Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Do I Even Bother?

Why do I even bother having a political blog? It's entirely because my sister wanted to hear somebody say something nice about Obama and I have this whole political theory involving Argentina that...
And here's the thing. The Fluffington Post is a better parody! ;-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Underestimating the Importance of Race

I feel that after Barack Obama's election there were a lot on the left/liberal side who felt that conservatives were going to be given a free ride. They feared the Right saying "Look, there's no more racism. We have a Black President. See? No more racism." And to some degree there was some of that noise in the talk-radio spectrum of politics.
To counteract that there was quite a bit of "Hey, this doesn't mean that the history of racism is all over." from the Left-ish part of the blogosphere.
But I think we've tended to overlook the fact of the raw power of the President of the United States of America. The guy in charge, the guy in office, that guy -- is Black.
And it does mean something. No, it's not the end of racism as we know it. But it is a significant and real change. And it's a change in actual power, not just symbolic power.
And you realize that for a while, no matter how brief, the leading candidates from both American parties were Black, right? Obama is the default candidate for the Democratic Party and for like three weeks there Herman Cain was the leading Republican Party candidate.
This is significant.
And although it doesn't mean that there aren't White racist asshats. And it doesn't mean that more insidious kinds of racism and stereotypes don't exist. No no no. But...
But the fact is that the leading executive in the United States is, in fact, Black. And there's genuine meaning to that in that it doesn't matter how racist an idiot I may be: if my boss is black then... well then so what? I can hate my boss as much as I want for whatever reason I want, but when my boss tells me to show up to work on time I sure as hell better show up for work on time.
And although we don't work for the President, if we want to get anything done we better talk nicely to him or he'll ignore us -- making us politically moot and weak. It's kind of the opposite of the Malcom X joke:
Q. "What does a White supremacist call the Black President of the United States?"
A. "If he wants to get any legislation passed he sure as hell better call him 'Mr. President'."
Why? Because to call him anything else makes you politically irrelevant. "Disenfranchised" even.
Having a Black President means something. And it means something big. Sure, I'm not entirely sure what it means -- not precisely at least -- it's important and it's a huge milestone for our society.
All jokes aside about the Chairman of the Fed, The President of the United States is the most powerful single individual in the world. If you want to have political power, you have to deal with the fact that the biggest dog on the block (how many mixed metaphors is that, exactly) is a Black man.
End of racism? No. Making racism moot? Well, that is a place we could be on our way to.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Of all the racial slurs ever uttered, "Charlie", for a Vietnamese person, is probably the least inherently offensive. IMHO.
The closest equivalent I can think of is "Jerry" for a German person. Oddly, Wikipedia does not describe "Jerry" as offensive.
"Charlie" was specifically used for enemy Vietnamese, and the etymology was simply the use of "Victor Charlie" (military radio code) for "Viet Cong", or North Vietnamese irregular army.
Which makes it interesting in the world of slurs.
Now, make no mistake, calling everyone who is your "enemy" the name Charlie does indeed help to de-humanize them. That is, perhaps, explicitly the point of using slurs. But "Charlie" has the perhaps unintended affect in that it's also a somewhat friendly-sounding name (in English).
The way it's not used is when speaking to an individual North Vietnamese person. For instance, you can imagine someone calling to an American soldier "Hey Joe -- you want to buy some of my wares?" Or to an English soldier "Hey Tommy -- you want to buy some of my wares?" But "Hey Charlie..."? Nope, doesn't work.
Now, note that it's patronizing to call all English "Tommy" and all Americans "Joe". And also note that there isn't really a big tradition of Vietnamese soldiers being in other (well, Western) countries. But who knows? (What did Cambodians call the Vietnamese soldiers?)
But what is just patronizing, what is downright insulting, and what is completely neutral always changes. Just look at the attitudes of different generations toward different words for African-Americans. From the n-word, to negro, to colored, to black, to Afro-American, and now there are even some that insist that the n-word is completely acceptable again.*
It's difficult for a lot of people to understand (or even remember) that "Asian" is acceptable while "Oriental" is not. What makes that even harder is that a bunch of older Chinese still call themselves "oriental". Yeah. Language is wacky like that.
So, you're asking yourself, "where are you going with all this?"
Nowhere, actually. My goal was to come up with the name we'd call the aliens in the future. "Dave", "Zoroaster", "Andy?" I got nuthin' 'cause none of it has any cultural weight. It sort of feels right to call your enemy "Charlie" (which, as far as I know, is simply not used by American racists to refer to any Asians) when thinking of it outside of the "slur" and just from a dialog point of view (I've been watching Apocalypse Now, do forgive me.)
Maybe we should just call all humans NooBs...

*Not to this white guy, but to others perhaps.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


John Scalzi cracks me up. He looks at the current field of Republican candidates. This is what he has to say about Santorum:

"If he and Bachmann were the last presidential candidates on Earth, I would vote to return the US to Britain."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stim This

Do you like stimulus packages? I know that you do. Here are two fun facts:
1. The stimulus worked
2. The stimulus wasn't nearly enough

Now it's my recollection that Krugman has been saying this for years. But this is the winning quote:
Everyone always thinks this time will be different: The bubble won’t burst because this time, tulips won’t lose their value, or housing is a unique asset, or sophisticated derivatives really do eliminate risk. Once it bursts, they think their economy will quickly clamber out of the ditch because their workers are smarter and tougher, and their policymakers are wiser and more experienced. But it almost never does.
"Tulips won't lose their value."
"Nobody's making more real estate!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The Barack Obama campaign is amazing. They are using the media circus of the GOP against the GOP -- this is something that I don't think many national Democrats have ever done before. The GOP Debate Watch makes a drinking game out of the platitudes and inanities that come out of the mouths of the Republicans.
Oh man. That is a very smart bit of social networking right there.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Anarchist Conspiracy to Disrupt Global Markets

So here's the thing. In the post - 9/11 - world the authorities simply can't call protestors "terrorists". They used to, boy, let me tell you. But they just can't anymore. Nobody will buy it. They'll try almost anything else though.

And the other thing I appreciate is the Occupy Wall Street not being all like "Obama is exactly the same as the Republicans" which was basically the message the "Millionaires for Bush and Gore" were all about c2000.

The "left" in America are often all too ready to jump on the Democrats because they're "exactly the same" as the Republicans. Now maybe that level of BS has been reduced because we saw just how bad things got under Bush II ten years ago when the left was saying that so now they think that yeah, OK, maybe the Democrats aren't as bad as Republicans. I dunno.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mea Culpas

So the New York Times takes a bit of responsibility for the sheer malarky level of hoo-ha they spouted encouraging the US to get into the Iraq invasion.

Keller apologizes. But that's not without caveats:
We forget how broad the consensus was that Hussein was hiding the kind of weapons that could rain holocaust on a neighbor or be delivered to America by proxy.
Uh. No we don't. Even freakin' Newsweek could smell the bullshit on Colin Powell's breath when he tried to convince the UN that Hussein had chemical-weapons trailers that were roaming around the desert.

And you know what? This is total crap:
If there was only a 50-50 chance that Hussein was close to possessing a nuclear weapon, could we live with that? One in five? One in 10? 
 We were aware with 100% assuredness that Iraq had no nuclear program at all before we invaded. You didn't need some sort of high-security clearance to know Iraq no longer had a nuclear program, you only had to ask the scientists who had defected.
Lots of people did. As as much as they hated Saddam Hussein and wanted the US to invade Iraq, they would tell you there was no nuclear program in the years leading up to the invasion.
Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call. I could not foresee that we would mishandle the war so badly, but I could see that there was no clear plan for — and at the highest levels, a shameful smugness about — what came after the invasion.  
What? Everybody who had any sense at all at the time realized that. In fact, the whole argument about news agencies vs those political bloggers (ahem) came about because so many blogs called the whole thing right -- right down the line. It was completely eminently clear that there was no plan for after the invasion. The whole military point the Administration was trying to make was that we get in, topple the government, and get out. How could you not remember that?
And then to whine that people don't trust you anymore?
“Whatever we wrote — no matter what it was, and no matter how well documented — was dismissed as Bush propaganda,” added Dexter Filkins, who covered the battlefields and politics of Afghanistan and Iraq for The Times...
Do you remember that the New York Times had an actual mole for the Bush Administration as a member of its reporting staff?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


The Washington Post -- pthththht. Kessler hates the chart that would dare show that Obama didn't somehow magically increase the debt the way the right wing likes to pretend he did.

"But the biggest problem is that this is just dumb math. What really counts is not the raw debt numbers, but the size of the debt as a percentage of the gross domestic product."

Really? Dumb math? Maybe you could argue that's a methodological error. But the bad math accusation doesn't really hold water here. (There apparently had been a math error but Nancy Pelosi's office corrected it and that's reflected in the chart above.) The math is perfectly fine.

What they would like to see is a chart which shows debt as a percentage of GDP. Which, by wacky coincidence, makes Obama look bad (although it arguably makes Republicans look worse).
But the claims that Pelosi is somehow "cherry - picking" her data by insisting the data be cherry-picked even more is absurd. Yeah, if we put enough disclaimers on our charts (that it's "public" debt vs. gross debt) or add enough figures (debt as a portion of blonde-haired-children GDP) then I'm sure we can find numbers that will please the Tea Party.
But the fact is that the chart isn't bogus. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bore Me

I don't like my government to be exciting. I like it to be bland and boring. That's why I like Barack Obama as a President. In campaigns he's good at being fiery. But when he's actually governing he's staid, mature, and thoughtful.

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Know What?

I don't feel like reflecting on the tenth anniversary of 9-11. Why should those ass monkeys who killed thousands of people be able to tell me what to do with my Septembers from now on? Those douche canoes don't deserve the time of day, much less a week of hand wringing remembrance.
The people who were killed? Well the way I was brought up I believe that they don't care. They've moved on to a better place.
The people who loved those who were lost? Actually, those people can and should do whatever they want. Grief is a complicated thing.
I just don't want the media shoving it down my throat for the next few days.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm sorry

Do you still doubt my contention that 911 wouldn't have happened if Al Gore had become President?
This bunny is as surprised as you are.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sarah Palin is a communist

OK, so it's kinda obvious that if Sarah Palin were running in a different universe, in a different country at a different time she'd be going on and on about how perfectly socialist her state of Alaska, where they share the oil wealth among the people. Oh wait, she already does that.
Yeah, sometimes she really sounds like a fellow traveler.

Like here when she was in Iowa she would like 2012 candidates to fight "croney capitalism."
Are we suddenly Union guys back in a company town? In 1911?
She sounds like Eugene Debs for crying out loud.
Of course, to be fair, she did follow that up with a screed about lowering corporate income taxes. But to me she sounds like someone who in a different place and time would be the great SP party member...
Then the right wing would make fun of her kids' names.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Socialism and You

So my eldest brother, as my eldest brother will do, posted a pro-union screed on Facebook about the Verizon strikers winning the strike because Verizon didn't force givebacks.
My brother has what we might euphemistically call "conservative" friends.
The first response on the Facebook thread was:
Contribute to your health benefits like all the rest of us do. Why should you be any different?
Why indeed?
What's fascinating to me is that essentially this argument is communistic. Why should one set of workers be any different than another set? We should all be the same, comerade.
Now, I'm sure the writer consciously believes in "free markets" and hates unions and otherwise despises all things that are Left-ish or Liberal-ish.
But he also wonders why some workers should be any different than others.
Why? This isn't any kind of Marxist communism, this is just down-home, 1863-style (heck, maybe even 1789-style) communism.
Of course, the Lefty answer to "why should you be any different?" is "Well, because we used collective bargaining we didn't push for higher pay, but rather health care, and because the employer gets better tax breaks for providing health care, that's what they agreed to. We'd like them to hold to that agreement."
So... that's a thing.
Why should those Verizon workers be any different?
Maybe all workers should be paid the same. Hmm...

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Break

Ahh, I get it now. The Republicans will pretend the whole Libya thing never happened. None of them will eat their words, of course, especially not Bachman whose dismissive "if it's led by the French then it can't work" attitude.
There's an attempt to blame Obama for not doing... er... something... fast enough. Nobody really knows what that is either.
A Republican administration would have mucked up the whole thing. Didn't you hear Cheney complaining about how Mubarak was "our friend" when we were giving him the bum's rush?
So, are we seriously not giving Obama credit for getting Usama Bin Laden? Or for diplomatically helping usher in the Arab Spring? Or for not committing the military when Qaddafi was bombing civilians?

Gimme a break.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Arab Spring

Q. How do you conduct a third war in Libya when you've already got your hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan?
A. Let the French do it.
The Tea Parties crazies are going to hate that Obama's policy of letting NATO work with the rebel's was successful. They're going to try to change the subject as quickly as possible.
I have difficulty imagining anybody doing a better job than Obama with the Arab Spring -- a better job being measured by the lack of people getting killed while all these states transform themselves.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Obama is Still the Greatest President

Hi. I'm one of those people who's still thinking President Barack Obama is doing a bang-up job.
Why? Well I'll tell ya. Firstwise, let's see who we're comparing the Obama administration to:

  • McCain/Palin
  • Hillary Clinton/Unknown

Let's see how he'd stack up to the competition re: Syria. Here's from the Washington Post:

President Obama on Thursday for the first time explicitly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure on the government five months after the start of the uprising in that country.
Obama also issued an executive order immediately freezing all assets of the Syrian government subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting Americans from engaging in any transaction involving the government.

I think we can feel fairly confident that Obama's position is fairly liberal compared to a theoretical McCain or Clinton Administration's position. Indeed, I feel that's self-evident. And I think that it's self-evident that throwing al-Assad out is a good idea too. So I won't even argue those points, I'll assume you've stipulated them.
Case closed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Presidential Glass Ceiling

Caribou Barbie is funny, but Bible Spice is an even better name for Sarah Palin.
And this actually belies the point I'm going to make.
I think that Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman have smashed the glass ceiling of a woman becoming President of the United States. None of the passed through that ceiling, but my immeasurably prescient reading of the zeitgeist of  America says that it's so.
The press and Washington politics have been, quite simply, mean to Hillary Clinton. Since day 1. For Sarah Palin they waited until she showed herself to be as idiotic as she really is. And although the press take much glee in making fun of Bachman, it's because of the stupid that emerges from her mouth that they make fun of her. And boy, does she spew a lot of stupid.
My point is that it feels to me (and by that I mean when I go into a trance and ask the B'nurb of the Otherworld whether 'tis true or 'tis lies) that we, as a country, have gotten past having a woman as head of state.
Er. Now I'd like to amend all that. I think my conclusion is true but it occurs to me that Condoleezza Rice might be as much responsible as Clinton, Palin, and Bachman. Rice seems very smart. She backed some fantastically stupid policies. I mean, stunningly stupid. But unlike Palin and Bachman she seems very very smart. And yeah, if she weren't all decked out in the nicest suits the stupid press would have been all over her about it (like every time Clinton changed her haircut). But she seemed to be someone who could make reasonable decisions. Which is surprising, because she didn't. But she seemed like she could.
I would like a boring government. One that isn't just crazytime. Can we have some sound fiscal and economic policies? No? How about the economics of a five-year-old? That's what the Tea Party is, as far as I can tell. So the S&P just came out and said that talk of defaulting was what lowered the US's credit rating.
Just about the worst thing the Republicans could do would be to make Bachman their candidate. If I were a Republican I would revolt and start another party without the Tea Party nonsense people in it. Or, like most of them, just vote Democrat.
Because let's face it, Barack Obama is the best Republican President in like forever.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Shock Me

Wait, "Crazy Eyes" Bachman is a hypocrite about the Federal Government?
Shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
Is it possible for anyone to say with a straight face that somehow, magically, the Republican Party will lower the federal deficit? They don't have a record of doing that. They have a great record of spending -- far above the level Democrats have.
But either 1. that doesn't matter or 2. they're just insane.
With the Tea Party, I'm going with the insanity defense.
I'm waiting for what August will bring us.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Sharia State

I think that NJ Governor Christe's economic policies are atrocious. But I support him in resisting the anti-Muslim right's opposition to Judge Sohail Mohammed when he appointed him to Superior Court.
The right are, quite frankly, nuts. But anti-foreigner/anti-immigration ideologies don't play so well in the Greater New York area. This ain't Arizona or the Inland Empire. So it's interesting to see Republican heroes even saying that the "Ground Zero Mosque" is no big deal.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cornel West -- Ass Clown?

Cornell West certainly seems like a disingenuous idiot in his New York Times Magazine profile. Is he that much of a buffoon, or did the Times just try to make him seem like a blustering blowhard on purpose?

You lament in your book “Race Matters” that there’s a lack of black leadership. You’re smart, very charismatic — why did you never become what we would consider a black leader in the mold of Martin Luther King or Malcolm X? 
Well, one, it’s because we live in an age where there are no movements. But second, and most important, I have to be true to my calling. Martin King’s calling was to be a Christian preacher. Mine is much more linked to the life of the mind and being able to move back and forth. This weekend I was with Bootsy Collins at B.B. King’s. We wrote two songs together on his new album — that’s just one context where I try to play a very important role outside the academy. But my calling is still one of being an intellectual warrior and spiritual soldier.

Oh my. Really? You wrote two songs with Bootsy? Oh yeah, you're playing a very important role. I mean, you're a dipshit. Yeah, that's it.
I mean, he can't be the clown he sounds like in this interview. Or can he?

Saturday, July 23, 2011


My question of late starts with a supposition and then a means of inquiry

A. Don't use ideology in economic policy

But then:

1. How accurate is Paul Krugman?

As it turns out, pretty darn accurate. Apparently having a law degree tends to make you less accurate.

Since when has the Economist been communist?

Well, since sometime in the 1990's apparently. Traditionally Tory-ish Chicago-School conservatives, they abandoned their Milton Friedman-esque brethren sometime under the Clinton Administration.
Ronald Reagan talked a big game about deficit reduction but never did a damned thing about it. Clinton, however, made it a huge priority. And actually did something about it.
The Bush II Administration, in their way of "everything Clinton did was wrong", ran up the deficit like crazy. Huh. The Tea Partiers didn't seem to care about the deficit back then. I think those were the same people running around saying that we finally had God in office.
Anyway, back to the Economist:
Here they are on debt reduction.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Pack of Amusement

I'm especially amused by the Stephen Colbert PAC.

"Knock knock?" Colbert said.
"Who's there?" asked the crowd.
"Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions," Colbert said.
"Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions who?" the crowd replied.
"That's the thing, I don't think I should have to tell you," Colbert replied.

The Freakonomics dudes think that campaign finance has a very minimal effect on elections. Actually, I'd like to think this is true as it would eliminate a big concern regarding democracy altogether.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


It's almost August! And you know what that means. Crazytime!
What nutbag thing will the right wing come up with to be crazy about this August?
Obama is a muslin? Soo 2008.
Death panels? Well, it turns out those didn't happen...
9/11 Mosque? Done there, been that!
So what's coming up? I don't know, but it'll be ridiculous!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

World Without Hate

There are lots of people who still believe that just because of someone's religion (Islam) they have to be filled with hate toward everyone else.
Well here's a Muslim who is what my mother would have called "Christian" in his belief in the sanctity of human life. Even the life of a white supremacist who killed two other men and shot him in the face.

On his website he pleads for the life of murderer Mark Stroman:

I am requesting that Mark Stroman’s death penalty be commuted to life in prison with no parole. There are three reasons I feel this way. The first is because of what I learned from my parents. They raised me with the religious principle that he is best who can forgive easily. The second reason is because of what I believe as a Muslim, which is that human lives are precious and that no one has the right to take another human’s life. In my faith, forgiveness is the best policy and Islam doesn’t allow for hate and killing. And, finally, I seek solace for the wives and children of Mr. Hasan and Mr. Patel, who are also victims in this tragedy. Executing Stroman is not what they want, either. They have already suffered so much; it will only cause more suffering if he is executed.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I'm sure you're asking "Why is the House negotiating the debt with the President?"
Well, I'm asking that question anyways.
The President does indeed have the power to veto any bill the House comes up with. But the Senate can vote down whatever nonsense the House invents too. The President can usually champion budgets, acting as de-facto leader of their party.
The strangest part of the whole thing, to me, is that Republicans are known for talking big when it comes to a balanced budget, but not doing anything about it. Clinton actually balanced the budget, and when G. W. Bush came in and had a majority Republican Congress they completely squandered it. This isn't a matter of any kind of opinion. This is simply factual.
I have complaints about economists. I hate the way economics has narrowed its focus over the last hundred years so that it can't see the forest for the trees.
I just read "Super Freakanomics". At one point they mention economist Keith Chen and say:
"After a brief infatuation with Marxism, he made an about-face and took up economics."
Hardy-har-har, guys. Now there are two choices here, either Levitt and Dubner were being sarcastic or, worse, they weren't.
So just imagine, these dudes are behavioral economists. And they don't even think that Marx is the father of their science. No, they conveniently skip over Marx and go backwards to Adam Smith. And lets face it, Smith wasn't very smart. Smith tried to describe the economic system as a working system -- when it was very clear it wasn't. You might fault Marx for his predictions about the future, but his description of the economic system in the latter part of the 19th century were pretty good.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flag Fun

If you ever wanted to trash your chances of being elected to public office in the United States*, try saying that the American flag is ugly.
But let's face reality. The American flag has some real problems.
1. It isn't symmetrical and;
2. The design is very busy.
Old Glory.
To my eye, the image of the American flag comes very close to moire-ing.
So... I think that flags should
1.aesthetically not be very busy and
2. should be symmetrical. And under no circumstances should
3. there be freakin' writing on a flag, but that's a matter for countries with dumb flags that have writing on them to take up (the South Korean flag might be an exception). There's yet another flag-rule which should perhaps only be a "guide" but:
4. stay away from black color on your flag. Again, South Korea might have special dispensation.
Flag of South Korea.
Anyway, back to the good ol' US of A. If I were holed up with Betsy Ross in a bunker back in '76 I'd a been all like snapping my fingers and saying "Honey, stars or stripes! Pick one!"
I think if we'd gone the stars route we might have got something like the modern EU flag.
Flag of the European Union.
Which is nice, actually. Simple. Elegant. But of course that's gone for us now as the EU has taken it.
Now remember that back in the day we were weaning ourselves off of the British flag. The Great British have a nice looking flag. Funny thing about the British flag -- it's fairly busy, possibly as busy as you can get without being too busy. Other funny thing -- it isn't symmetrical. I hadn't realized that before today.
The Union Jack? The British Flag.
The lack of symmetry takes points off of what would otherwise be a fine looking flag.
The Japanese flag has a lot going for it. It's very simple and elegant. It's as simple as possible actually. A single dot.
Japanese Flag.
From here on out we get to some politically problematic flags.
Here's a fascist flag of Franco's Spain:
Fascist Espana.
We can feel good looking at that flag because it is ugly, way too busy, and not symmetrical. It also has writing on it. And a lot of black. So it violates all the rules of good-looking flags and represents Facist Spain which was run by a load of buttheads.
Unfortunately a nominally good-looking flag is the NAZI flag. It's symmetrical** (albeit "mirrored" rather than left-right, which makes it difficult for little neo-nazi's to scrawl on bathroom doors), simple, but it does have black:
And, of course, it instantly turns anyone who likes it into a raging asshole. So there's that.
Backing off the depths of political yukkitude we come up for a breath of fresh mud and that is: the Confederate Flag. Politically loathsome, but actually aesthetically fairly beautiful.
It's symmetrical. Not too busy. Apparently it's not a cross exactly because of the influence of Southern Jews. Which is interesting. But if ol' Betsy had come up with this design instead of the Stars 'n Stripes so the Reb's couldn't have used it for the flag which defended slavery, we'd have a pretty nice looking flag, no?
*This is not something which concerns me personally as I have elected myself King, but that is another matter.
**You know what? It's just not symmetrical.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pride on 8th Street

Sitting on my perch in Jersey City I am renowned for my analysis of the zeitgeist of America. My finger is on the pulse of the youth of today.
This year's Gay Pride parade in New York has me dehydrated. And my wrists hurt from waving (seriously).
Coming two days after the vote legalizing gay marriage in the State of New York, this Pride Day feels somewhat different than Pride's of years past. I'm willing to admit that I may very well be projecting, but my feeling is that with all the celebration of Pride there's been a veneer or an underlying current of anger. Anger about discrimination, oppression, violence, AIDS.
But this year feels like a (bridal) veil has been lifted. The palpable joy, literally in the streets, comes without the hesitation of that bit of rage for once, because we've won such an important victory for human rights.

Straight White Guy Speaks Out on Gay Marriage

You know what I look forward to? When the idea of gay marriage isn't an issue. I look forward to some kid sneering up at me with that face kids make, saying "Yeah yeah, gramps, when you were growing up gays couldn't get married. That's about when dinosaurs roamed the earth, right?"
The fact is that gay marriage will be affecting this middle-aged, straight, white, guy. And I mean that more than the one marriage proposal I've gotten so far. How will it affect me? Well, I'll be living in a world where we don't discriminate against one more thing. And although that's going to affect gays more directly than if affects me, the world will be a better place and I'll be living in that better place.
So thanks to New York for legalizing same-sex marriages.
Hell, thanks to all the straight guys who voted for same-sex marriages.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Drug Testing

Here are instructions for how to pass a drug test.
My sister's cat, Sambuko.
Drug testing is by and large absurd. If someone is, for instance, operating heavy machinery while high, they ought to be fired. It's dangerous. But if they smoked a bowl last Saturday night -- so what? That's not going to affect whether they're able to drive a forklift on Monday.
Furthermore, we're real selective about which drugs we test for, aren't we? If you're running that backhoe while drunk, you're dangerous. But you're legally allowed to go get plastered on vodka and juice as soon as the 5 o'clock whistle blows. So although you can test how drunk someone is right now, you can't bust them for getting smashed on alcohol after work. But with "drug testing" you can fire them for having a joint two weeks ago.
How about we just worry about how well they're doing on that brake press. Hell, I'd rather someone be stoned than falling-down-tired on a brake press. In either case we should look at whether or not they're able to do their jobs, not what the results of some arbitrary test says about what they were doing a fortnight ago.
I once refused to sign a thing saying I'd let J&J perform a drug test on me whenever they wanted. This was for a freakin' freelance job. As an audio editor. Hell, I should be expected to be high while doing that. But it was their dumb corporate policy (hopefully it isn't anymore.)
I would never institute a drug testing policy. I might institute a general competence policy. But never drug testing. Because it's dumb.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Monarchies Make Great Democracies?

OK, so this is funny.

Look at the top 10 democracies on this list. Eight out of the top ten have constitutional monarchs. One of the countries just recently allowed women to vote.

In any case, this list (which is compiled by MI6 The Economist Intelligence Unit) takes an interesting look at the governments around the world. North Korea is in last place, Norway is in the top spot. Ireland takes 12th place, but above the US and the UK.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Like 1984 but 20 years later

So, the Bush Administration asked the CIA to dig up information on an American citizen, living in the US, who was a critic of the Iraq war.
I guess after the Valerie Plame episode we shouldn't be surprised.
But if you're going to try to say that the Obama Administration is just like the Bush Administration, I think you're going to have to get past this example of Bush Administration malfeasance.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Sometimes I think I need to make a well-argued and erudite post to write something here on Puppies and Toast.
But really, sometimes I just need to post a picture.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the Power of Giving

For the Tsunami in Japan there was noise on the Internet by what me might call the "no gooders" who said, essentially, "Why should we give money to help Japan?" Which quickly devolved into all sorts of "Blah blah blah World War II this and World War II that, when have they ever helped us?"
Of course, Japanese have provided donations and relief after Hurricane Katrina. Heck, the Japanese have donated heavily for our latest storm tragedies in the South.
But more rationally, and less mean-spiritedly I suppose one might ask: Why do 1st-world countries need to donate to one another? I mean, we're all powerful economies that can do most anything we put our minds to.
And I think the answer is as simple as it sounds like a platitude. We give to help people on the other side of the world because we can and because they're people we must.
Perhaps we could go even further: if we don't see "Japanese" or "American", we just see people in need and we reach out to help then our world becomes a closer one. A world further from war, a world further from hate.
Growing up, my mother would have said that's the "Christian" thing to do. I don't know how many Christians are in Japan, and I'm sure they have another way of thinking about it. But whatever gives Japanese schoolchildren to donate to a drive for New Orleans must be some of that same stuff that gives us to give to their Red Cross.
And that's good.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Malarkey For You

Oops... might have to rethink that one. Well, maybe think that one...
Hey, did you see the one where black women were objectively rated as less attractive than white women or Asians? It's totally true! I mean, except for the whole part of it where it's not. Psychology Today for the win!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Come and Gone

So I'm riding under one of those "The world will end May 21st" posters on the subway. It makes me kind of sad to think of the former MTA employee spending his pension on the posters. But of course some people will go on believing in any malarkey that comes their way.
It occurred to me though that this end-of-the-world prediction might be a one-trick pony. Never before has so much attention been focussed on a biblical prophecy of a specific end of the world date. Humans do have the ability to learn, or at least evolve (see: Seventh Day Adventists). So maybe the worst that will happen is we'll get a bunch of vegetarians out of it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

If we're gonna have racism, let's try to make it even stupider

I'm starting to think that arbitrary stereotypes, to the point of blatant absurdity, is the way to go. I mean the whole "You know how x loves to y" when race = x and y = some dumb thing everyone does anyway is indeed blatantly absurd, yes, but I say we do it to a higher degree of arbitrariness.

  • Have you noticed how black people, when they're doing more than one load of laundry, take the clothes out of the dryer and put the clothes from the washer into the dryer and the dirty clothes in the washer only to realize that they only brought 7 quarters and have to go back to their apartment to get another quarter to run the wash? That's just so like black people.
  • Have you noticed how Asians always find out they don't have any milk at 2am? Like, they could have looked in the refrigerator at 11:59pm and had time to go to the store to get more but, like all Asians, they wait until the middle of the night to run out of milk.
  • White people always hang plastic grocery bags from the handles of drawers in their kitchens when they're cooking. Kooky white people.
  • Jews always put the caps back on plastic bottles before they go to recycling. Typical Jewish behavior. 
  • You ever try to get a Puerto Rican to hang a picture without using a bubble level? You tell 'em to just "eye it" but they won't do it. Those Puerto Ricans and their bubble levels!
  • Have you ever seen a Laplander who didn't have at least two coffee cups filled with half-working pens and pencils? That's just so typically Laplander. Just ask anyone "Hey, you got a pencil with an old, hard, eraser in a cup?" If they say "yes", Laplander for sure.
  • South Africans won't use tabs in browsers. Those South Africans! They just hate tabs. Nobody knows why! It must be a South African thing.
Feel free to make up your own new and arbitrary stereotype. Good luck to the Flemish (who will clearly need it.)

UPDATE: clearly none of this is working. Except for the tabs thing these are just stupid things I do. At one time or another I have done every one of them. How could they actually be racial stereotypes? But all I'm hearing is "Oh yeah, white people totally do that with bags..."

Ya just can't win...

UPDATE UPDATE: Yeah, I'm getting some people who actually agree with these stereotypes. Or, they're arguing that I put the right stereotype with the wrong ethnic group. No, no, no. These are just stupid stereotypes arbitrarily assigned. Who hasn't brought enough quarters to the laundry? Gimme a break.
That, and arguments about whether you should put the tops back on plastic bottles before they go to recycling. Hmm... but those arguments were made by Sri Lankans...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Flattening

This 6-year-old review of Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" is hysterical.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Racism Is So Confusing It Doesn't Even Make Sense To Itself

So yesterday I had the stressful time of unloading the last of the stuff from my childhood home. I took Tom Rowen with me to hold my hand. It wasn't too bad, actually, as the house looks so dang different now. The new owners (who haven't actually closed yet) have been redoing the floors and have a lot of furniture moved in (which irked my dad to no end).
I saw this bumper sticker on the back of a pickup truck.
And, apparently like the vast majority of the Internet, it confuses me to no end. I figured, it's racist. But I don't know why. And I'm in the North. Maybe they guy really hates the fact that so much cotton imported into the north was the result of the slave trade and if he'd only realized that he would have picked his own. Yeah, right.
I'm sure it doesn't mean what it says -- "If I had known the Civil War would have happened I would have picked my own cotton."
The Internet seems confused too. Scoot down this blog post. He has no idea either.
I expect it's something more like "If I'd know we'd have a black President(?)/unspecified problems which I arbitrarily blame on black people/something else I would have picked my own cotton."
I... I simply can't figure it out.
UPDATE: oh, apparently the original,from which this is minced, read (more clearly and racist): "if I'd known they were going to be this much of a problem, I'd of picked my own cotton."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Osama's Assassination

So Osama bin Laden's kids are accusing the US of breaking international law? Boy, that's the pot calling the kettle black, ain't it?
Well, not really. Omar's argument is sound. And he has repeatedly and vehemently repudiated the use of violence in the past -- specifically repudiating his father's use of religious violence -- so his position isn't self-serving and seems consistent with his beliefs.
He has a decent point that his dad should have been tried in an international court. I'm buying it.
I think he's right -- I would have much preferred it if Osama had his butt thrown in the Hague and a real trial taken place.
There are a lot of good arguments for the existence of an International Court to try war criminals. And I do wish that the US would buy into it. As for right now, we have no decent way to try war criminals in the US because of the stupid way the Bush administration treated terrorists -- and non-terrorists -- at Guantanamo and torture facilities around the world.
Tyrants tremble at the thought that one day they might be brought before a true international court of justice. We should support one.

Monday, May 9, 2011

So Wait a Minute

So I'm thinkin' there's another reason why this strike on Bin Laden's compound could only have happened under the Obama Administration.
It goes like this:
Donald Rumsfeld was in a constant fight with the State Department. Because of this he mistrusted the CIA and arguably allowed Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora early in the war because although the CIA was on the ground in Afghanistan in what, 12 hours(?), from the 9/11 attack, Rumsfeld wanted the DOD to be running things and refused to let CIA (read: State Department) leadership over "his" armed forces.
And who went in on the successful raid against bin Laden? Navy SEALS led by... you guessed it... the CIA.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Say Anything

So the thing I'm waiting for is when Rush Limbaugh says that we didn't even kill bin Laden.
Right on schedule, though, is all the other malarky you could ever want to hear:
"Obama waited 16 hours"
"Obama didn't even give the order"
"It's was a cover-up about the Gitmo Wikileaks"
And blah blah blah...

White Privilege: I Ain't Buyin' It

The notion of "white privilege" is a relatively new one. And I think it's a mistake. Now, I could trace the history of the idea of "white privilege" but instead I'll go backwards and say what's true.

When a white guy runs around saying "I got everything on my own, nobody helped me, my success if the fruit of my labor alone, blah blah blah" you have permission to smack him. Because of course there are advantages to being white. Heck, there's an advantage that my dad had the GI Bill because of his (brief) service in WWII, the advantage that he never suffered under racial or gender discrimination, and neither have I (because I'm a "white" male).

But that's not the point. The point is that these things aren't privileges. "Not suffering under racial discrimination" is not a privilege, it's a right.

The fact that there are those who are disenfranchised does not make voting a right.

Heck, the fact that someone made you a freakin' Capo in a concentration camp doesn't make you privileged.

I think that using the world "privileged" sets the bar way too low. White men (especially) get to walk around not feeling the burdens of a lot of things that other people might not get to walk around burden-less. But walking around burden-less should be the baseline, not the outlier.

So anyway, there are clearly things what straight, white, men, can do that other people are denied -- many of them subtle yet important, but these things are rights, not privileges. Everyone should have those rights. That's why I ain't buying "white privilege". Here's a kitten.

Monday, May 2, 2011

And He's Dead

Let's do a countdown to when the Republicans start to blame President Obama for bin Laden's death. Because you know that's coming.

And the timeline for all the back-room work before they conducted the assault? Right as the Republicans were conducting their picayune BS about closing down the Federal Government.

So yeah, it's nuts.

And it's not like I'm happy anybody's dead. Usama bin Laden was an ass of the first degree. I'd have preferred that his sorry butt be brought to the Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity. But you know me, soft-hearted liberal that I am.

Of course, I'm not that sad he's dead either. I kind of have the same feelings about Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, and Mao. Wish they'd all gone to jail*.


*Yes, I know, but I mean jailed for life, not just jailed to write Mein Kampf.

Did you hear that pop?

That's the sounds of Republican heads' exploding.

Barack Hussein Obama got, and killed, Usama BinLaden?

Hoo boy. The insanity is going to be of the insane variety.

And it's not actually good for the Republican party -- the insane people will pat one another on the backs for how insane they are but it won't get them many votes.

Moreso, I do not jump for joy at anyone getting killed. Not that ass-monkey's victims, but not even him. I am a big fan of due process. I'm not sad that binLaden is dead, I just refuse to celebrate death -- even Hitler, Pol Pot's, Mao's, or Stalin's.
Throwing they bitch asses in jail for the rest of their mortal lives, though, I'm all up in that.

But the sole result of this will be that we'll have to watch the Republicans melt down like a 3-year-old who hasn't had her afternoon nap and nobody can find her binky.

It's going to be a long and noisy couple weeks coming up.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Correspond to Me

God bless 'im, but Barack Obama cannot tell a joke to save his life. On the other hand, George W. Bush, who jokes about not being able to find WMD's couldn't have finished his White House Correspondents Dinner address like BHO did:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

That Scheming Obama

Now I'm not a huge conspiracy theorist. I'm not. But the theory I heard that the reason Barack Hussein Obama released his "long form" birth certificate was solely to keep the "birthers" going and to keep Trump as the top GOP candidate is... a good theory.
And if Obama weren't from Chicago maybe I'd dismiss it.
But this is politics, and if making your opponent look terrible by releasing a birth certificate can be done, it will be done.
The Orly Tait's of the world (sp?) will never be mollified, but that's not the point. The point is that the great swath of "independent" voters think those people are nuts. Perhaps... because they're nuts.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Sum-up of Everything

Roger Ebert on Ayn Rand's political philosophy:

"I’m on board; pull up the lifeline."
The left in America is doing a lot of whining about Barack Obama. I still feel what John Rogers says about it is true.
[Before the election]
Republicans: Jesus, you're just voting for Hopey McChangey because he's a great speaker and he's promising unicorns and rainbows of change.
Democrats: How condescending. No, I'm voting for Obama based on his stated policy goals and his deliberative nature. We are, after all, the reality-based community.
[After the election] 
Ultimately I shouldn't even have a political blog. Why? Because I basically agree with everything John Scalzi says. Here he is on the budget compromise.

Obama’s smart enough to know that what he’s going to get out of Congress with this will look nothing like what he proposes, but I wouldn’t mind too terribly if it was close to it eventually. We’ll see where everything goes from here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barack Obama, the Best President Ever

The left in America do a lot of complaining about Barack Obama. This is, to me, the same kind of complaining they did under Bill Clinton. Somehow, to the left, Barack Obama is "exactly the same" as the GOP. Yet somehow to the GOP he's a socialist Marxist.
Obviously, somebody's wrong here. Let's find out who.
Oh look, it turns out neither of them is right.
Back in the deep, dark, distant past (and by that I mean the early 1990's) I was reading the English translation of a French Trotskyist newspaper. I'm paraphrasing but it said something to the effect of "While we applaud (French President) Mitterand's elimination of the debt to France by the world's 20 poorest countries, we believe he should eliminate the debt of all third-world countries should be eliminated."
Could you fathom anyone on the American left saying that about a Democratic President?
"Although we appreciate the President keeping us out of World War Freakin' III, we believe he should also blah blah blah whatever." Nope. Even moving us off the brink of another arms race and possible nuclear holocaust doesn't get him any points at all.
I mean seriously -- do you really think we'd have been better off with President John McCain and Vice-President Sarah Palin? Or do you forget just how bad the G. W. Bush administration really was?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Solve All Education's Woes

I have a guaranteed way to fix the US education system.
The system I have is guaranteed to work. Every student will be brought to his or her potential. We can have tests to prove the students have/can learned anything we as a society think they should.
And the system is unimpeachable. No reasonable person can say it wouldn't work. Because it will. Absolutely. Work.

You're saying to yourself "That's mighty big talk, Mister. What's the downside?"

Well friend, I'll tell ya. We can have all those things we want. Calculus in the 8th grade. Kids all know French and Latin and Chinese before their second year of High School. Whatever we want. The sky's the limit.

What do we have to do?

Make the average size of a public school class 6.

That's right. All we need to do is make the average size of all the elementary, middle, and high school classes, six students.

There is absolutely no doubt it would work. We would have the best education system in the world.

"Oh" you whine "But the cost!"

You are a whiner.

Let's look at the costs:

How many teachers do we employ in the US?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of teachers in primary and secondary schools in the US is about 3.5 million.
How many kids are in school?
There are 47.7 million primary and secondary school students according to IES.
So that's about 13 teachers/student. But the average class size is almost 24 according to The New York Times.
According to the Republicans, teachers cost about $100,000/year with salary and benefits. If we were allowed to do accounting in education, we'd either divvy up the total number of students by how much the whole system costs (which, according to the IES, is $562.3 billion.) So let's say we need to actually triple the budget in order to get down to 6 students, on average, per class.
Or, perhaps wishfully, let's think in terms of 1.5 trillion dollars. On education.

Yup. Thinking this way, education will cost 1.5 trillion bucks. Per year. And all we'd get out of it are kids who can do math and read critically and know more about science and the world.

Sure, there are people who are actually against kids knowing that stuff. And a lot of them have been elected to position of great importance in inverse proportion to their own ignorance.

But I'm just saying: you wanna reform schools? There's a way.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Go Ahead, Privatize It

The House Republicans want to "privatize" Medicare? Do you smell that?

Sniff sniff.

It smells like doom.

Remember how well privatizing Social Security went? Exactly.

The Tea Partier's ideology is such that they'd love to take away all "entitlement" programs. That is, without somehow telling anyone what entitlement programs are. Yeah, I'd love to be running against someone who is promising to privatize Medicare.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Policing the World

OK. Libya. So it looks like we're in a third war in the Middle East.

Looks like. Doesn't mean is.

There are a few important distinctions between Libya and Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is easy to exclude from any analogies because it's never really been a state. Even under the Taliban substantial portions of it were under rebel control.

Iraq had a jerkbucket dictator. Libya has one too. Iraq had a big-ass army. Libya, not so much.

Now basically, Obama is in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in Libya. Sort of like Clinton in Bosnia. "Why aren't you doing anything?!" and then "OM God! Don't do that!!"

Right. So lets look at the military actions the US has taken since, say, 1980. These are just off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch of them.

Grenada -- sloppy operation, killed lots of civilians. Supposedly to free students. Result: Grenada actually a working democracy. Bonus points: is, and was, a Crown Colony. So we were attacking the British Queen. Minor whining from the British government ensued, made up for by attacking the Falklands.

Panama -- attacked country when we decided we didn't like the dictator we'd installed. Result: Panama basically the same, but with a working democracy.

Kuwait (1st Iraq War) -- Iraq attacks Kuwait (after asking, and getting, permission from the US). US decides to push Iraq out of Kuwait. Result: Kuwait still not a democracy.

Bosnia -- a major humanitarian mess and a genocide (or two). We tried bombing them but then brought the war criminal Slobodan Milošević to Dayton Ohio and bored him mercilessly until he capitulated. Result: concentration camps disbanded.

Haiti -- Ooh. This was an odd one. The CIA throws a left-leaning president out of the country and installs their cronys. Then the Congressional Black Caucus gets all behind Aristide and we set up to invade Haiti to re-install their leftist, democratically elected, president. Then it got weirder because rabbit-fighter Jimmy Carter flies to Haiti and persuades the general who was the "acting" president of Haiti to leave. Result: Haiti, traditionally a banana republic still a banana republic but with something of a democracy and fewer gross human rights violations.

Afghanistan -- remember "Clinton's Generals"? After 9/11 big coalition force with lots of money moved in and took Kabul. As with every other military force in the history of mankind, can't actually control much more of the country than the capital. Result: presumably girls are allowed to go to school again. Future of the entire joint still up for grabs.

Iraq War II -- US decides it really, really, really wants to invade Iraq. Doesn't even bother providing plausible reason. Hundreds of thousands die. Result: not terribly stable, and plenty o'people still die, fledgling democracy.

World War III -- yo, this almost happened. I'm talking about a hot war with Russia. Now, you could argue that the US sat this one out, but the State Department was practically goading Georgia to attack Russia (for emphasis that's Russia). Then the US decided to put a missile "defense shield" in Georgia which made the Russians go (almost literally) ballistic. This, remember, is why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Because he didn't start World War III. I know, it's a pretty low bar, but it's what we've got.

So, what are we looking at with Libya? Well, sometimes we're able to stop atrocities (albeit rather sloppily) like in Bosnia. Much of the time we just mess things up even more. Sometimes we do something absurd and are still able to walk away without hurting... well... ourselves.

And of course, Libya has been in our sights for a very long time. Heck, apparently the US Marines even have a song about them. But in and of itself there's no reason to presume we're getting ready for a long war with Libya. There's already an insurrection -- that's a huge difference between it and Iraq.