to have that stigma attached, and worse, electronically transmitted everywhere in the world for anyone willing to make an effort to find it? (Do a Google search on yourself and see what comes back. You'd be amazed!).

What if Cho seriously was ill and the judge abrogated his responsibility (not wanting to seem harsh to a sick man) to society, and instead of doing the proper thing (commiting this guy against his will), let him go, without supervision, without treatment, and probably stewing in his own juices long enough to go postal on his college campus?

The one question that has NOT been asked in the aftermath of the entire episode is this: was this man sick enough to go beserk BEFORE he ran afoul of the law and the judge, or was his intial condition perhaps treatable and curable, but the resulting stigma of a ruling of serious mental illness propelled him further into psychosis? For all we know, Cho might have had something as simple as an anxiety disorder or maybe was bi-polar, conditions that are easily treated, and that relatively slight disorder became something else because he felt persecuted for it afterwards.

The news media was much too quick to drop this story, and for obvious reasons. The storyline had run it's course; man shoots 32 folks, man is identified as a lunatic, man leaves rambling video for Brian Williams to exploit. There's nothing left to talk about after that. Just one more crazy bastard roaming our streets, but fortunately, they only pop up every few years in this fashion and then we can go back to ignoring them again.

A million "experts" will now rummage through Cho's diaries, writings, computer, etc. in an attempt to "understand" the "mind of a mass-murderer". They will learn very little, I'm betting, and in another year or so we'll have another Cho.

The only lesson to be learned form this is that how we treat people who are mentally ill, (especially those who exhibit symptoms that are, of their nature, usually temporary, and completely curable) just might have repercussions. Deadly repercussions. I'm not for imprisoning people against their will (unless there's simply no other way), but I'm also convinced (from personal experience) that the current methods leave much to be desired when it comes to getting people back into society either during, and particularly after, treatment.

Let Brian Williams do some "investigative journalism" on that! What he finds will shock you, not so much because there is a host of disturbed folks out there, but by how shabbily they are treated by the medical establishment, the insurance companies, the police and social services, and especially by employers. And pay special attention to what happens to them once their 'condition' becomes common knowledge, courtesy of the Information Age. It makes Nuremberg Laws regarding the wearing of the Star of David seem tame by comparison. (Ed. Note: Yes, it is as bad as the Holocaust and the harrassment of Jews under the Nazis. Please, don't bother to complain).

Sometimes, that's even after the medical establishment, such as it is, considers them cured.
Yet Another Hiatus...And A New Idea...
Long time, no blog.

It's inevitable, sometimes. Sometimes I don't feel like ranting. Sometimes the potential subject matter is so inane or so disinteresting as to make it impossible to get up the ambition to post something. Anything.

Unless, of course, you get yelled at for apparently not having anything to say at all.

That's what happened to me last week, if you'll believe it.

I was informed by an old friend, who now lives in England, that having started this little screed, I have a sorta-kinda responsibility to continue it on a regular basis. Not the least because, it's some sort of outlet for me, but because he actually reads this thing in order to get some idea of what is actually happening here in the United States. Somehow, he's come to depend upon me (silly bastard!) for an 'unbiased' view.

The BBC must really suck.

Of coure, it's flattering to know that someone is reading this (and taking it seriously, no less!), and that this slender audience is, as they say in the business world, 'global'. Never mind the actual numbers, dammit (I never have); someone in another time zone, on another continent is scarring his eyeballs with this caustic bullshit.

Which got me to thinking (which hurt incidentally); if there's one guy in another country looking at this, then the potential is there to have another guy in Bombay reading it. And then, with any luck, some lady in Japan with a few minutes to spare (and a similar mental affliction) , might think this is a good way to brush up on her English. Going global? Who woulda thunk it?

I certainly didn't. But in a sense, this is a global medium. On the 'net there is no such thing as borders (no matter what the Chinese gov't and Google say). So, why shouldn't I make an effort to take this global?

The only problem is I'm one person. I can't possibly know everything that's happening everywhere, let alone form opinions on it all. Sooooo...I think I'm going to allow other posters to use my site, too. Not only would it be interesting to get more feedback about what happens here (when it does happen) from one guy in Watford, but it would also be interesting to see what other people are thinking. No more monlogue to myself; perhaps a forum for actual debate on world-wide issues and viewpoints?

Lord knows doing so might actually get someone reading this besides me and my relatives.

So, if there is anyone, anywhere, who is interested in joyriding and taking this beyond it's current, limited scope, please respond to this post. The only requirements, I guess, are that you can write in English and can make a half-way decent argument, about anything, without getting too venomous. Various viewpoints welcome, but I reserve the right to editorial control. I don't wish to impose censorship upon anyone, but I will not allow a post that is extremely nasty or somesuch. After all, my name (for what that's worth) is attached to this.

So, I hope to hear from several eager, wanna-be bloggers in the very near future!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Old-Time Hockey...
I don't think I've ever mentioned it here before, but I'm a huge hockey fan. Have been since the late 80's when baseball went though it's multiple strikes and became a "pretty-boy's" game. Funny, but my brother is a collegiate baseball coach, and I constantly hear him refer to some of his players as being "hard-nosed", and it's all I can do to keep from laughing. There is nothing "hard-nosed" about baseball anymore. Pete Rose was hard-nosed. Frank Robinson was hard-nosed. Most ball players these days break a fingernail and spend 45 days on the Disabled List. Heck, the Chicago Cubs Kerry Wood just injured himself exiting a hot tub! Hard-nosed injury, indeed!

I was thinking about this yesterday while watching the Rangers/Flyers game. The thought also crossed my mind last week watching my Devils play the self-same Flyers. The carnage on the ice recently has been great. I don't mean "carnage" as in resulting from the gratuitous violence of the sort that marred the game in the past; this is carnage that is being inflicted by playing the game by the rules. In yesterday's game, the Ranger's Brendan Shanahan, on of my all-time favorites, was carried off the ice on a stretcher after a collision at center ice, a total accident. I certainly hope he's perfectly fine, of course (I don't want to see people hurt) and returns to the game soon, but it's incidents like this recently that remind me just why I took to hockey to begin with.

It's a physical game. Infinitely moreso than baseball. Much more than football (in which the physical aspects of the game take place in 3-8 second bursts, interspersed with 2 minute intervals in which people stand around waiting for the officials to spot the ball and start the clock). It's IMMESURABLY more physical than basketball, which is hardly a sport at all, in my opinion. In my opinion, if you don't get bones broke on a regular basis, it ain't a sport; it's a game.

However, to look at hockey over the last few years, you could be forgiven for questioning whether it ever was a physical game. In an attempt, I guess, to respond to the pussified cries of Canadian fans who nowadays blanch at the THOUGHT of the sight of blood, the panty-bunched uber-parents of suburban America determined to mold their little tykes in an antisceptic way, and due to the influx of (relatively cheap) European players who play years without giving or receiving a body check, the game got soft. It's current brain-trust (led by the soft-brained Commissioner, Gary Bettman) seems determined to make it even more so with it's ridiculous rules changes.

However, there is a ray of sunshine on the horizon. The players themselves seem to have taken matters into their own hands, and seem determined to revive the sport they grew up playing and which I so love. Tune in nowadays and you'll see more hitting, more fighting, more grit, than you have seen in a decade, and which many of the rules changes were intended to eliminate. And I've seen it all happen within the last few weeks.

Despite last night's aberration (the game between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres saw 110 penalty minutes racked up, with a few brawls, even between goaltenders), the game is getting back to it's roots: speed, physical play and grit. It's a beautiful thing.

So, if you've never watched hockey before, I recommend you do so now. It's exciting again!