Sunday, December 4, 2011

Last Call

And I leave you tonight with the best thing all weekend, right here.

Geeky Christmas

This spiffy video has some awesome ideas for your beloved geek.  Geeks are often misunderstood, so this will give you some options and ideas.  And if you are just stuck, a gift certificate to would be a good second idea.

But seriously, let the awesomeness begin.  I think every one of these would be on my short list.

Iran Up And Hit 'Em In Da Grill

Iran is dropping the pretense on why the West won't touch them on oil sanctions: they promise an era of $250 a barrel crude as a result.

"As soon as such an issue is raised seriously the oil price would soar to above $250 a barrel," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in a newspaper interview.

The comments come as Iran strives to contain international reaction to the storming of the British embassy last week, a move which drew immediate condemnation from around the world and may galvanize support for tougher action against Tehran.

One would think that the game of "who keeps blowing up Iran's nuclear facilities" was obvious, but then again denial isn't just a rive in Egypt, as they say.

The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to penalize foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank -- which takes payment for the 2.6 million barrels Iran exports a day. The European Union is considering a ban -- already in place in the United States -- on Iranian oil imports.

So far neither Washington nor Brussels has finalized its move against the oil trade or the central bank amid fears of the possible impact on the global economy of restricting oil flows from the world's fifth biggest exporter.

Yeah, this is a card that will not be played anytime soon, everyone knows it, Iran is simply pointing it out.  Especially with the eurozone on verge of economic breakdown and the US economy not in too much better shape, serious oil sanctions on Tehran simply isn't an option.

So, we all go back to pretending Tehran's scientific nuclear labs are blowing up due to mysterious circumstances along with spontaneous student flash mobs closing the British Embassy there.

Such an odd little war.

Iran's military said on Sunday it had shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone aircraft in eastern Iran, a military source told state television.

"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted the unnamed source as saying.

Iran also announcing that  it will shoot down drones in neighboring airspace. Cooler heads prevailing and all.

We hope.

Do You Want Fries With That? Round 2

New York (CNN) -- A fast-food worker whose run-in with two unruly customers was captured on cell phone video last month will not be indicted on assault charges, prosecutors said Saturday.

A grand jury voted against indicting Rayon McIntosh, who was seen allegedly swinging a metal object against two patrons at a McDonald's restaurant in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.
He had been charged with felony assault, according to Joan Vollero, spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The incident occurred at the restaurant on West 3rd Street in the early morning of October 12, and seemed to begin when the cashier questioned a $50 bill the women gave him, according to the video.

The two women responded by hurling obscenities at McIntosh. One of them then appeared to reach over the counter and slap his face, the video showed.

From there, one woman was seen climbing over the counter, sending the cashier running toward the kitchen area. The other woman is then seen walking around to join her friend.

The cashier reappears with what police described as a metal object and repeatedly takes swings at the women.

What the hell? Is the customer always so right that they get to break the law? If I'm reading it right, one of the women was the first to commit assault when she slapped him in the face. They went behind the counter after him. Maybe I'm sympathetic because I'd do the same thing in light of those facts. We are looking at assault on a man performing his duties at work, and then they intrude on his space, threatening him after already physically assaulting him. Hell yes he grabbed a metal bar and defended himself. Who wouldn't? And here is one more bit of enlightenment for anyone considering doing the same thing: self-defense classes teach you how to get an enemy down and keep them there. I would have given them a few extra knocks as a reminder and recommendation to stay down.

I was angry when I covered this the day after it happened, and I'm angrier now.

The lesson to be learned here is that you can't get away with anything you want when it comes to public employees. People who are following company rules and regulations are cussed, smacked, insulted, and they have to wear a smile and be respectful the whole time. Wake up, world. The worker in the company uniform wasn't put on this world to be your scratching post. If you act like an asshole and a bully, someone is eventually going to have enough and put you in your place. In this case, at least in my book, the bullies are two women who deserved every smack they got.  When you attack someone and intrude on their space, you get what you get and you can't complain.

A Thing Of Beauty, Appreciated Properly

Since I'm partially responsible for its genesis, I thought I'd mention that today's Tom Levenson piece deconstructing, demolishing, and disintegrating Megan McArdle's latest $1500 food processor-based "Let them eat cake" idiocy is a comfort to me, like apple cider on a rainy winter morning.  Dig him up and shake his hand, appreciate the man.

Oh, snap!  It’s a measure of McArdle’s particular qualities that she manages to transform whatever publication chooses to admit her to its space into that privileged corner of the school steps where the Mean Girls live.

I mean, seriously:  working at jobs we like for money less than that the 1 % can command so warps the character as to turn us unfortunate journalists and professors into hypocritical scolds.  Damn.  I’m short on my month’s quota of vituperation and visible displays of hair-shirt couture.

Of course, this is (a) simple pre-emption:  “I’m not a culinary snob, wielding cash to distract as I chase the lives of my betters.  You’re the snob!  So there!”

And (b) it’s nonsense.  Professors and journalists are not badly paid by any reasonable standard. Roberts himself is a professor of marketing at Baylor, and as of the 2009 mean salary for such faculty was $138,000.   That’s not Prada and hot and cold running Dom rich, but it’s not bad coin by anyone’s standards, and applied to the cost of living in Robert’s Waco, Texas, that’s a sum that will set you up very nicely indeed.

All this is crushing flies with a jack-hammer, I know, but the point is, I think, pretty damn obvious:  McArdle hasn’t or won’t do the work to test the question on the table: whether or not money buys you happiness.  So she throws monkey faeces at the wall instead.

I am not ashamed to admit that I aspire to someday deftly wield a snarkblade in such a manner, sharp enough to pare the truth from the offal with but a subtle flick of the wrist.  Tom then cleans his blade of McMegan's remaining dignity with an offhand motion before sheathing it directly in her own ego.

So one last thought, really an explanation about why it is McArdle so gets under my skin.

That would be because she so diminishes the craft I have spent decades learning and now teach:  how to write about matters of fact; how to be a journalist.  I’ve detailed some, (by no means all) of the kinds of errors of argument and interpretation in this one little fish-wrap piece that make a mockery of the notion of a bargain of honesty with one’s readers.  But I’ve left till now the tic that McArdle displays over and over again that tells you that she simply can’t be trusted.  And that would be her near-constant invocation of strangely generic sources.

Do read the entire piece, as it will be his last McMeganing for a while.  As Jack Nicholson famously said in Batman, if you gotta go, go with a smile.

Nuked Gingrich, Part 11

What makes Maureen Dowd so frustrating is that she's capable of completely sussing out what makes someone like Newt Gingrich tick, but is completely unable to find the time to figure out say, President Obama.

His mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. He plays air guitar with ideas, producing air ideas. He ejaculates concepts, notions and theories that are as inconsistent as his behavior.

He didn’t get whiplash being a serial adulterer while impeaching another serial adulterer, a lobbyist for Freddie Mac while attacking Freddie Mac, a self-professed fiscal conservative with a whopping Tiffany’s credit line, and an anti-Communist Army brat who supported the Vietnam War but dodged it.

“Part of the question I had to ask myself,” he said in a 1985 Wall Street Journal piece about war wimps, “was what difference I would have made.”

Newt swims easily in a sea of duality and byzantine ideas that don’t add up. As The Washington Post reported on Friday, an America under President Gingrich would have two Social Security systems — “one old, one new, running side by side” — two tax systems and two versions of Medicare.

Of course, Newt's not that hard to figure out. The only reason he's now being considered an "ideas guy" for the GOP is that his intellectual competition is Michele Bachmann.  Newt's single largest contribution to the American political process was breeding absolute contempt for the American political process itself.

Mr. Gingrich did everything in his power to dismantle Congressional institutions that employed people with the knowledge, training and experience to know a harebrained idea when they saw it. When he became speaker in 1995, Mr. Gingrich moved quickly to slash the budgets and staff of the House committees, which employed thousands of professionals with long and deep institutional memories.

Of course, when party control in Congress changes, many of those employed by the previous majority party expect to lose their jobs. But the Democratic committee staff members that Mr. Gingrich fired in 1995 weren’t replaced by Republicans. In essence, the positions were simply abolished, permanently crippling the committee system and depriving members of Congress of competent and informed advice on issues that they are responsible for overseeing.

What makes this man such an odious little pile is the fact he gave the GOP the best and most effective weapon they've ever known:  how to make a government that can't work.  Now, 17 years later, we have a political party running on a platform that government has never worked and that a vast majority of it needs to be abolished in order to directly give power to "the people", which in this case means the super-wealthy.

All that has proceeded to such a marvelous extent that Gingrich is considered a viable candidate again in the "era of no government", so much so that he's now leading in Iowa and gaining significantly in New Hampshire with a month to go.

So yes, please nominate this little troll.  I'd love an Obama second term.

Everything Old And Unexploded Is New Again

Climate change may be a harsh mistress, but history is an even worse one as the people of Koblenz, Germany have discovered this weekend.

Life has come to a standstill in the western German city of Koblenz, where 45,000 people -- nearly half of the city´s population -- have been evacuated after the discovery of several dangerous World War II bombs.

"It´s the largest German evacuation since the end of the war," fire brigade spokesman Ronald Eppelsheim said Sunday.

For 65 years, the Rhine River hid three bombs that were dropped by American and British warplanes in the last years of the war. When water levels dropped to record lows last week, the bombs were finally found.

"While time passed by, and Koblenz was rebuild(ing), the bombs got even more dangerous", bomb-disposal squad member Jurgen Wagner said Sunday.

The largest of the explosives is a 1.8-ton British air bomb that has the potential to destroy the city´s center, according to the fire brigade.

But the focus of attention isn't on the largest bomb -- it's on the much smaller, 125-kilogram (275-pound) American high-explosive bomb. "This one has been transformed on impact of the earth. We might have some serious problems deactivating the detonator," Wagner said.

That's not a good thing, or course.  One has to wonder just how many more unexploded bombs are out there in areas of Europe now suffering from drought, where rivers like the Rhine and the Danube are near all-time recorded low levels this fall.

I'm sure if we yell SOLYNDRA loud enough, the problem will go away, right?
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