Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Call

Can we finally stop pretending that Michele Bachmann was ever a serious candidate for anything?

Michele Bachmann has had her fair share of foreign policy stumbles, but she just hit a whole new level.

According to a tweet from NBC News’ Jamie Novogrod, Bachmann responded to the recent raiding of the British embassy in Iran, by saying that if she was President, she would close down the U.S. embassy there.

There’s just one problem: The U.S. has not had an embassy in Iran ever since the Iranian hostage crisis, when revolutionaries from the budding Islamic state held 52 Americans for 444 days. Indeed, frustration over this helped bring down Bachmann’s bete noire Jimmy Carter by defining his presidency as weak. The two countries have not had official diplomatic relations since that time. Furthermore, President Obama’s short-lived offer of outreach “without preconditions” was a critical part of Republican attacks against his foreign policy.

"Complete ignorance" doesn't begin to describe the woman on one level, and yet it describes her perfectly.  She is so completely, totally, perfectly unqualified for the White House that it pains me to see her having entered the race in the first place, if only to remind us that a functional representative democracy needs at least two functional parties.

The Republican party right now?  Broken.  I'm not sure it can be repaired. At the very least it's going to need a total overhaul.

And here's the kicker:  Even if Bachmann never actually said this, she's still so one hundred percent not qualified for President based on al the other idiotic things she has said, that not even the Republicans are paying attention anymore.

Persona Non Grata, Govnah

In retaliation for the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran, the British Parliament has given all Iranian diplomats in the UK 48 hours to vacate the country.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that Britain had also withdrawn its entire diplomatic staff from Iran after angry mobs hauled down Union Jack flags, torched a vehicle and tossed looted documents through windows.

The rare move to kick out a country's entire diplomatic corps marks a significant souring of ties between Iran and the West, amid deepening suspicions over Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Tensions were heightened in October when U.S. officials accused agents linked to Iran's Quds Force — an elite wing of the powerful Revolutionary Guard— of a role in an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

Germany, France and the Netherlands all recalled their ambassadors from Iran late Wednesday for consultations on further action in response. Norway closed its embassy in Tehran as a precaution.

For many, the hours-long assault Tuesday on the British embassy in Tehran was reminiscent of the chaotic seizure of the U.S. embassy there in 1979. Protesters replaced the British flag with a banner in the name of a 7th-century Shiite saint, Imam Hussein, and one looter showed off a picture of Queen Elizabeth II apparently taken off a wall.

"The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful," Hague told lawmakers.

Iran currently has 18 diplomats in Britain, according to Britain's foreign ministry.

Not for much longer.   Iran of course plans to return the favor.  And with zee Germans, the Dutch, and the French all withdrawing their ambassadors from Tehran for "consultation" it looks to me that things are pretty bloody awful right now, diplomatically.  Pakistan is still fighting mad.  The Saudis aren't returning our calls.  Violence is on the rise in Iraq.  Japan is still suffering a nuclear nightmare.  The eurozone is on the verge of currency breakdown, and now this mess in Iran getting worse by the day.

Cooler heads need to prevail right now or it's going to turn into a carnage-filled carnival.

Now THAT'S How You Use A CAT Scan

A Stradivarius violin has been "recreated" using an X-ray scanner normally used to detect cancers and injuries, according to researchers.

The US-based group used a computerised axial tomography (CAT) scanner on the 307-year-old instrument to reveal its secrets.

They then used the data recovered to build "nearly exact copies".

The team said the technique could be used to give musicians access to rare musical equipment.

Their findings have been presented to the Radiological Society of North America at a conference in Chicago.

A thousand scans later, they were able to measure the things that make a Strad a Strad. Wood density, touches from the craftsman, even dings and the wear of the strings over the centuries shape the instrument. They were able to get respectable copies, and violinists were able to coax a superior sound from the product.

This is an amazing gift. Students may someday have access to a reasonably priced superior instrument. I paid dearly for mine for years, and it is average. A serious musician usually has to seek sponsors and investors to help finance an instrument. It's hard to get money from millionaires so you can really make that high E scream. It will allow talent to flourish and give more opportunities for people to learn how to play a variety of instruments.

It is also a chance for us to rediscover the art of crafting violins. This study also looked at other string instruments and gathered data. There are still master luthiers in our day and time, but we could learn about how violins were made hundreds of years ago and compare it to now. We may even learn some things that died with the original masters.

Renowned luthier Samuel Zygmuntowicz noted that violin makers have long studied Stradivari, Guarneri and other classic instruments to match their sound.

He said Dr Sirr's work may have helped democratise the process by making it possible for more people to study such antique violins. But he added that the most highly skilled luthiers would remain in demand.

"This process will streamline that effort to copy an instrument," said Mr Zygmuntowicz.

"But the very last stretch - the very last 2% - still involves exact judgements about relative thicknesses of the wood, the exact strength of the bracing, the exact varnishes and wood preparations and general optimising of the whole form.

So I would say a skilled maker with this in his hands could save himself a lot of work, and an unskilled maker would save himself a certain amount of education."

Nothing can replace the originals, but letting more people enjoy the feel of a near replica would be a wonderful treat.  Violins really do have individual voices.  I can tell in a second if I'm listening to Lucia Micarelli or Vanesssa Mae.  Their primary instruments are as distinctive as my husband's voice when I hear him in a crowded room.  The technique of the musician and the composer make a difference, but in the end the sound relies largely on the instrument and the tiny things that make it different from any other.  Thanks to this breakthrough, we can now get a better understanding of how that happens.

U.S. Invasion By Ants Underway. Yes, Ants.

I try not to get all bent out of shape when the world changes around us.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting endangered animals and plants, but I also see that change is inevitable and often suits a bigger picture that we can't see.  In the end, I have to hope that natural selection is smarter than we are, because that's how the chips are falling.  This article has some pretty cool information about species that are taking over and the changes they may bring.  The ants is the one that horrifies me the most.  It makes me think of nature fighting technology, which is a horrifying thought.  If history has taught us anything, it's that nature wins.  The link above takes you to the whole article, but I quoted the part I found most interesting.

The latest addition to the list of non-native creepy-crawlies is the hairy crazy ant. The tiny foragers are believed to have come from South America. They first got to the Caribbean in the late 19th century and are working their way through Florida and the Southeast.
First discovered in 2002 in Texas by exterminator Tom Rasberry, they are now also in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for the National Pest Management Association in Fairfax, Va. According to Texas A&M University, the ants are semitropical, so cooler temperatures as they move northward should eventually stop them.

When the insects encounter another colony of crazy ants, they become a supercolony and "can overrun an area — hundreds of thousands of ants can darken a sidewalk or a building," Fredericks says. "When they get into folks' homes, it's like a scene out of a horror movie." The ants can bite, but the biggest danger is that they're attracted to circuit boxes. The reason isn't known but their sheer numbers can create an ant bridge between connections, shorting out entire electrical systems.

Yeah. Sleep tight knowing that.

Giant Tesla Coils? Lighting On Demand? Hell Yeah, We Got That.

Sometimes, all it takes to push the boundaries of science is a wacky idea and a machine to prove it. Greg Leyh, founder of Lightning On Demand (LOD), may do just that, with plans to build two, ten-story-tall Teasla coils that can shoot hundreds of feet of lightning.

“Historically, new scientific machines produce unexpected discoveries,” said Leyh in an e-mail interview. “Many new discoveries are viewed as problems, where others provide fascinating new insights.”

But theories, and an experimental accident of the Siberian Institute for Power Engineering, found “laboratory-scale electric arcs start to gain lightning-like abilities once they grow past about 200ft in length,” according to the website.

Thus, the team at LOD aims to build two Tesla coils at the scale needed to generate electric arcs large enough to mimic natural lightning.

These will be the largest Tesla coils ever built, and will run at full output—around 4 million watts—to fill a football field with continuous bolts of lightning. They then plan to increase the voltage to 14 million volts and change the distance between the towers “to explore this mysterious region where normal electric arcs transform into lightning,” according to the project website.

I don't know how much of this is solid experimentation and how much is a Mythbusters-like mad scientist binge, but who cares? Lightning on demand to perfect testing and learn more about something that has taken hundreds of years because we can't just make it happen when we're ready?


Tick Tock, Euro Clock

Not a few days after the Financial Times's Wolfgang Munchau warned that the EU had basically until the end of next week to get a solution in place or the euro is done then we see the EU's money man, Oli Rehn, is warning of the same thing.

Europe faces a crucial 10 days to save the euro zone after agreeing to ramp up the firepower of its bailout fund but acknowledging it may have to turn to the International Monetary Fund for more help to avert financial disaster.

"We are now entering the critical period of 10 days to complete and conclude the crisis response of the European Union," Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday as EU finance ministers met.

Euro zone ministers agreed on Tuesday night on detailed plans to leverage the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSF), but could not say by how much because of rapidly worsening market conditions, prompting them to look to the IMF.

Italian and Spanish bond yields resumed their inexorable climb towards unsustainable levels on Wednesday, as markets assessed the rescue fund boost as inadequate.

Stocks fell and the euro weakened after ratings agency Standard & Poor's hit some of the world's leading banks with a credit downgrade.

And yes, yesterday's mass banking sector ratings agency downgrade hit banks like Goldman Sachs,  Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.  The contagion scenario from a euro collapse is guaranteed.  All of that explains this morning's stunning announcement from the Fed:

Central banks from the world's leading developed economies said on Wednesday they will take coordinated steps to prevent a lack of liquidity in the global financial system.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the central banks of Canada, Britain, Japan and Switzerland said in a joint statement they had agreed to lower the cost of existing dollar swap lines by 50 basis points from December 5, as well as take other measures.

Woot, "other measures" are always fun.  Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press has gone international.  Hello, QE3!  The roller coaster is back folks.  Time to ride.

Cain Unable, Part 11

Herman Cain will here in Cincinnati this morning on the "campaign trail", which apparently means "the slow, agonizing death of his run for President where everyone but Herman Cain himself admits it's over."  His first stop this morning:  Orange Julius country up in the northern suburbs.

Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain will appear at a 9 a.m. rally Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel off Interstate 75 and Union Centre Boulevard.

The former pizza company executive is making a three-city swing through the state. West Chester is in a key Republican belt in Ohio, typically a pivotal swing state in presidential elections

The longtime married man has denied allegations in recent days he had a 13-year affair with a Georgia businesswoman. The allegations come after several women alleged he sexually harassed them.

Speculation swirled in the national media Tuesday night that he may quit the race. But Cain has said he will not quit unless his wife tells him she no longer believes in him.

Good god, Gloria Cain.  Spare the country this nonsense, tell him it's over, and let's get back to the GOP doing something insane like nominating Newt Gingrich, assuring an Obama win. I mean at this point, Team Cain Unable has even lost J-Mart:

Herman Cain is in the midst of “reassessing” whether to continue his 2012 bid, but its legacy is already settled: His campaign will go down as one of the most hapless and bumbling operations in modern presidential politics, setting a new standard for how to turn damaging press coverage into something far worse.

We've got work to do to get him to leave, I guess.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last Call

I've seen the future...and it is a silly place.

A would-be saboteur arrested today at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland made the bizarre claim that he was from the future. Eloi Cole, a strangely dressed young man, said that he had travelled back in time to prevent the LHC from destroying the world.

The LHC successfully collided particles at record force earlier this week, a milestone Mr Cole was attempting to disrupt by stopping supplies of Mountain Dew to the experiment's vending machines. He also claimed responsibility for the infamous baguette sabotage in November last year.

Mr Cole was seized by Swiss police after CERN security guards spotted him rooting around in bins. He explained that he was looking for fuel for his 'time machine power unit', a device that resembled a kitchen blender.

Police said Mr Cole, who was wearing a bow tie and rather too much tweed for his age, would not reveal his country of origin. "Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening." 

Damn you Higgs boson and your army of time travel lunatics!  Will we ever be rid of you?

On the other hand, free chocolate!

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 43

Time for another update on Japan and the fallout from Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and the latest figures from Japan's science ministry are devastating: some 8% of Japan's total land mass has been irradiated, including basically all of Fukushima prefecture, as well as significant parts of neighboring Gunma and Tochigi prefectures.

Japan’s science ministry says 8 per cent of the country’s surface area has been contaminated by radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
It says more than 30,000 square kilometres of the country has been blanketed by radioactive cesium.

The science ministry defines places with a concentration of more than 10,000 becquerels per square meter as “areas affected by the nuclear accident”….  The science ministry fine-tuned its methods by subtracting levels of naturally existing background radiation.

This is pretty grim and devastating stuff.  Fukushima is going to be uninhabitable for generations and there's basically nothing anyone can do about it to fix it.  At some point Japan is going to have to bite the bullet and just write the prefecture off, and I don't think that will be long in the offing.

My heart goes out to Japan.  They're going to need a lot of help to get through this.

The Banana, Splits

Chiquita International is leaving Cincy for Charlotte, complaining it's just too far to fly to its Central and South American bases of operaations from Ohio.

Multiple media outlets in Charlotte are reporting that Chiquita Brands International is moving its corporate headquarters and more than 300 corporate jobs to that city.

Chiquita officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meg Olberding, spokeswoman for City Manager Milton Dohoney, said she did not know if Chiquita had made a decision to leave.

"I don't have any information confirming that right now," she said.

The city had presented the company with its proposed incentives some time ago, she said, and has been waiting for a response.

P.G. Sittenfeld, who will be sworn in Thursday to Cincinnati City Council, said he got a text from a friend this morning saying it appeared his unusual effort to keep the company hadn't worked.

During his campaign, Sittenfeld passed out Chiquita bananas on Fountain Square. On the bananas were stickers that said, "Chiquita, don't give Cincinnati the slip!"

And that's exactly what Chiquita did.  The reason?

Charlotte has reportedly offered Chiquita a $4 million city, county and state incentive package to move. Miami was also trying to attract the company.

 $13,333 a job or so.  All's fair in love and war.  Considering the company's stock has lost nearly 45% this year, I'm not surprised they bolted.  It also means Chiquita's human rights issues are North Carolina's problem and not Ohio's now, so I'm not too terribly broken up to see them go.

Still, this kind of thing happen too often.  It's why red states like Florida are trying to eliminate corporate taxes to take as many jobs from other states as possible, rather than creating new ones.  We're cannibalizing ourselves in an interstate race to the bottom rather than working together to create jobs at a national level and the corporations are reaping the largesse.

You'd think somebody would notice.

Eschewing The Fat

CLEVELAND -- An Ohio third-grader who weighs more than 200 pounds has been taken from his family and placed into foster care after county social workers said his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight.

The case is the first state officials can recall of a child being put in foster care strictly for a weight-related issue.

Lawyers for the mother say the county overreached when authorities took the boy last week. They say the medical problems he is at risk for do not yet pose an imminent danger.

There are a few things to consider here. First and foremost, the physical health of the child. 200 pounds at eight years old is dangerous. His body is developing, and his weight can negatively affect several things, from blood sugar to muscle development. There is also the emotional and mental health of the child to consider. If he is physically healthy, does he have an eating disorder or behavioral issue that can be treated? Something is amiss here, and this child deserves the best care to find it and help him live healthier. I disagree with the lawyers who say his weight doesn't post an immediate risk.

I also find the phrasing above curious. It says the mother didn't do enough to control his weight. What she has done would be important. Did she not do enough, did she refuse to do anything at all, or did she try everything and hit a wall? It's clear the boy needs a check-up at best, and a lot of help at worst, but without a description I don't know if taking him from the mother was for his benefit or to make a point.

What do you think, guys?

Mad Cow Disease Affecting Classical Music

Regulations which tightly control the use of certain types of animal tissue are unwittingly threatening the centuries-old technique of making musical instrument strings out of beef gut.

The craft is covered by the same strict controls on raw materials from cows, even though campaigners say that to catch Creutzfeldt – Jakob disease, (CJD) – the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy – from violin or cello strings from an infected animal you would need to eat several metres of them.

The musicians warn that regulations are threatening the industry and could force gut string manufacturers to close, with disastrous consequences for the 'period orchestra' movement, which aims to recreate every aspect of music as it was first performed in the years 1650-1750.
Without gut strings, they argue, it would be impossible to play the music of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi and Bach as the composers intended it to be heard.

This is the stuff I find fascinating. I never expected this to come in on my violin news alerts. It's interesting, but I wonder if it can be changed in a way that accomplishes the goal while protecting the production of strings. It's important to reproduce the strings exactly to get the intended sound.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Hey, they know who their base is.  That base needs motivation.  Best way to do that is the FOX way: a steady diet of red meat and Obama Derangement Syndrome.  That's how, as Dave Weigel points out, this NY Times article:

Obama’s alternative path to victory, according to Teixeira and Halpin, would be to keep his losses among all white voters at the same level John Kerry did in 2004, when he lost them by 17 points, 58-41. This would be a step backwards for Obama, who lost among all whites in 2008 by only 12 points (55-43). Obama can afford to drop to Kerry’s white margins because, between 2008 and 2012, the pro-Democratic minority share of the electorate is expected to grow by two percentage points and the white share to decline by the same amount, reflecting the changing composition of the national electorate.

..becomes this FOX Nation headline:

Screen shot 2011-11-28 at 1.34.59 PM

"Because Obama Hates White People" is the official campaign slogan of the GOP in 2012, folks. And this will go on for another year, minimum.

En-Tire-Ly Too Much Fail

Things that are difficult to hide from Google Earth #7461:  A quarter of a million discarded tires covering nearly 50 acres.  Treehugger:

Chances are that at some point, you've procrastinated by looking for your house on Google Earth. Now we can speculate if Michael Keitt, Jr. of New York ever zoomed in the lot he owns in Calhoun County in rural South Carolina and wondered about the clearly visible, giant pile of tires. Although the lot has no address, it couldn't have taken him too long: It measures 50 acres and is home to more than 250,000 discarded tires.

The tire pile was first brought to the county's attention about a year ago. Under normal circumstances, the maximum fine for littering would be $475, but fortunately the state Department of Health and Environmental Control has taken over the case and is pursuing a case against an Easley, SC man, George Fontella Brown, 39. The charges of violating the state's solid waste act carry four-digit fines and up to a year in prison.

Besides the obvious issue of an enormous pile of un-recycled (and thus wasted) rubber, the tires collect water and form a mosquito breeding ground. A Florida company has been contracted to collect and properly dispose of the tires (not that hard, it turns out).

Just...really?  You didn't think anyone would notice over 250,000 discarded tires, such a large amount that it was visible from satellite?

This guy should get prison time just on general principle.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Last Call

The One Percenters complain that we can't possibly spend any more money to help Americans in need right now, that we have to cut, cut, cut social programs and aid to the 99% as the Great Recession and the Housing Depression rolls on.

Turns out the banksters got more money than anyone possibly imagined, including me.  The Fed, over three years, made $7.7 trillion in emergency no-interest or low-interest loans to banks, including $1.2 trillion on one day, in order to save the financial system.

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

A fresh narrative of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 emerges from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions. While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger. 

And the banks made $13 billion in profit off these loans.   Topping the list: Citigroup made $1.8 billion off those loans, Bank of America $1.5 billion, and Royal Bank of Scotland made $1.2 billion off of the America taxpayer.  But that's not socialism, or course.

So yeah.  When the one percent and the companies they work for and own need money, they get $7.7 trillion in loans to keep the status quo going.  Meanwhile, you as a peon?  You should be made to suffer.  It builds character.


What Does 45 Look Like?

When you're Cindy Crawford, the answer is pretty damn good.

Crawford, 45, was recently seen on a beach in the company of Molly Sims and Stacy Keibler and held her own.  That's some pretty fierce competition.  Sims is an all around knockout and Keibler has the most famous legs in Hollywood (I'm not talking about George Clooney's!).

I have always been a fan of Cindy Crawford's.  When empty stares and the heroin look was in, she was healthy and vibrant.  She gave solid interviews with a realistic outlook.  She was pursuing a degree in chemical engineering when she became a supermodel, so she's no dummy, either.

Her secret?  Common sense and moderation.  She doesn't avoid the sun but she limits it.  She eats healthy consistently, so a piece of cake won't derail her diet.  She says she never diets, she takes good care of herself and is conscious of her nutrition and the rest takes care of itself.  She never had a rep as a party gal, so she isn't fighting years of liver damage and drug abuse.

It's nice to see one of the elite living just like us, and enjoying it.

Greek Fire, Part 47

How bad are things in the Eurozone this week?  Horrendous.  Over Thanksgiving weekend I had a conversation with my econ buddy Asariel and his wonderful wife about where the euro is going, and it's mildly frightening how much their insights matched up on this piece from FT's Wolfgang Munchau.  His analysis: the Eurozone has maybe until the end of next week to find a real solution or the game is over.

Technically, one can solve the problem even now, but the options are becoming more limited. The eurozone needs to take three decisions very shortly, with very little potential for the usual fudges. First, the European Central Bank must agree a backstop of some kind…. The second measure is a firm timetable for a eurozone bond…. The third decision is a fiscal union. This would involve a partial loss of national sovereignty, and the creation of a credible institutional framework to deal with fiscal policy….

I am hearing that there are exploratory talks about a compromise package comprising those three elements. If the European summit could reach a deal on December 9, its next scheduled meeting, the eurozone will survive. If not, it risks a violent collapse. Even then, there is still a risk of a long recession, possibly a depression….

It's that third decision point that Munchau brings up that scares me.  That's exactly what Asariel's wife said (and she knows a few things about large budgets and macroeconomics), that a collective currency without a united fiscal policy was never going to work, and that the individual European countries would never agree to such loss of sovereignty.

Munchau is taking that a step further.  If they don't agree to that, the euro is going to implode.  Furthermore, that implosion could come in a matter of days now, not weeks or months.  It's some very sobering stuff, and Munchau doesn't believe that the Europeans and in particular Angel Merkel are going to be able to agree on doing it.

I cannot quite see how the German chancellor is going to extricate herself from these self-inflicted constraints….

I don't either.

I have yet to be convinced that the European Council is capable of reaching such a substantive agreement given its past record. Of course, it will agree on something and sell it as a comprehensive package. It always does. But the half-life of these fake packages has been getting shorter. After the last summit, the financial markets’ enthusiasm over the ludicrous idea of a leveraged EFSF evaporated after less than 48 hours. Italy’s disastrous bond auction on Friday tells us time is running out. The eurozone has 10 days at most.

Crash helmets, people.  It's going to be an ugly winter.

Michele Bachmann Cries Like A Little Girl

Grow up, lady.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) apparently isn't happy with the apology she received from NBC after a vulgar song was played during her recent appearance on "Late Night" with Jimmy Fallon.

As Bachmann walked onstage, the show's band, The Roots, played a 1985 Fishbone song titled "Lyin Ass B----."

Bachmann called the incident "inappropriate, outrageous and disrespectful," and accused NBC of liberal bias. "This wouldn't be tolerated if this was Michelle Obama. It shouldn't be tolerated if it's a conservative woman either," she said on Fox.

Of course she isn't happy with the apology. She hasn't milked it to death. NBC was gracious enough to issue an apology, but she can get more mileage if she keeps beating the dead horse.

"Of course I accept the apology but my guess is that it would have been the president of the NBC that would have been apologizing not a senior vice president," had the song been directed at a liberal woman like Michelle Obama, she said.

I mean, it's only outrageous when you play a song, but not when you're telling outright lies about other candidates.  It's not disrespectful when you disparage the working class voter and tell them they don't deserve a solid education.   It's not inappropriate to tell millions of women what their health care options should be so that other people can be comfortable with their medical decisions.

Nice of her to know what would be tolerated if it was Michelle Obama.  I think it's great how Bachmann knows what might have been.  Because NASCAR fell all over itself apologizing for their rudeness recently, right?  But did the president of NASCAR apologize?  I'm sorry, I have to stop.  Just saying president of NASCAR is making me giggle.

That's it.  I'm writing a song called Stupid Assed Bitch and emailing it to Fallon.  Then they can get it dead right.

Breaking: Barney, Frankly He's Out

With the Thanksgiving holiday over, House retirement season kicks off in politics in earnest, and the first name on the list is a huge one:  Rep. Barney Frank.

Rep. Barney Frank announced on Monday he will not seek re-election in 2012.

The democratic representative for Massachusetts’ fourth congressional district was expected to hold a press conference Monday to discuss the announcement.

Frank has been in office since 1981.

No more, it seems. After 32 years, Frank will call it quits.   That's a pretty big loss for the Dems and an opportunity during a census realignment year for the Republicans to actually gain a seat in blue Mass.  Right now all ten belong to the Dems, they'll lose one due to the census.  It's entirely possible now that the Republicans could pick up a seat here.

The larger news is if Barney Frank is leaving, the fear is more Dems are going to follow.  We'll see who else hangs it up this year.

That New Mars Rover, He's A Curious Cat

After Saturday's launch, the NASA Curiosity Mars rover is on its way to the red planet to do some exploring.

"I think this mission is an important next step in NASA's overall goal to address the issue of life in the universe," lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told reporters shortly after the launch.

The car-sized rover, nicknamed Curiosity, is expected to touch down on August 6, 2012, to begin two years of detailed analysis of a 96-mile (154-km) wide impact basin near the Martian equator called Gale Crater.

The goal is to determine if Mars has or ever had environments to support life. It is the first astrobiology mission to Mars since the 1970s-era Viking probes.

Scientists chose the landing site because it has a three-mile-high (4.8-km high) mountain of what appears from orbital imagery and mineral analysis to be layers of rock piled up like the Grand Canyon, each layer testifying to a different period in Mars' history.

The rover has 17 cameras and 10 science instruments, including chemistry labs, to identify elements in soil and rock samples to be dug up by the probe's drill-tipped robotic arm.

I'm hoping that NASA's willing to share some feed from the Curiosity lab when August rolls around.  I'm not sure if we'll get a manned mission to Mars in my lifetime, but this is certainly going to be a vital step in that eventual process.  Imagine what different events in 2000 could have led to in our efforts to explore our solar system instead of two wars and a financial crisis.

Godspeed, my mechanical friend.  New tag: I'm The Best At Space!

Stacking The Deck In The Queen City

It's not just at the federal level where tax shifting games and loophole nonsense are played and the wealthy benefit, it happens at the local and county level, too.  Take Cincy's sales tax increase for the stadiums, for example.

Owners of Hamilton County's high-end homes get more back in a property tax rebate than they pay in the half-cent sales tax that funded the construction of the county's two professional sports stadiums.
That means the "average" county homeowners are footing the bill for the stadiums.

As Hamilton County commissioners work to cover a $14.2 million deficit in the stadium fund, some are questioning whether that's fair.

The Enquirer analyzed last year's $17.4 million property tax payout, the most recent data available, ahead of a commissioner decision this week about what the rebate should be in 2012.

The half-cent stadium sales tax paid by homeowners is estimated by the county to be a maximum $192 annually, while owners of the county's highest-value homes get rollback rebates of $1,175 or more - netting them nearly $1,000 apiece under the current structure.

Yeah, that's right, a net county tax rebate for the wealthy while the stadium fund remains millions in the red. Nice work if you can get it, and that's because sales taxes (and other consumption based taxes) hit poorer Americans harder.  By definition they are regressive.  Meanwhile, the property tax rollback means those who have significant wealthy in real estate are taking money from the county on a net taxation basis.

The real problem is that the property tax rebates if eliminated, would get rid of the county's stadium fund shortfall...and still leave money for some rebates.

It seems like there should be an obvious solution here.  We'll see if county commissioners are willing to remedy this problem.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Last Call

The next bailout is in the works for the Eurozone, and it's looking to be Italy's windfall at the expense of Germany and France.

The IMF could bail out Italy with up to 600 billion euros ($794 billion), an Italian newspaper reported on Sunday, as Prime Minister Mario Monti came under pressure to speed up anti-crisis measures.

The money would give Monti a window of 12 to 18 months to implement urgent budget cuts and growth-boosting reforms "by removing the necessity of having to refinance the debt," La Stampa reported, citing IMF officials in Washington.

The IMF would guarantee rates of 4.0 percent or 5.0 percent on the loan -- far better than the borrowing costs on commercial debt markets, where the rate on two-year and five-year Italian government bonds has risen above 7.0 percent.

The size of the loan would make it difficult for the IMF to use its current resources so different options are being explored, including possible joint action with the European Central Bank in which the IMF would be guarantor.

"This scenario is because resistance from Berlin to a greater role for the ECB in helping states in difficulty -- starting with Italy -- could be overcome if the funds are given out under strict IMF surveillance," the report said.

That joint action gimmick is the giveaway, and that means that the world's players are now invested in saving the Euro by saving Italy's bond market.  The problem is a whole host of other European countries are having bond auctions in the next week or so, and if they fail as badly as this week's auctions did, it's going to be a bloodbath.

We'll see how the markets respond.

DNA Testing... Dinner

This actually has a lot of really cool applications, as the rest of the article makes clear.  It will help us build a database of knowledge that we can use to cross-reference and check against what we know (or think we know) about eating habits of all creatures.  It has endless scientific potential, and will lead to several discoveries just because we're using new information for several different things.

But first, let's make sure our caviar is from the region and of the quality we expect.

CANBERRA, Australia -- Restaurants around the world will soon use new DNA technology to assure patrons they are being served the genuine fish fillet or caviar they ordered, rather than inferior substitutes, an expert in genetic identification says.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved so-called DNA barcoding – a standardized fingerprint that can identify a species like a supermarket scanner reads a barcode – to prevent the mislabeling of both locally produced and imported seafood in the United States. Other national regulators around the world are also considering adopting DNA barcoding as a fast, reliable and cost-effective tool for identifying organic matter.

David Schindel, a Smithsonian Institution paleontologist and executive secretary of the Washington-based Consortium for the Barcode of Life, said he has started discussions with the restaurant industry and seafood suppliers about utilizing the technology as a means of certifying the authenticity of delicacies.

"When they sell something that's really expensive, they want the consumer to believe that they're getting what they're paying for," Schindel told The Associated Press.

Pretty neat.  I'm not as concerned with the delicacies so much as the other areas of improvement, but it's gotta start somewhere!

Cain Unable, Part 10

So Herman Cain went on CNN this morning to defend his TSA profiling program of "targeted identification" as entirely not like a profiling program, only that it would accomplish the same things.

In an interview Sunday, CNN’s Candy Crowley pressed Cain on what he meant by “targeted identification.”

“I don’t see it as another word for profiling,” Cain explained. “Targeted identification is a deliberate approach to figure out patterns associated with people who have tried to kill us.”

“But this sounds a little bit like ‘flying while Middle Eastern,’ not unlike ‘driving while black,’” Crowley noted, referring to the fact that African Americans are often stopped by law enforcement more often than whites.

“Candy, you are trying to pull me into the rhetoric that gets people in trouble, and what I’m trying to do is not be drawn into that,” Cain objected. “No. I am not trying to identify a particular religion, a particular color, a particular ethnicity. I’m simply saying, we should not be afraid to identify those characteristics that basically have been consistent in people who have tried to hurt this country. That’s all I’m saying.”

Right, we just generalize people for extra scrutiny and accuse them of being security threats based on completely physical, if not racial criteria but it's not profiling and it's not like "driving while black" at all.

Can Herman Cain even name those "characteristics" that he would have the TSA look for in suspects?  No, because a truly fair system would A) acknowledge that we have a domestic terror problem with white male terrorists and that they exist, and B) we'd have to do something about them. Better to say "we're keeping an eye on that young male Muslim looking guy."

Cain's done, but to see his last gasps like this?  Just depressing.

"It's Crazy" Indeed

PEABODY — A Peabody man still on probation after his 17th drunken-driving conviction persuaded a judge yesterday not to send him back to jail, after he was caught driving again in September.

Charles Stefanilo Jr.'s license had been revoked for life as a result of his long history of drinking and driving. But that didn't stop him from getting behind the wheel over the Labor Day weekend, and probation officials wanted a judge to revoke his probation as a result.

"That means I would be doing eight years in jail," Stefanilo, 55, complained to Judge Timothy Feeley. "It's crazy."

Stefanilo, who hasn't had a valid license to drive since at least 1995, served nearly five years in jail following his 16th drunken-driving conviction in Massachusetts. He also has at least one out-of-state conviction.

His 2004 arrest in Peabody was actually his 20th drunken-driving arrest, but he was able to beat four of the cases on his record, which dates to 1977.

Under the terms of an unusual sentence imposed after that 2004 arrest, Stefanilo also received a suspended two-year jail term for being a habitual traffic offender and an almost-unheard-of 25 years of probation, along with a $50,000 fine.

How is it that guys like this get by?  He says it's crazy, and he's right.  Just in the totally opposite way he meant it.  Granted, I am biased against drunk driving because a good friend of mine was killed by one and I nearly was on a different occasion.  But even by normal standards, this passed crazy a long time ago.

Sealing The Deal

Things are looking up for the little ginger-coloured seal pup whose fate touched the world after being rejected by the rest of its sleek black family.

Left as an outcast, the vulnerable creature was found huddling under a pile of logs on Tyuleniy Island in the far east of Russia.

Photographer Anatoly Strakhov, 61, took heartbreaking pictures of the world's loneliest seal, which would have been unable to survive in the wild.

Two months on and Russians have taken the rare albino seal - who turns out to be female - to their hearts.

Named Nafanya - after a lookalike Soviet cartoon character - the seal was given VIP treatment and has now moved into a plush new home at the country's leading aqauarium.

Nafanya was taken on a 7,890-mile odyssey to the Russian mainland and then by special plane to Adler, near Sochi on the Black Sea coast, where she is rapidly becoming a star attraction.

A little kindness goes a long way. She will get plenty of love and attention, and after quarantine will live in captivity but adored. It's the best possible outcome for her.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Last Call

Looks like the whole "boycott Black Friday" movement has hit something of a brick wall.

Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as many U.S. consumers unleashed pent-up demand and bought for themselves.

Shoppers spent $11.4 billion yesterday, ShopperTrak said in a statement today. Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent, according to the Chicago-based research firm.

“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in the statement. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season.”

The brisk turnout came as retailers from Gap Inc. (GPS) to Wal- Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) to Toys “R” Us Inc. opened their doors earlier than ever.

Many shoppers were rookies who had never before participated in the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed Black Friday because many retailers are said to become profitable then. As many as 152 million people were expected to shop at stores and websites on Black Friday, up 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. 

It's fine to say "Hey, you guys are fighting over scraps from the big kid's table!" but it looks like half of America went in and played these little reindeer games anyway.  Not me, ever since I worked Black Friday in retail in the 90's, I never wanted anything to do with it again.  It's crazy.  But I'm not blaming anyone who does go for it.

And yes, $2 waffle irons may be rampant consumption, but hey, that drives the economy, folks.

Worst Case Scenario Time In Europe

Not sure how much of this is the Telegraph being all crazy and how much of it is "stiff upper lip, carry on", but if any of it's true, it's a problem.

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.
Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.
The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way. 
A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time
“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph. 

On the other hand, I have been writing about the worst case scenario repeatedly coming true in the Greek Fire series of posts.  It's another thing entirely to consider Britain actually taking that possible level of disaster seriously enough to make preparations for the inevitable.

On the other hand, it's looking like Britain may not be the only ones preparing.

The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

Once again, this is the kind of tinfoil hat stuff you expect to hear during a downturn.  More research is needed into both these stories before I'm willing to pass judgment on them.  But these stories are now out there, and they need to be looked at.

Where Have You Guys Been, Anyway?

Stacy Patton over at the Washington Post finally notices that African-Americans are neither impressed with or resonating with the Occupy Together movement, and nobody should actually be surprised that this is the case.

Beyond a lack of leaders to inspire them to join the Occupy fold, blacks are not seeing anything new for themselves in the movement. Why should they ally with whites who are just now experiencing the hardships that blacks have known for generations? Perhaps white Americans are now paying the psychic price for not answering the basic questions that blacks have long raised about income inequality.

New Jersey comedian John “Alter Negro” Minus says he won’t participate in the Occupy protests because black people are being besieged by so many social injustices, he can’t get behind targeting just the 1 percent.

Banks’ bad behavior “just gets lost in the sauce, so to speak,” Minus said. “High joblessness and social disenfranchisement is new to most of the Wall Street protesters. It’s been a fact of life for African Americans since the beginning. I actually think black people are better served by staying out of the protests. Civil disobedience will only further the public perception that black people like to cause trouble.”

Is there a chance that the movement can become more diverse? Leslie Wilson, a professor of African American history at Montclair State University, is not optimistic.

“Occupy Wall Street cannot produce enough change to encourage certain types of black participation,” Wilson said in an interview. “The church cannot get enough blacks out on the streets. Some students will go, but not the masses. Black folks, particularly older ones, do not think that this is going to lead to change. . . . This generation has already been beaten down and is hurting. They are not willing to risk what little they have for change. Those who are wealthier are not willing to risk and lose.”

I think a lot of it, at least from my perspective, goes back to my discussion on white liberals and privilege.  Folks getting pepper sprayed and tasered, treated as criminals, portrayed in the media as nothing more than thugs and gangsters, all for no good reason?

Welcome to our world, folks.  It's not pretty.  We've been saying this nonsense has been going on for years, but the rise of Occupy Wall Street has, to many darker-skinned folks like myself, only exposed the ugly rift in America that has always been there.  Remember, in just four years or so, the financial crisis and the proceeding bailout devastated what little wealth the African-American community had.  The racial wealth gap right now is staggering in the US.

It took for the wealth gap to get this bad for some people to notice that for some of us, it's been this awful for generations.  It's great that people can camp out in parks when you don't have to, and then proceed to say "Hey this wealth disparity is awful!"

Where have you guys been for the last 30 years, huh?  Nice to have you finally join us on the same page.  Now, what exactly do you plan to do about it other than cleverly photoshopping Pepper Spray Cop into artwork?

When some of us say "Hey, you guys have a leaderless movement and it's being marginalized, maybe you should take some pointers from the civil rights movement" we're not saying it because we want to co-opt anything, we're saying it because we've friggin' been there.

Does this mean we're all finally ready to at least have this discussion now?

In other words, what BlackCanseco said.  Every word of it.

Winter Freeze Means Animals Need Homes

I can't help it, I champion animal causes and this is a great one.  Even if you don't live in Chicago, many cities are following suit, including my dear Springfield, MO.

With the holiday season officially kicked off by the long Thanksgiving weekend, there is no surer sign that winter is right around the corner and who would want to spend the darkest, bleakest time of year in Chicago without a home?

That's exactly the predicament all too many Chicago area pets are in. Continuing our partnership with several shelters in the Chicago metropolitan area, HuffPost Chicago is featuring another group of cats and dogs ready for adoption this week. Like last week, we're happy to report several success stories spotlighting animals previously featured in the series who have found their "furever" homes. But despite this fantastic news, the majority of the pets we've included in the series still need homes. Be sure to check out previous galleries linked below this week's gallery.

Twilight Causing Seizures, Not Just Teenage Girls Affected

The number one movie in America is allegedly giving some viewers seizures.

"Breaking Dawn, Part 1," the first part of the "Twilight Saga" finale, contains a graphic birthing scene involving star Kristen Stewart and the violent delivery of her child. ABC reports that the flashing of colors and bright lights have caused multiple viewers to suffer from photosensitive epilepsy, including a Salt Lake City man who was, "mumbling and he was blinking on and off with his eyes," his wife told the news network.

During the build-up to "Breaking Dawn," Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and director Bill Condon promised that the birthing scene would be as graphic and dramatic as possible.
A birth scene so graphic it causes seizures.  The miracle of technology has not reached its full bloom yet, it would seem.  Though to be fair, I saw the flashing from the beginning of Tazmania cause a seizure, it was one of the scariest moments of my life (the gal having the seizure didn't recall it, every moment is burned into my memory).

If anyone you know could suffer a seizure because of the flashes, you may want to give them a heads up.  This public service message was sponsored by Team Edward and Team Jacob.

Yet Another Flying While Brown Incident

More than one person from the Middle East on the same plane on Thanksgiving?  Time for the security apparatus!

Several students from the United Arab Emirates were removed from a flight from Charlotte to Washington on Thursday after the pilot alerted airport police to a security concern.

About 5 p.m., the pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1768 asked officers to assist in removing a group of people from the plane because of a "perceived security concern," according to a statement Friday from the federal Transportation Security Administration. The pilot pointed out the concern "out of an abundance of caution," a U.S. Airways spokeswoman said Friday.

Several people taken off the plane told WJLA-TV in Washington that they were students and that they want an apology from U.S. Airways. WJLA reported that the students were asked where they were from and if they had military training.

A new flight crew was brought in and checked baggage was re-screened.

Local law enforcement and the TSA determined that the people taken off the plane were not a threat, the TSA statement said.

Really, Charlotte?  And you don't think the TSA maybe gave them extra scrutiny anyway before letting them on the plane in the first place?  Jesus wept.  Nope, gotta turn the plane around and recheck them because they might be Muslim death commandos.  Five hour delay...and of course nothing there.

Republicans sure have trained us well, pissing on command like that.  All our potential GOP overlords running for President Obama's job would call this a necessary component of our country's freedom and liberty.

StupidiNews Focus: Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Pakistan Closer

Pakistan is pretty pissed off right now as a NATO gunship assault on a border checkpoint near Afghanistan has resulted in at least 26 dead Pakistani soldiers so far.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called an emergency meeting of military services chiefs to formulate his country's response, his spokesman said. The Defense Committee of the Cabinet will meet later Saturday.
In a statement, Gilani said he "strongly condemned the NATO/ISAF attack on the Pakistani" checkpoint.
The matter is being taken up by the Foreign Ministry "in the strongest possible terms" with NATO and the United States, the statement from his office said.
NATO's commander in Afghanistan said he is committed to a thorough investigation.

Yeah, this isn't good in any way.  Pakistan has already closed supply routes for NATO convoys through the country and that's just for starters, all this happening less than 48 hours or so after another NATO airstrike supposedly killed seven civilians in Afghanistan.  It looks like NATO troops were performing a cross-border raid from Afghanistan, chasing insurgents into Pakistan when the incident took place.  Pakistan's military is calling this an "unprovoked attack" on Pakistan's "sovereignty" and at this point it's still unclear just exactly what happened.  It's hard to imagine things getting too much worse:

"I think we should go to the United Nations Security Council against this," said retired Brigadier Mahmood Shah, former chief of security in the tribal areas. "So far, Pakistan is being blamed for all that is happening in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's point of view has not been shown in the international media."
Other analysts, including Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said Pakistan would protest and close the supply lines for some time, but that ultimately "things will get back to normal."
Paul Beaver, a British security analyst, said relations were so bad that this incident might have no noticeable impact.
"I'm not sure U.S.-Pakistan relations could sink much lower than they are now," he said.

President Obama's foreign policy has been excellent so far, but this is going to require some kid gloves.  We'll see what the State Department has to say in response.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Last Call

Hope you had a good Black Friday.  This year shopping was especially rough, apparently.

Authorities are searching for a woman accused of pepper-spraying other shoppers Thursday night at the Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch so that she could grab more discounted merchandise.

Twenty customers, including children, were hurt in the 10:10 p.m. incident, officials said. Shoppers complained of minor skin and eye irritation and sore throats.

"This was customer-versus-customer 'shopping rage,'" said Los Angeles Police Lt. Abel Parga.

The woman used the spray in more than one area of the Wal-Mart "to gain preferred access to a variety of locations in the store," said Los Angeles Fire Capt. James Carson.

"She was competitive shopping," he said.

Oh beautiful for spacious aisles, for amber waves of spray...

Only in America would a police spokesperson look at this case where pepper spray was used by a civilian, get nervous about the whole UC Davis thing, and decide to dodge the whole incident by calling it "competitive shopping".   Black Friday kinda sucks.

On the other hand, our old friend Don Surber says college economists who oppose rampant consumption on Black Friday should be taxed within an inch of their lives, (and while we're taxing private universities, let's charge sales tax on college tuition and end student loans!  That'll keep the poor people in their place!)

Mitt Romney Evil, Incorporated

One of Greg Sargent's readers puts forth an interesting hypothesis about Mitt Romney's most recent scurrilous campaign ad:  that Team Romney's obviously awful shenanigans are a signal to the GOP base that Romney's ready to run as nasty a campaign as necessary in order to win.

This interpretation is practically supported by what the Romney camp itself has said about the ad. Romney advisers have proudly boasted that their dishonesty “worked,” because it secured more media attention for the ad and baited the Obama team into an all-out response, creating the impression of a head-to-head media showdown between Romney and the President. It’s only a tiny leap from there to the conclusion that the Romney camp saw the dishonesty itself as a way to prove to GOP primary voters that Romney will do whatever it takes to beat Obama. And if this is the game, then the Romney camp’s unrepentance in the face of widespread media condemnation only helps, signaling that Romney is willing to employ whatever tactics are necessary to end the Obama presidency even if it means bravely taking a sustained beating from the Obama-worshipping liberal media along the way.

My view is that all the boasting from Romney’s advisers about their own strategic brilliance is just bluster. If they’re willing to run an ad this dishonest, why would anyone believe anything they say about it? It’s more likely that they lied, got caught, and came up with another set of falsehoods to explain the lie away. But who knows — maybe the above interpretation is true. Maybe the Romney team thinks a deliberate show of dishonesty will carry appeal for GOP primary voters who hate Obama so much that they want a candidate who will throw even the most basic standards of honesty and decency out the window to defeat him. If so, that says a lot about the Romney campaign’s regard for those voters, doesn’t it?

Actually, it says a lot more about the state of the Republican party machine more than anything else.  The GOP Plan for 2012 was always "drain all the oil out of the economic engine of the country and blame Obama".  It's not novel or even a bit weird, it's exactly what the base has been conditioned to expect.  Right now the defining characteristic of a Republican is blind, inchoate hatred, of President Obama, his wife, his daughters, his party, his fellow Democrats, the people who voted for them, and the people who support them.

Mitt is simply playing to the base.  He has no choice.  Assigning Team Romney values that may indicate they are going to feel shame or remorse and run a more positive campaign in the future is ridiculous.  The only thing that matters is President Obama has to lose, and the base doesn't care how or why.  Lies about the President and his policies have been the hallmark of the last three years.  Why would the 2012 campaign season be any different?

Mitt Romney is a Republican.  This is what Republicans are all about.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Jimmy Kimmel wins the internet.

I can honestly say that my family's Thanksgiving gatherings didn't involve politics very much. Sports, oh hell yes. Politics? Not so much.

Did everyone enjoy the Macy's parade?  I know Pepper Spray Cop did.


Leftovers. Nom.

BPA Free Bottles? Yeah, About That...

It seems the BPA scare has caused several companies to label their products as BPA-free.  There has been some controversy over the compound and what role it truly plays in the cause of certain cancers, diabetes and heart conditions.

There's just one small problem.  It's not just plastic, it turns out canned food contains it as well.  The cans themselves are lined with the chemical.

People who consumed one serving of canned soup a day for five days had a more than 1,000 percent increase in urinary BPA over people who consumed fresh soup for five days, the study showed.

"We've known for a while that drinking beverages that have been stored in certain hard plastics can increase the amount of BPA in your body," study author Jenny Carwile, a doctoral student at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a written statement. "This study suggests that canned foods may be an even greater concern, especially given their wide use."

BPA is used in the linings of metal food and beverage cans as well as in certain plastic bottles and dental sealants.

Seventy-five volunteers were recruited for the study. Every day for five days, one group consumed 12 ounces of canned vegetarian soup and another consumed 12 ounces of fresh vegetarian soup. After a two-day "washout period," the groups switched soups and spent another five days slurping away.

The researchers found that urine samples collected from the canned soup group spiked 1,221 percent over BPA levels over samples collected from the fresh soup group.

The article concludes pointing out that there is no conclusive evidence of harmful effects from BPA. I'm just asking, why run the risk?  It's hard to know at this point if it's a helpful discovery or urban legend fodder, but I will keep up with this and post any updates.  At this point I'm thinking risking a thousand percent increase of anything isn't good for us, even if it's just a little bit dangerous.

Jack Daniels, I Love You

Rarely do I read something so good and kind that it makes me tear up. This did the trick nicely.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee whiskey maker Jack Daniel’s is donating more than $100,000 to pay for plane tickets and travel funds for soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., to spend the December holiday season with their families all over the country.

The distiller is also asking the public to make additional contributions that could help hundreds of cash-strapped soldiers who otherwise would be stuck at the post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. Donations can be made to the Operation Ride Home campaign online at

Shirley West, executive director of the Armed Services YMCA at Fort Campbell, said she will be working with unit leaders to identify the neediest soldiers who will be eligible for plane ticket vouchers up to $300 for each family member and debit cards up to $100 for each family member for gas and lodging.

Jack Daniel’s is starting the fund with a donation of $101,000 in honor of the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division, which has recently returned from yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. The soldiers stationed there come from all over the country, but travel expenses can be a huge burden on single soldiers or young families with children.

Now that's putting money to good use and directly affecting people for the better.

Score Another One For The Blockheads

The GOP has refused to allow President Obama's Medicare program head to even get a vote in the Senate, filibustering every attempt, and that means a year after his recess appointment, Donald Berwick is out.  Brian Beutler:

In reality Berwick is a casualty of the ongoing partisan fight over social insurance. Nominally this is the fight over “deficits” and “debt”, but much more accurately it’s a dispute about the nature of key safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and, soon, the new health care law. The irony is that Berwick is best known, and widely respected, for his academic work on making the U.S. health care system more efficient — i.e. how to save people, businesses, and the government money, and simultaneously improve patient care. If the continuing fight over deficits was really about deficits, Berwick would have broad, bipartisan support to continue his work. Instead his curtailed tenure serves as an illustration of the fact that the fight about budget deficits doesn’t really have anything to do with deficits at all.

More importantly, Berwick actually proving that the basic tenets of the new health care law could actually work would be a disaster for the GOP.  If it's allowed to work, Republicans are toast. They know this, so "Obamacare" has to fail before 2014 and the system kicks into full throttle.  The opposition to it is driving their base and they want to manufacture as much outrage as possible between now and next November.

It was a "national crisis" when Berwick was appointed in the first place, remember?

For The Love Of God, People

The latest GOP fauxtrage this holiday week?  President Obama didn't mention God in his Thanksgiving address to the nation, making him the worst human being ever or something.  Gawker's Lauri Apple gives the "non-troversy" the treatment it deserves:

This year Obama decided to do something a little different and celebrate "the community" and the troops instead of God. As the LA Times reports, this literally forced the wingnuts to spend their holidays writing, blog-commenting, and tweeting about how Obama is a militant atheist, a turkey, and a "proponent of separatist multiculturalism and its inherent disruption of progress toward a unified America and the common good." None of the usual references to his ties to Islam from what we've seen, however; maybe it occurred to people that he can't be a Muslim and an atheist at the same time. (He'll probably be a Muslim again by Christmas.)

Gotta love Obama Derangement Syndrome and our atheist militant Kenyan Muslim Socialist anti-colonial President.  Apparently, saying "We hate him because he's black" is just too short and to the point, especially when considering you're calling him an atheist Muslim.  Worst religious fundamentalist ever.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Last Call

So apparently according to hew new book, you can thank Jimmy Carter and Gore Vidal for Michele Bachmann.  Personally, I was going to blame the fact she's batshit insane, but that's just me.

The Bachmanns were Jimmy Carter Democrats in those days. But Carter, and the government, soon disappointed. Shocked by the payroll withholdings at a summer newspaper job in college, Bachmann wrote a letter to the Social Security Administration saying she didn’t want to pay the taxes. The reply, according to Bachmann, came in a phone call from Washington telling her she had no choice.

“The caller on the other end of the line said this was coming from the White House!” the book recounts.

Her view of Carter’s failings, along with author Gore Vidal, turned Bachmann into a Republican. Vidal’s role came in the novel “Burr,” with its frank depiction of the nation’s founders, blemishes and all.

“I realized a snide dismissiveness toward American history and American institutions had become the essence and thinking of the chattering-class gatekeepers of the culture,” Bachmann wrote. Complicit with the Democrats, she felt, were the “me too” Republicans who went along with the new Left “antifamily relativists” of the pre-Reagan 1970s.

What the hell is an "antifamily relativist?"  A bachelor who hates kids?  What?  And really, the 70's drove her to become a 50's Republican in 2011?  This woman makes my head hurt, she does.

Here's one book I know I'm not buying for anyone on my shopping list.

Planes, Trains, And Asphalt-Mobiles

Your Turkey Day "travel nightmare story" has nothing on this one.

If you hear about a sticky Thanksgiving travel mess, images of crowded airport security lines and jammed freeway interchanges probably come to mind. Your car sitting on the freeway in a mass of a black goo probably isn't what you think of.

But that's exactly what drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike faced Tuesday night after a tanker truck carrying driveway sealant sprang a leak and spread the goo over a 37-mile stretch of highway.

"This is Thanksgiving. Now we have to turn around and go back home," Laura Frick, who was traveling from Cleveland to New Jersey for the holiday, told CNN affiliate WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh. "It's horrible."

The tar-like sealant was spilled in the turnpikes eastbound lanes between the New Castle and Allegheny Valley exits in western Pennsylvania, according to the turnpike's website. The truck's driver noticed the leak when he stopped at the Oakmont travel plaza, according to the WTAE report.

About 200 vehicles were damaged by the sealant, some to the point that they could no longer move, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Some drivers said the numbers were even higher.

Yep, several hundred cars got their tires mucked up, turned into rolling lumps of melty asphalt goo that of course eventually stopped rolling period.  Just awful if you ask me.  Luckily nobody was hurt but that's going to be a lot of tires...not to mention 37 miles worth of cleanup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Somehow, my Thanksgiving travel stories don't seem so bad anymore.

Now You Can Sleep On It

Insomniacs of the world, unite...and get some sack time.

The US Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, approved Wednesday medication specifically designed for those who wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back to sleep.

Intermezzo, manufactured by Transcept Pharmaceuticals of California, is a lower-dose formulation of zolpidem, first approved in the United States in 1992 and better known as the insomnia treatment Ambien.

“This is the first time the FDA has approved a drug for this condition,” the federal government agency said in a statement.

“Intermezzo should only be used when a person has at least four hours of bedtime remaining. It should not be taken if alcohol has been consumed or with any other sleep aid.”

So it's basically low-dose Ambien, and it knocks you out for half the night.  Somebody was paying attention in medical patents class.  I know I've have trouble falling back asleep after waking up at 2-3 AM sometimes.  Nice to know there's something you can do about it.

The holiday season's always a bit rough for me, personally.

10-Year-Old Boy Protects Mother With BB Gun

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Police in Bellingham, Wash., say a 10-year-old boy defended his mother from an attacker by shooting him in the face with a BB rifle as many as four times.

Paul R. Newman, the man accused of the attack, rents a room in the woman's home and came home drunk and angry Tuesday morning. Police say he kicked in a bedroom door and started choking the woman, according to Associated Press.

Officers say the boy hit the attacker with a board and then shot him in the face with the pump-action BB rifle as he grappled with the woman.

It's a tough world out there, but this little guy is prepared.  I'm thankful he wasn't hurt, this story has a tendency to repeat itself and the ending isn't always that happy.

Bachmann Has Another StupidiLeak

Michele Bachmann doesn't give a damn about anything our country stands for.  Education, freedom, choice, or Miranda rights for anyone suspected of terrorism.

The thing about rights is everyone has them.  That's what makes them rights, not options.  We should lead by example or be honest about ourselves.  Pretending to be holier than everyone and sinking to new lows is not going to make the problem go away.  If you are right, you know it because you don't have to cheat the system.  Any person detained should know why and a basic understanding of what they can expect.  If we are so obviously right under the circumstances, what do we lose by playing fair?

Michele Bachmann: "This is one thing we know about Barack Obama. He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He's outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists. When the bomber -- or the attempted bomber over Detroit, the underwear bomber -- was intercepted, he was given Miranda warnings within 45 minutes. He was not an American citizen. We don't give Miranda warnings to terrorists, and we don't read them their rights. They don't have any."

In fact, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber" who attempted to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in 2009, was not told of his right to remain silent until after he had stopped talking to law enforcement officials.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in February 2010, "The source said that Abdulmutallab was not read his rights until he made it clear that he was not going to say anything else."

Conservatives have frequently criticized Obama for allowing suspected terrorists to be read their Miranda rights. But the practice is not exclusive to Obama: President George W. Bush did the same thing.

In December 2001, Richard Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber," was "read or reminded of his Miranda rights four times in two days, beginning five minutes after being taken into custody."

You don't deserve rights unless Michele Bachmann approves of you.  What would happen if this troll of a woman ruled the country?  If you don't like her religion, if you don't agree with her, if you don't meet her standards, do you deserve rights?

If you think being a terrorist makes it different, think again.  It could also be people who are merely  suspected of terrorism.  Which, as the GOP has repeatedly shown, is anyone who doesn't fit their description of ideal.  And if they don't have enough dirt on you, they can abuse the Patriot Act to dig until they get it.  There's no layer to protect you or make sure your rights as a citizen are enforced.  In fact, Bachmann makes it clear she views the ACLU as the enemy, and using the totally incorrect but trendy word "outsourcing" to discredit those who stand up for the little guy.

In other words, how she plans to treat terrorists does void our most basic declarations of justice, freedom and due process.  The other news is it's also how she plans to treat the rest of us.
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