Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
1: The San Francisco Giants WON THE WORLD SERIES!
Understand that I've been a Giants fan since I was a small child, and this had never happened before. I think I celebrated for at least two weeks, and I still get a slightly intoxicated smile every time I utter or hear the phrase "World Champion San Francisco Giants." I'll get to continue feeling that buzz until at least October, if not longer.
I fully realize that many more important things occurred this year, like health care, the repeal of DADT, the rescue of the Chilean miners, and others. But for the rest of my life 2010 will be remembered as the year the Giants won it all!
(I know I'm being rather shallow. Please feel free to leave your "best of 2010" in the comments.)
Saturday, December 25, 2010
That's for all of us oldsters who remember Walt Kelly's "Pogo", a truly wonderful comic strip. My Father loved to sing "Deck Us All" on Christmas, and it's still a bit of a family tradition for my sisters and I. My nieces think we're rather weird.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
While the media hasn't paid much attention to it, one of the more important pieces of news of the past few weeks might be Bill Richardson's "unofficial" trip to North Korea. Remember the heightened tensions between the two Koreas around military exercises? Then North Korea did a sudden about face, backing down from the militaristic posturing, with Richardson's visit.
Funny, but it's the BBC reporting it, not the American media:
Bill Richardson has emphasised that his visit to North Korea - at a time of very high tension on the Korean peninsula - was in an unofficial capacity.
A former US ambassador to the United Nations, he has visited North Korea on several occasions in the past.
"My sense is the North Koreans realise that they have moved too negatively against negotiations, that they have taken some very bad steps and they wanted to move in the right direction," Mr Richardson said.
"They agreed to the proposals that I made.... Now there has to be deeds, not words."
I've always considered Bill Richardson to be a very savvy, shrewd diplomat. While it's not clear what he did (or could) offer North Korea, it is clear that they backed down from a very dangerous position. North Korea does have a long history of not negotiating in good faith, so this may end up going nowhere. But at least the tensions are being ratcheted down a bit. And that is "news".
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
(OK, that title sounds wrong. I may change it.)
So the senate acted like a recalcitrant college student (albeit no where near 'good looking'), slacking through the semester before cramming like mad for the final. We've all known or been that student. Hoping to do well enough on the final to get a passing grade overall.
Well, they did put up a pretty strong finish:
Along with this past weekends DADT repeal, it was a very busy week.
So what sort of overall grade should we give the senate? Their semester was a completely unproductive miasma of parties and vacations, and the midterm exam (election) clearly got a "fail" grade. I really expected their "final" to result in an "incomplete", but this final has actually impressed me. I'm actually ready to give the senate a "passing" grade. Which is a bit of a shock.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Late tonight/early tomorrow morning (depending on your time zone) there will be a total lunar eclipse, roughly coinciding with the winter solstice. But it doesn't look like I'll get to see it. Local weather: rain storm, completely overcast for today through the next few days. Bummer.
Guess I'll just have to hope for better weather for the next one.
Added: Went outside around 1:00 am. Completely overcast. No visible evidence that the moon even existed.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
To somewhat follow up on my previous post and expand on a few observations, the tax cut battles clearly show that the two parties are clearly operating on a very different set of rules and have very different goals. It's no longer about different philosophies or policies, it's now about different tactics and standards. "Winning" and "losing" have very different definitions for the two parties.
As a clear starting point for this rant, it's important to look at and understand the use of the 'filibuster' in the senate, which is the barrier that Obama has been unable to overcome in this battle. The republicans have used their 41 seats in the senate to block any and all bills until their demands are met, and they've been unwavering in this "lame duck" session. Given that the filibuster rule cannot be changed until the beginning of a new congressional session, it's a very effective tactic. Different rules.
Which is why I sort of break from my fellow liberals who say they want Obama to "fight" against the republicans on the tax cuts for the rich. I've read the analogy that Obama "brought a knife to a gunfight", but the reality is that the republicans brought a nuke. The republican line in the sand was "give to the rich, or we'll blow up everything" and with the looming Christmas deadline it was a very credible threat. If anybody can show me where Obama could have gotten even one republican to back down and cross over, I'd be happy to support the "fight" idea. But last weekends votes on the tax cut proposals showed that the republicans were firm in their unity. Different rules.
Which clearly illustrates the difference in the two parties agendas. While Obama and the democrats were attempting to engage in "governing" the republicans were clearly focused on "winning" at any cost. The democrats tried to do what they felt was "good for the country and the economy" whereas the republicans only wanted to help the rich and weaken Obama. Very different priorities and behavior. Different rules.
If Obama had "stuck to his guns" to "fight" the republican obstruction, the results would be disastrous. I don't say this lightly. The tax cuts would end for all, and the resulting economic mayhem would be blamed (unfairly, but loudly) on Obama and the democrats. Everything else would be blocked: no extension of unemployment benefits, no debate on START, DADT, food safety, budget, or anything else. The republicans would merely run out the clock and wait for the new congress in January. Different rules.
This is why I find the "outrage" toward Obama so misplaced. It is the republicans, who in their craven desire to "win", were willing to sacrifice the well being of the majority of Americans to grant the wishes of the rich few. Remember that the republican leadership has clearly and repeatedly stated that their only goal is to "defeat Obama" regardless of how it impacts the American people. That is where the real outrage should be focused: one party has put the desire for power ahead of governing for the people. Different rules.
Last evening, during a discussion at a bar, I was told "both parties do it" but that is demonstrably factually false. I asked the person to show me even one example during the past forty years where the democrats threatened to (or actually did) shut down the government for political gain. Believe me, the media would have been screaming about it if the democrats had engaged in such a maneuver. The media clearly has different rules.
It's time to confront the false equivalency of the "both parties" paradigm, because reality now shows clearly and starkly the difference in the two parties philosophies. The democrats believe in "governing" (no matter how ineptly or incompetently they actually are at engaging in it) while the republicans only believe in "power" (or "wealth" if you prefer). That may sound harsh, but I cannot draw any other conclusion based on the republicans behavior. This wasn't done for some "grand principle"; it was obstruction merely for the sake of obstruction. Call it "extortion" or "blackmail" or, as I did in my previous post, "terrorism", but you certainly can't call it "governing" for the American people.
The republicans forced Obama in to a lose/lose situation, and he chose the "least bad" option. We all wish that he had been a better tactician and been more forceful earlier in the tax cut debate (should have fought prior to the midterm election, IMHO), but at this time that is pure unicorn farming. It's time to direct the outrage, and all your pitchforks and torches, at our true enemies. And that isn't Obama; it's the republicans who forced this upon us.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
What a great day! "Bipartisan" compromise on tax cuts achieved! Everybody's happy!
Or maybe not...
Obama and the Democrats are getting lambasted from the left for conceding on tax cuts for the rich, which is quite fair but is only half of the story. I wish I was reading as much screaming about the total venality of the Republicans agenda.
In a nearly perfect terrorist operation the Republicans were able to hold the middle class, poor, and indeed the entire national economy hostage for the sake of tax cuts for millionaires. They were truly ready to destroy everybody in the service of the rich. Priorities. Give the millionaires even more, or we'll start killing the poor. Might just be the clearest ransom note in the history of political terrorism. Perhaps we should start calling them the "terrorist" party.
The democrats tried a 'rescue operation' in the form of last weekends senate votes on tax cuts for the non-millionaires. It failed. Thanks to the Republicans standing in lockstep and the senates arcane filibuster rules, the hostages remained held. The class war is over; the rich have won.
It's easy to criticize Obama and the Democrats for their weakness, and perfectly valid. Obama is a lousy negotiator and the Dems lack the spine (or unity) to truly fight effectively. They caved.
Let's be really clear who the villain is here, rather than forming a circular firing squad. It was the Republicans who took the hostages. It was the Republicans who greedily put the rich ahead of the good of the country. It was the Republicans who chose the terrorist hostage taking tactic in order to get their demands met.
Not that the political media, or the majority of voters, will notice.
So Obama caved in and paid the ransom. That's certainly not something to be proud of. But there weren't any real alternatives (despite what some liberal blogs are saying on their unicorn farms) that wouldn't be worse. The Republicans were perfectly willing to prolong the recession, shut down the government, and kill (literally) the unemployed in the service of millionaires. It's easy to say that "you don't negotiate with terrorists" until the dead hostages (likely children) appear.
So I want to be perfectly clear: Yeah, Obama caved. But the true crime was perpetrated by the Republicans. They are the party that put the wishes of millionaires ahead of the well being of the country. The Republicans are the party that chose to engage in the terrorist tactic of holding the country hostage until their demands were met. That is the crime. They are the criminals.
Added: For better or worse, Obama seems to be on the same wavelength that I am. During todays press conference:
"I've said before that I felt that the middle class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high end tax cuts. I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed. Then, people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed."
Not sure how well that will work, but at least he said it.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Proving that he's in touch with the important issues, President Obama issued the first pardons of his presidency. Nine people received pardons for their crimes, including one Ronald Lee Foster who was convicted in 1963 of the serious crime of mutilating coins:
_Ronald Lee Foster, of Beaver Falls, Pa., sentenced in 1963 to a year of probation and a $20 fine for mutilating coins.
I can't wait for the (never) right wing to attack Obama for being soft on coin mutilation, and I'm expecting a huge wave of chopped up quarters to plague the nation in the coming years. Pennies everywhere will end up littering railroad tracks (like they already do here in Flagstaff) and nickels will be repeatedly plugged for target practice. Where will it end?
Friday, December 3, 2010
Now I'm thinking about baseball gloves for another reason entirely. My son (who I had no hand in raising) called me last week with a request: my grandson (who is now eight) wants a baseball glove more than anything else for Christmas. For clarity, my son knows absolutely nothing about baseball while my grandson loves the game and dreams of being a ballplayer. When I asked my grandson what position he wants to play, he said without hesitation "third base" which certainly warmed my heart. So my son wanted advice about what would be a good glove for an eight year old, but I told him "I'll take care of it" because I'm going to have to shop around a bit. I'll be glove shopping this weekend with a kind of 'holiday spirit' that I don't usually indulge in.
The memories of that first "real" baseball glove and a child's dream of being a ballplayer are such an essential part of baseball's everlasting romantic beauty. It feels good to be passing a tradition on to a new generation (even though I'm sure that they don't make a "Ron Santo" model anymore).
Do you remember your first baseball glove?
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Two million Americans lose unemployment benefits because the 'thugs are more concerned about tax cuts for 375,000 millionaires. Congress has priorities, and they aren't "the people".
Another fine example of why I find it too depressing to write about politics lately.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I may be the only known blogger who doesn't have a strong opinion on the TSA's "enhanced" screening. Really, I'm rather ambivalent. Honestly, I have no plans to fly anywhere anytime soon. So if this post ends up having a rather pointless point, well, so be it.
I'm not feeling the 'outrage' about the 'invasion of privacy'. This is likely due to the fact that I'm not a 'modest' person. I'm comfortable with the naked human body in all its forms. The scanner shows what I look like naked? OK, but I doubt that you'll find it all that interesting. And that's true for most of the rest of the population; more of us look "average" than are candidates for modeling careers. Although I might be tempted to go Samuel Wolanyk on them.
There is the concern about radiation exposure, which is understandable. So instead you have the option of the "pat down" groping, which sounds rather invasive. Except that it's standard procedure at many concerts and sporting events (admitted that they're searching for alcohol or weapons rather than explosives), and I haven't heard any screams of protest about that. And, as I said in my previous post, some folks will enjoy getting the rare fondle.
What is more troublesome is that I seriously doubt the effectiveness of these security measure. Our procedures are purely reactive. Shoes came off after Richard Reid. Liquids became restricted after the chemical explosives plot was foiled. Now we are reacting after the 'underwear bomber' tried to blow up his crotch. And the main thing that all three plots had in common? All three were on flights that originated outside the United States. So instead of closing the barn door after the horse has left, we're locking up a barn that never had a horse.
I also have doubts about the competence of the screenings, based on my own most recent experience with air travel last month. Due to multiple snafu's, I got to go through the exact same screening three times in a 24 hour period. Admitted that it was the traditional metal detector rather than the new full body scanners, but here's the point: I have two large metal plates in my right shoulder which were present for all three screenings. The results? One time the machine went off, the next it didn't, and the third time it couldn't quite decide. Flagstaff's Pulliam Airport is tiny, and only has one metal detector, and it was the same TSA screener all three times (who was very polite and amused by our third visit) so the results should have been consistent. I don't know much about the technical side of the new scanners, but given that the country bought them from lobbyist and former homeland security director Michael Chertoff, who's much more 'corrupt' than 'competent', I'm skeptical. And there's the human element. The screeners will be looking at thousands of people a day, which will get rather boring fairly quickly. How much attention will they be paying? They're pretty ordinary folks (at least the ones I've met), not highly paid super humans.
In reality these screening procedures are merely TSA's attempt to appear to be 'doing something' to prevent terrorism. It's an elaborate theater production, because 'doing nothing' is politically unacceptable. Of course, the screenings are also politically unacceptable. Terrorists will continue to terrorize regardless of our security procedures. It's what they do. And the administration will be criticized regardless of their actions or results. That is America today.
As a bonus, Juan Cole explains. Mr. Cole is one of the most brilliant people, always well worth reading, and here he explains the threat of PETN that the screenings are intended to prevent.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
So, all the kerfuffle about the TSA's 'enhanced' security pat downs kinda got me wondering: what about that segment of the population who would enjoy the fondling? As anybody who's surfed the internet knows, somewhere there is a fan of any type of fetish you can possibly imagine. So I'm sure that there are people out there thinking "The TSA will touch my junk? Yeah, I like that." After all, there are lots of folks who can't get anyone else to touch their crotch.
Imagine the scene at the security checkpoint:
"I'll take the pat down."
"Yes, yes. Oooh, a little more to the right."
"That's the spot. Please, don't stop."
And after the 'happy ending', the passenger slips a twenty in the security screeners belt
I'm willing to bet that a story like this will be coming out soon, followed by a bunch of TSA fetish porn on the internet. Anybody wanna take that bet?
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Kyl and the Republicans are refusing to ratify the New Start arms control treaty with Russia, because they are still fighting the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Even after Obama conceded to spending billions to 'modernize' our nuclear arsenal, Kyl still intends to block the ratification of this treaty.
This is insanity.
The new START treaty still allows both the U.S. and Russia to maintain ridiculously large numbers of nuclear weapons, just somewhat fewer than currently available. Still plenty for either to destroy the planet, which is supposed to deter either country from actually destroying the planet. In other words, "MAD" (mutually assured destruction) is still in place.
Reducing nukes would make us slightly (but only slightly) safer, which is why Kyl is opposed. Sen. Kyl's only goal is to make President Obama fail, so he's only too happy to make the world a more dangerous place.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Okay, Arizona's proposition 203, the medical marijuana initiative, has passed. Yay!
Except there are still a few details to be worked out before anyone can legally fire up:
Voter approval of a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in Arizona is just the beginning of getting pot to patients dealing with severe, persistent pain.
Now, the state Department of Health Services must come up with formal regulations to determine who can get medical marijuana and who can sell it.
Many unanswered questioned remained about the implementation of the measure, including how growers will legally obtain marijuana seeds, what will qualify as chronic pain, and whether dispensaries will be allowed to have physicians on site who make patient recommendations for medical marijuana.
"The truth is we're not going to have answers to those questions for a few months," Humble said.
So the "regulations" still need to be created. And, this being Arizona, some will probably be quite odd:
Other preparations will include developing a computer infrastructure that can identify cardholders and monitor how much pot they receive.
Humble also wants to track every marijuana seed from the time it's planted until it reaches a patient's possession, possibly using a bar code system. "What we need to do is flush out the details in the initiative so we've got a responsible system at the end of the day, and that's going to take a lot of work," Humble said.
Staff time to set up the system could cost as much as $800,000, which Humble hopes eventually will be covered by fees that come from medical marijuana users and sellers.
(My bold) I didn't know that you could put a bar code on a pot seed.
The health department plans to post an initial informal draft of its regulatory rules on Dec. 17 followed by a public comment period. People can weigh in on the draft electronically or in person at three public meetings in February.
The department then will post the final rules March 28 and expects to accept the first applications for medical marijuana cards and dispensaries in early April. That's when dispensaries can begin the growing process.
"Between now and April is the really heavy lifting," Humble said in a video addressing the public about the measure.
Going to be an interesting few months.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Anybody remember the fun times from the Clinton years? All the joy of Congressional investigations? Because the newly minted Repub house is feeling nostalgic for that type of reality TV. Specifically, Darrell Issa plans to hold CSPAN hostage:
California Rep. Darrell Issa is already eyeing a massive expansion of oversight for next year, including hundreds of hearings; creating new subcommittees; and launching fresh investigations into the bank bailout, the stimulus and, potentially, health care reform.
Issa told POLITICO in an interview that he wants each of his seven subcommittees to hold “one or two hearings each week.”
“I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” Issa said.
Rest assured, these hearing will quickly devolve into a witchhunt. As with the Clinton "investigations", every baseless rumor will become a major "scandal" that will dominate the nightly news until it is (very quietly) debunked. If even the slightest indiscretion is found, "impeachment" will be spewing from the lips of every right-wing talker.
Trust me on this: it's what the rethugs do, and it sort of worked with Clinton. And Obama is already guilty of being President while black.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Of course, the GOP would rather turn the clocks back 120 years, or at least 60 years, instead of just a mere hour. It's what they do.
Being in Arizona, I don't have to mess with changing clocks. All the time change means is that the football games start an hour later.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I've already done the "early voter" thing, choosing unenthusiastically to vote for "mediocre" over "batshit crazy and evil" in almost every race. I suspect that I'll be on the losing side (again). It's about all we can do, unless you're a billionaire who can buy your own pet politician.
Our political system is in serious disrepair. Thanks to the citizens united decision, corporate money now drowns out any real popular representation. The kind of people who would be best able to represent us, "the people" (regardless of political persuasion), either don't run for office or are smeared so completely that they're unelectable. I really have no idea how to change this dynamic, and that's discouraging.
But I voted anyway, and I hope you do too.
Monday, November 1, 2010
For the first time in my life my beloved San Francisco Giants are the champs. I'm not quite sure how to explain how happy this makes me.
I've only been waiting since 1964.
Of course this may be a sign of some kind of apocalypse. First the President is younger than I am, then we get a Supreme Court Justice who's also younger. And the Giants win!
Kinda like elections.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Sometimes things don't go according to plan. Like flying out of Flagstaff this morning. I'm sitting on the plane, having gone through the lovely process that is airport security, when one of the planes engines made a sound that you really don't want to hear. Turned out to be a blown oil pump. Rather glad that we were still on the ground, instead of airborne, when it happened.
So I'm now rebooked to fly out this evening. I hope.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
For Lennon's 70th, NPR has a great interview with David Sheff:
In August 1980, writer David Sheff flew to New York for a big assignment: an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the magazine Playboy. Every day for three weeks, Sheff, often with his tape recorder running, talked with the couple in their Central Park West apartment, on the street, in coffee shops and in recording studios. The Playboy interview hit the newsstands on Dec. 6. Two days later, Lennon was shot dead on the street in front of his apartment.
Sheff's interviews with Lennon and Ono were collected in his book All We Are Saying. The book is being re-released as an e-book.
Also, here is John Lennon's Site