Monday, August 22, 2011

Last Call

I'm beginning to think that Barack Obama is being held to an impossible standard by Republicans.  Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement attacking the President for his "failure" in Libya:

"Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower."

Of course, Johnny Volcano and Huckleberry Hound here both were angry as hell when the President announced his Libya NATO plan and attacked it for not being AWESOME enough.

The two senators stood in contrast to a substantial segment of the Republican party, including presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who argued that the way President Obama went about committing US assets to the fighting was an imperious abuse of his power.

McCain and Graham on the other hand, dinged Obama for not acting imperiously enough. They argued that his insistence on following the UN mandate of "protecting civilians" meant NATO forces weren't hitting Qaddafi hard or fast enough. To be fair, their criticisms were echoed by a number of military analysts who argued there was confusion among NATO ranks over whether they were really engaged in regime change or not, and if they were then to what extent they could push. 

So yes, for the next oh, rest of his current term, you can expect Republicans to attack President Obama for not using enough bombs liberation dispersion devices quickly enough, and for the rest to say "How DARE Blackguard McDarkerthanme take any sort of credit for no US casualties in Libya and freeing the people from their dictator, even though he's publicly said that Libya's freedom is in the hands of its people.

And we won't start in on des sacs d'incendie here, I have enough of a headache today.

Robbing Everyone To Pay Paul Ryan

The Weekly Standard is reporting that Rep. Paul "Medikill" Ryan wants nothing to do with the supposedly "wide open" 2012 race.

"I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress."

Ryan has said publicly he is concerned that those currently running for the GOP nomination are not addressing long-term fiscal and economic issues in a way that makes clear the magnitude of the challenges. He told Milwaukee talk radio host Charlie Sykes on August 12 that he was disappointed in the presidential debate in Iowa and thought the field needed a candidate who could articulate the need for limited government.

“The way I see 2012 – we owe it to the country to let them choose the path they want our country to take,” he said. “And I just have yet to see a strong and principled articulation of the kind of limited government, opportunity society path that we would provide as an alternative to the Obama cradle-to-grave welfare state.”

You know what Paul Ryan considers "cradle-to-grave welfare state"?  Public schools and Social Security and Medicare, all of which would have been deeply slashed under his budget proposals and in the case of Medicare, eliminated and replaced with a privatized program.  Ryan in face said he was willing to lose his job over his Social Security cuts...but he thinks they are a liability in a Presidential race, enough that he won't run.

Funny how that works.

Onward Christian Dominionist Soldiers, Part 2

Last week I talked about Michelle Goldberg's article in the Daily Beast about Christian Dominionists and the GOP 2012 field, specifically Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.  It's pretty telling that this week, the Daily Beast is basically printing a retraction of the entire article with this piece by Larry Ross.

Although her well-intentioned article may resonate in the echo chambers of her fellow East Coast media elite, Goldberg misapplies a broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify. It reveals more about the author’s personal perspective and lack of nuanced understanding of the topic than it provides useful information about the subjects themselves.

The collateral damage in such reporting is that readers are moved one step closer to perception defining reality, reinforcing the communications axiom "It’s not that people don’t know so much, but that they know so much that isn’t so.”

I don’t know or represent either candidate, nor do I have anything to do with their campaigns. But I am a lifelong evangelical who understands the foundational tenets of belief in the doctrine of love, according to the principles of Jesus in the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount.

Not only is a leader who has experienced authentic heart transformation able to live a godly life, he or she also endeavors to model counterintuitive servant leadership, rather than domination or control, and to empower the least of society instead of mounting a quest for power.

The piece goes on at some length like this, basically boiling down to "How dare you stupid secular eggheads quote the Christian leaders associated with Bachmann and Perry verbatim!" and ending with this:

Although evangelicals, admittedly, have some housekeeping to do, at the end of the day the Christian faith is not an ideology, nor are believers useful idiots for one party or another. By and large, believers and evangelical leadership are motivated by the love of Jesus, not leveraging biblical values against the culture.

Which would be funny if it wasn't the fact that "leveraging biblical values" to control America politically is exactly what the Tea Party right is doing these days, going after abortion, same-sex marriage, and at the same time using Christianity to couch the end of Social Security and Medicare as "necessary sacrifice" that Americans have to make in order to protect the favored wealthy (who are wealthy because God made them wealthy and if you ask them to pay more taxes, that's going against God's will).

Probably explains why Tea Party money man Charles Koch said this over the weekend:

"Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington."

And Koch, being one of the richest guys on Earth, is also one of the most favored by God.  But no, Dominionism is a "myth".  Pay no attention to the use of religion to control America's political landscape.

Amazon Makes Bold But Logical Move

The Hub’s authors, publishers and booksellers say the writing is on the wall, and it signals a major shift in the book business, after online retail giant’s entrance into the $32 billion publishing industry.

“Amazon is doing to the world of book publishing what iTunes did to major record labels,” Trelease said. “This is an alarm bell to the giant publishers, and if they fail to heed the warning, they will lose.”

Of course the industry is complaining, but this is inevitable.  While Amazon's service will likely fall somewhere between the traditional publishing houses and a vanity press, the power of competition will ultimately give readers more choices and writers more opportunity.  The publishing industry is notorious for ignoring technology and forcing writers to go through several steps, this will eliminate those while opening the door to unpublished writers.

“If anyone else said they were starting a traditional book publishing company in this era of e-books, everyone would ask, ‘Are they crazy?’ ” Smith said. “But when Amazon does it, you have to ask, ‘What do they know that the rest of us don’t?’ ”

I think that says it best of all. As a writer, I try to stay up to date on publishing methods and changes that are coming. This may change how writers are published forever. But like it or not, it's going to happen.

Removing Choice Is No Choice

The Santa Monica school system is about to vote on whether to remove chocolate milk from the choices available to kids.  This well-meaning movement is actually detrimental to kids, and is a sign of what is so wrong with how we "protect" our children.

There is no doubt that white milk is healthier.  Yet chocolate milk still has the same amount of calcium, protein and vitamin D.  Soda is available, as is tea and other beverages that do not offer any nutritional value whatsoever.  While chocolate milk has sugar added, it has nutritional benefits to offset that negative.  To me, this is like removing orange juice because it has sugar, without giving a nod to crucial vitamin C.

The real lesson here is teaching kids to make healthy choices.  That means letting them have options, not taking those options away.  In our ambition to help children, we are hindering them.  Some children will not get the benefits of milk if white is the only choice.  Some kids need the extra calories in a time when schools are providing the bulk of nutrition for thousands of children.  All kids need to learn how to make a choice, and use moderation when deciding what to put into their bodies.

I'm Enrichin' With Mah Laser!

General Electric is bringing some bad things to life.

US conglomerate General Electric is seeking permission to build a $1 billion plant for uranium enrichment by laser, a process which has raised proliferation fears, The New York Times said Sunday.

After testing the enrichment process for two years, GE has asked the US government to approve its plans for a massive facility in North Carolina that could produce reactor fuel by the ton, the report said, citing GE officials.

"We are currently optimizing the design," Christopher Monetta, president of Global Laser Enrichment, a subsidiary operated by GE and Japan's Hitachi, said in an interview with the newspaper.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to deliver its decision on whether to issue a commercial license for the complex by next year, the report said.

Uranium enrichment can be used to produce both the fuel for a nuclear reactor and the fissile material for an atomic warhead. New technologies are seen as potentially dangerous as they make it easier to build a bomb.

Monetta said the plant could enrich enough uranium each year to fuel up to 60 large reactors -- in theory, enough to power 42 million homes, or a third of all homes in the United States.

Erm, that's a lot of enriched uranium.  More importantly, I doubt GE would go through all this trouble to make this enrichment plant and a technology to do it if they didn't think they'd be able to sell the stuff, and if they weren't expecting a big market for nuclear fuel.

Secondly, I really hope that plant's not going up in my old neck of the woods.  It would be a huge target for a number of reasons, not to mention the potential environmental nightmare in case something goes wrong with the technology or containment.

I don't like this one bit.

The Protection Of Vile Speech

California looks to be taking action against Westboro Baptish Church-style funeral protests.  The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the group has the right to say their piece, but more and more states are restricting the time and place of these protests and the Golden State looks to be joining that list.

The legislation, introduced Sen. Ted Lieu (D), would would make it a misdemeanor to protest within 1,000 feet of a funeral for one hour before or after a ceremony. The bill was approved 72 to 0 in the state Assembly. The California Senate passed it by a nearly unanimous vote in June, but must approve amendments to the bill before it heads to the governor's desk.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 8 to 1 decision in March that the church's widely despised protests were protected speech under the First Amendment.

"I accept the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to render harmful decisions, but protesters should not be able to disrupt actual funeral services," Lieu said in a statement.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed similar legislation on August 14. Arizona and Oklahoma also enacted similar laws this year. The measures are model on an Ohio law that was upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008.

"Individuals mourning the loss of a loved one share a privacy right similar to individuals in their homes or individuals entering a medical facility," the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

More than 40 states have passed laws limiting funeral protests.

The Westboro Baptist Church has vowed to fight the laws in court.

My basic thought on this is that yes, these slimeballs have the right to be complete assholes, just like everyone else has the right to ignore them because of what they say.  Having said that, what goes around comes back around, and these guys are still human scum.  Good for California.

The Emerald (Sunken) City

A pretty interesting story from Reuters involving half a billion dollars in sunken treasure and who owns it, angry investors, corporate greed, and a guy named Jay Miscovich who made one hell of a find.

In early 2010, Miscovich, an investor in sunken treasure excavations, claimed to have located a site and recovered a "cache" of precious stones.

To pay for the pricey recovery work, Miscovich turned for assistance to his brother Scott, a Hawaiian physician. Scott connected Jay with Dean Barr, the former Citigroup hedge fund executive, who in turn, brought in Ash the accountant. In the summer of 2010, the pair agreed to pony up roughly $2 million, according to the partnership agreement, although the two sides differ on how much of that they actually invested.

Almost immediately, things soured. The investors suspected the Miscoviches were scheming to keep the most highly prized gems for themselves -- a concern fueled by the empty safe deposit box episode.

Their worst fears seemed to be confirmed when Ash, the accountant, was contacted by Gerry Edwards, a diver working on the recovery efforts in Florida. Recounting the conversation to Reuters, Edwards said he told Ash that boxes of emeralds were being stashed out of the investors' reach in Key West.

Soon after Edwards' call to Ash, the investors sued. They wanted a ruling that Jay Miscovich had breached his contract with the investors and that they could seize control of the partnership.

The Miscovich side of the story, as related in court documents, is quite different. According to Jay Miscovich, the investors created events like the empty safe deposit box as a pretext to have the bank deny the brothers' access to the vault. The "stash" that the diver Edwards discovered in Key West was nothing but worthless stones.

To Jay Miscovich, it was the investors who appeared to be angling to snatch the treasure.

It gets crazy from there, involving the Smithsonian Museum, "bags of gemstones", a former Bill Clinton campaign manager, a movie deal and a sealed settlement in Delaware courts.  This one's going to make a great movie when it comes out if you ask me.

I really hope Matthew McConaughey isn't in it.


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