Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last Call

So, when do we start profiling white males in their early 20's as potential terrorists?

A 22-year-old Virginia man stole a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint the day before he shot dead a Virginia Tech police officer and then took his own life, police said Friday.

Virginia State Police on Friday identified Ross Truett Ashley, 22, as the man who killed Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek Crouse and then himself about 30 minutes later.

A part-time student at Radford University, 15 miles southwest of Blacksburg, Ashley had no connection to or contact with Crouse before Thursday's shooting, according to a news release from state police.

"State police investigators are continuing their work to establish a motive in the killing and to re-create Ashley's movements in the days and hours leading up to the murder-suicide," police said.

If Ross Ashley here were a young Arab Muslim, we would be hearing once again the barely coherent screams of the wingnuts demanding profiling, pre-emptive action, and internment.  But since he's white, it'll just be "a lone gunman" and he'll be forgotten.  It will be "an unfortunate meaningless tragedy" rather than proof that "all Muslims are evil".

Funny how that works, but there you have it.  So again, I ask the usual suspects on the right:  when does the profiling begin?

The Miseducation On Newt Gingrich

If you want to know why I believe there's a enough solid chance Newt will win enough primaries to seriously panic the GOP establishment into doing something amazingly stupid that may blow up the entire party, I direct you to Pajamas Media's Bryan Preston, who has this analysis of the Newt.

Newt Gingrich is such a mixed bag it’s hard to know where to start in assessing his true record. He helped scuttle HillaryCare. He balanced the budget for the first time in forever. He authored, and forced President Clinton to sign, welfare reform. These are all historic achievements for which Newt Gingrich deserves credit.

But he resigned in disgrace after being the only Speaker of the House in US history to be punished and fined by his own majority for ethics violations. He fell for global warming. He lobbied — despite what he says, that’s what he did — for Freddie Mac. He raked in tens of millions promoting big government health care including the individual mandate, all the way up to 2009. He called Paul Ryan’s budget reforms “right wing social engineering.” In an anti-establishment national moment, he’s the embodiment of much that’s wrong with the establishment. He is, ironically, more of an establishment figure than the incumbent president. That “crossroads where government meets enterprise”? Gingrich has occupied it for 30 years. And then there are the private life problems, which stretch all the way to the beginning of his political career. You can’t even argue that he has always been faithful to his next wife. He’s an opposition researcher’s dream opponent. His nomination would take several major issues off the table.

But at least he can debate well and swat the media. There’s no chance that either can wear thin and end up turning voters off, right?

What an amazing mix of fact and fiction there to create Gingrich's larger than life persona...or more importantly, the facts are the part where Preston is attacking him.  The fiction is where anyone other than a die-hard Republican voter over the age of 40 has any positive connotations of Newt at all, and even with the silly nonsense about Newt "balancing the budget" and "reforming welfare", not even a winger hack like Preston can make up enough winger nonsense to rehabilitate Newt Gingrich.  There's just too much baggage there.

On the other hand, the fact that the GOP establishment despises Newt Gingrich only hands the Tea Party nutjobs all the motivation they need to vote for him.  And should Newt actually start winning and the polls stay where they are into the January primaries, I wouldn't put it past the GOP powers that be to put Newt down like a rabid animal.  And if they don't, and they accept him, he augers into the ground at Mach 4 in the general.  Who would be pick as his VP in order to help him win?  Palin again?  Bachmann?  Cain?  Please.

Either way then things will get really, really fun.

Haves And Have Nots

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the epitome of America's wealth inequality:  the heirs to Sam Walton's massive Wal-Mart fortune.

The triennial Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) is one of the best sources for data on wealth in the U.S. And, of course the Forbes 400 estimates the worth of the wealthiest amongst us—all 400 wouldn’t be captured in the SCF. If we look at both the SCF and the Forbes 400 we can glean some interesting insights.
In 2007 (the most recent SCF) the cumulative wealth of the Forbes 400 was $1.54 trillion or roughly the same amount of wealth held by the entire bottom fifty percent of American families. This is a stunning statistic to be sure.
Upon closer inspection, the Forbes list reveals that six Waltons—all children (one daughter-in-law) of Sam or James “Bud” Walton the founders of Wal-Mart—were on the list. The combined worth of the Walton six was $69.7 billion in 2007—which equated to the total wealth of the entire bottom thirty percent!

Six people in America have the same total combined wealth as about 90 million Americans, roughly.  I'm not sure what's more depressing, that 400 people control enough wealth equal to half the country, or the six Walton heirs controlling enough wealth for the bottom 30%.

No country should have an economy out of whack.  Nobody should be worth millions of people like that.

It's crazy.

Bag of Hope

Bag of Bones will be coming to A&E. This is one of Stephen King's best novels. However, like all of his best work I worry that it will fall flat when it hits the screen. The entire book is told from the main character's point of view, and it's him that we learn to love. It's his thoughts that add that extra dimension of pain and terror. Showing us may not be enough.  One article says it falls way short of the book's promise.  I hope they are wrong.

I won't throw any spoilers (major ones anyway) but I have heard a few things that give me pause. First, they kill Jo in an entirely different way, one that doesn't match the underground story that is developing quietly the whole time. She had to die the way she did for everything to add up. Also, I have heard that the grief of losing his wife is shown in a clumsy way. It's no secret that Mike's wife dies. What is important is how it made him the scattered and desperate man that he becomes. It's also the most brilliant part of King's writing. Authors are often told to skip grief because it makes the reader sad or uncomfortable. Not King. He didn't flinch from the pain and he let you feel it right along with Mike. Anyone who has lost someone that meaningful knows how grief lays little traps. You think you're all cried out, you think you have move on, then like a sucker punch you catch a whiff of perfume or see their favorite book and you're right back to where you were the day you learned they were gone.

The terror of Bag of Bones is the same way. What happens is semi-scary by itself, in the context of Mike's universe they are enough to stop your heart. It's going to be hard to capture that without lame segues or "talking to myself" scenes.  The secret language of marriage is going to be hard to portray, and the love stories going on might be too distracting.  We had the advantage of hearing Mike's thoughts on everything, without that the movie may rely too much on 1) assuming the viewer hasn't read the book and 2) that they need to explain too much so they cut crucial parts of the story.

Still, I will be tuned in and hoping for success. Give me back my dust catcher, please.

That's Some Fine Police Work There, Lou (Again)

An off-duty Miami-Dade police officer was arrested after he was discovered passed out and drunk in his patrol car in the middle of a West Kendall intersection, the department said Thursday.

But Fernando Villa was not cuffed and booked into jail. Instead, Villa, 32, was allowed to go home after signing a form promising he would appear in court.

Now, the internal affairs bureau is investigating Villa, as well as why supervisors on the scene allowed him to avoid jail, despite orders from Miami-Dade Police Director Jim Loftus to treat him “like everyone else.”

Surprise, they can't figure out who did it. Looks like another cop may get away with a crime. I have no problems with professional courtesies, but this is too much. Anyone else would have been treated like dog crap on their lawn, and this guy gets to go home.

Greek Fire, Part 48

Well, if Felix Salmon's analysis of the "Save the euro!" summit is correct, then the Greek Fire is about to pretty much claim the entire continent.

Remember how Wolfgang M√ľnchau said that the Euro zone had to get it right at this summit or it would collapse? Well, the Euro zone has most emphatically not got it right. Take any of the list of prescriptions of the minimum necessary right now — from M√ľnchau, from Larry Summers, from Mohamed El-Erian — and the one thing that jumps out at you, especially in light of the most recent news, is that if you look at anybody’s list, there’s an enormous number of items which has zero chance of actually happening.

Here’s how the FT put it on Wednesday:
It borders on hysterical to say there are but hours to save the euro, but there is a risk that if the crisis is not now tamed the price of a rescue might start to spiral out of politicians’ grasp. The stakes are therefore very high at Friday’s summit. The world cannot afford another half-baked solution.
And yet, inevitably, another half-baked solution is exactly what we got. Which means, I fear, that it is now, officially, too late to save the Eurozone: the collapse of the entire edifice is now not a matter of if but rather of when.

Oh it gets worse from there, but the central tenet of the issue is that the summit yesterday was a complete failure, and not just because the UK said they wanted nothing to do with saving the euro.  There's simply not enough money to bail out any more countries, period.  It's all been blown on the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.)  And Italy has 2 trillion euros in outstanding debts, when these guys are balking at a quarter of that for the entire permanent stability bailout fund.

But Felix is right.  The euro is done for at this point.  The question is only how much damage will it do to the world economy, and given that the world economy is on life support as it is, this is likely to be horrifically bad when the dominoes finally stop falling.

Sadly, it's going to be the average European who is going to suffer...followed very, very closely by the average American.  And if you think the Fed will be allowed to step in to save Europe, remember that the Republicans made sure we couldn't even save ourselves.

Time to start thinking about what could happen when the euro does collapse, never mind the "if" part.

Hint: worst case scenario here is "years of global depression and 20% listed unemployment" which would be about 40%-50% in real terms.  In other words, game over.  And at this point, we're not even players in the game to stop it.

Papers, Please In Alabama, Part 3

Looks like Alabama's "Papers, Please!" immigration law is already causing serious economic damage to the state's farms, but now it's starting to cost the state foreign manufacturing plant jobs as companies look for other states to build their plants in.

And earlier this week, the business alliance in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, called for revisions to the law because the group worried the law was tainting Alabama’s image around the world. James T. McManus, chairman of the Alliance and CEO of the Energen Corp., said revisions “are needed to ensure that momentum remains strong in our competitive economic development efforts.”

Sheldon Day, the mayor of Thomasville, Alabama, has already seen the reality of McManus’ concerns. After Day recruited a Canadian steel company to Thomasville in July 2010, he said 25 companies have visited the town about building plants there. But he told the Wall Street Journal that since the law went into effect, at least one company turned down a visit because of the immigration law. And Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, a Chinese company that in March pledged to build a $100 million factory in Thomasville, is reconsidering its decision to build a plant in Alabama after the law went into effect.

The mounting concerns among business leaders show a turning point for the immigration law. Already, legislators have weighed in about wanting to change HB 56, and state Attorney General Luther Strange admitted that parts of the harmful law need to be scrapped. For a law that could cost the Alabama economy at least $40 million each year, it should be clear how vital it is for lawmakers in Alabama to do something about the crisis HB 56 created. 

$40 million plus a year and potentially hundreds of jobs, if not thousands if foreign manufacturing companies and auto makers pull out because of the embarrassing PR backlash.  It should have been dead obvious to Alabama lawmakers that the multinational backlash to this policy in a global economy was going to far outweigh the political "benefits" from the anti-Latino crowd in the state's midst.  Then again, they're Republicans...apparently not too smart to begin with.

While it would be devastating to the state's economy, I wonder how many international companies will leave Alabama before this law gets tossed?  If I'm an Alabama GOP lawmaker, I'm hoping the Supreme Court files this piece of work in the wastebasket pretty damn soon.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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