Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Don't stay in bed, unless you can make money in bed. - George Burns

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heck of a job, Caldie

Yesterday, the White House caused a panic in New York City with their brilliant decision to not warn the public before sending a 747, pursued by two fighters, screaming over Manhattan at a very low altitude.

Golly gee, what historic tragedy does this scene evoke?

image

The stock markets fell, buildings were evacuated in two states, and thousands of people fled into the streets, apparently because someone thought there was a pressing need to get souvenir photographs of Air Force One for the Obama Administration to give away.

Official scapegoats are already designated by both the Mayor’s Office and the White House, with Obama pinning it on Louis Caldera, head of the White House Military Office.

This passage, truly, is my favorite:

The [FAA] email specifies that the information “only be shared with persons with a need to know” and “shall not be released to the public.” It also says that, “Due to the possibility of public concern regarding aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies...has been accomplished.”

So, fully aware that they were going to raise the spectre of imminent mass death, they decided to “accomplish coordination” by forbidding anyone from warning the public, even though the President was not on board. Instead, people were only notified after general mayhem was already well underway.

Obama has reportedly expressed his “displeasure” to Caldera, but how the hell did anyone think this was a good idea? Remember when people expected this administration to be more competent and organized than the last one?

Update: For chuckles, enjoy the Daily Kos hysteria when someone dares to suggest that this was so stupid that Obama needs to fire someone.

maybe lower manhattan if that is where the twin towers were should think of the trauma caused in millions of other lives who do not know lower manhattan.....which was not the USA but indigenous peoples, was not rich and glittery but natural, was not the power temple of former slave owners and wage slave gainers, was not the false phalic symbol of a deranged culture, etc. etc.  TRAUMA?  get real whiners

It’s full of entertaining hypocrisy. After all, can you imagine the frothing calls for blood that would be all over Daily Kos had this happened with Bush in office?

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 04/28/09 at 05:54 AM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, April 27, 2009

100 Day Quote Of the Day

Via Bainbridge:

It will take some time, maybe another six months, but the full legacy of the first 100 days of the new administration will be dribbled out, story by story, local paper by local paper, in reporting on the inside corruption of the awarding of the trillions in federal funds in the various stimulus and bailout packages.  The legacy will be in bribery, favoritism, corruption, lobbying, pay to play, and political payback.

I think this is very likely to be the case.  It is simply impossible to crush hundreds of billions of dollars out the door as fast as possible and keep track of what’s going on.  Already, the first reports are coming out about the problems of Stimulon.  Eventually, the media are going to have no choice but to report on what a cesspool it is.

However, I think a lot of those stories will not be reported until, oh, let’s say, December of 2010.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/27/09 at 09:35 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Der Capital

The Germans, in bucking the trend of their neighbors, seem to be rediscovering the benefits of a free market economy:

Around the world, the economic crisis is raising concerns about unfettered markets and leading to more government intervention in the economy. But in Germany--a country long skeptical of freewheeling capitalism--a political party that believes in freer markets and smaller government is benefiting from the crisis.

The Free Democratic Party, whose credo is getting the state off the back of the individual, is riding high in opinion polls.
....

The FDP is benefiting from the fact that Germany’s two large ruling parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Social Democrats, have backed away from business-friendly policies and shifted to the left.

“In this context many citizens find it refreshing that the FDP has remained in the center,” says the party’s leader, Guido Westerwelle, in an interview. His party currently enjoys the support of 14% to 16% of voters, according to recent opinion polls. This is up from the FDP’s 9.8% support in Germany’s last election in 2005.

What Mr. Westerwelle calls his party’s “center” stance has long appeared to many Germans as a right-leaning economic policy of tax cuts and deregulation that would mainly benefit high earners. The FDP’s image as a rich people’s lobby helped keep the party’s share of the vote low in the 1990s.

Today, however, many middle-class voters are concerned about the government’s expanding role in the economy in response to the crisis, on top of longstanding grievances over Germany’s high and complicated taxes and its jungle of bureaucratic red tape.

The FDP as Germany’s version of the Republican Party? Could our own Republicans learn something from this? Stranger things have happened.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/27/09 at 08:16 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Car guys: halp!
by JimK

Small bleg here...Anyone here know about cars? I have a 1992 Taurus (2.9 ltr v6), that is making a loud, sputtering sharp noise once the engine has been running for a minute or two.  Always takes a couple minutes to start, and stays steady and loud at at the same basic intensity no matter how much gas you give it.  It *seems* to be coming from the top of the engine, but that could just be deceptive sound.  It is definitely coming from the engine compartment somewhere and not under the car or from the back.  It does sound like an exhaust leak, and it has been six years since anyone has looked at that exhaust system.  Just want to know what direction to nudge the mechanic is so I don’t get burned when I take it in.

Any ideas?

Posted by JimK on 04/27/09 at 03:26 PM in Blegging  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Pontiac Goes South

The first car I remember was my parents’ 1965 Pontiac Bonneville.  It was 8-cylinder solid steel behemoth.  We could pile the entire family into it and have room for the kids to lie down in the back seat.  The trunk was big enough to hold all our luggage and the approximately 9,623 cubic feet of baby crap we required for any trip longer than two miles.  Once, on a slippery Urbana road, we got hit by an out-of-control tiny German car.  The Deutsche Flea or whatever was totaled.  We had a very small dent (no one was hurt).  It lasted for over 20 years.  If those Canadian hordes had ever descended upon us during the Cold War, I’d have put a machine-gun turret on her and ridden into battle.  It could have gone head-to-head with a T-72, no problem.

What a great car.

Anyway, I mention this because Pontiac is dead:

General Motors announced plans Monday to cut 23,000 U.S. jobs by 2011, drop its storied Pontiac brand and slash 40% of its dealer network in its latest bid to stay out of bankruptcy.

The new restructuring proposal will leave the Treasury Department, and thus U.S. taxpayers, owning a significant stake in GM. Treasury would accept GM stock, rather than cash, for repayment of about $10 billion that the government has already lent to GM.

Trust funds controlled by the United Auto Workers union would also hold a significant stake in the company. Between them, Treasury and the unions would own 89% of GM.

GM also announced an offer to its bondholders to swap $24 billion of the company’s $27 billion in unsecured debt for stock. GM is offering bondholders 225 shares of its stock for every $1,000 it owes the bondholders in principal.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson warned in a press conference Monday that a bankruptcy is still very likely unless bondholders agree to the swap.

As I said before, I’m not completely happy with the way things are working out for GM and Chrysler.  It’s my opinion that the Feds are bending over backward to make sure the unions suffer the least.  There’s an argument for that—an automotive collapse will be much harder on workers than stockholders.  No matter how much you lose on GM investments, it’s not comparable to losing your career and possibly having to move out of the state to find work.  There’s also the reality that if the GM pension plans collapse, the US government will have to pick up the tab anyway through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But you can’t avoid the inevitable conclusion—two of our three automakers are being effectively nationalized—owned by the government and the workers.  And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what that bodes for their future.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/27/09 at 08:22 AM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Cost Of Ignorance

Warning.  Do not watch this video.  If you are a parent, especially but if you have any kind of empathy, this is awful.  And then enraging.  The story is about a 4-week old baby who died of whooping cough because her parents lived in a community that had a vaccination rate of about 2/3.

I try not to blog angry.  But I simply can’t write about this subject without getting filled with rage.  The “naturalist” in that video, in particular, may be one of the stupidest, most ignorant, most infuriating people I have ever heard.  People have always died of measles, you fucking ignorant cow.

Whooping cough is no joke.  It kills.  It cripples.  And the failure to immunize does not just endanger those who foresake the medical miracle of vaccines.  it destroys the herd immunity which protects those with weak immune systems or those who are too young to be vaccinated—such as 4-week old infants.  The virus needs a reservoir of disease from which to strike.  Mass vaccination destroys that reservoir.  There is little doubt that Dana McCafferey would be alive today if people vaccinated at the recommended 95+% level.

The vax debate exposes something else that I hate to get into.  Anti-science is not the exclusive domain of the Right.  The anti-vax line has been peddled mercilessly and without criticism by such leftist bastions as the Huffington Post, which has become a clearing house of anti-scientific gobbledygook and unthinking newage (always pronounce “New Age” as Penn Jillette does—to rhyme with sewage).  Bullshit crosses all line of party, politics and class.  And it is our duty to smack it down as hard as we can.

One last note—this is fucking great reporting.  It’s the sort of thing I wish we saw more often.  Good for the Aussies.

(H/T: The Bad Astronomer)

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/27/09 at 07:53 AM in Science and Technology  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Late Night Movie Fest

For this week’s offerings, we present the following acid-trip cult classics:

The Trip

And what might be considered its sequel from the Seventies:

Blue Sunshine

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/26/09 at 08:05 PM in Fun and Humor  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Annoying Ones

In writing about “State Of Play,” Patrick Goldstein notes:

In “State of Play,” Crowe’s investigative reporter manipulates everyone to get to the bottom of the story, which involves some good old government conspiracy. The film makes a halting attempt to introduce a contemporary story line—his paper has an annoying young blogger on the same story—but instead of pursuing the tension in that relationship, the film simply turns the character (played by Rachel McAdams) into a perky gofer for Crowe’s big-shot journalist.

It’s probably another sign how Old Hollywood is out of touch with the New Media, but perhaps more importantly it points out how Hollywood is still infatuated with the image of journalists as Watergate-era heroic figures who do what they do out of old-fashioned idealism. Only once in a while do you get a movie like “Absence of Malice,” where the press is as much of a “Bad guy” as anyone else. The day when a blogger is the hero of a big Hollywood blockbuster will be a major turning point, indeed.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/26/09 at 07:04 PM in Life & Culture  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Bailout Dollar

Gregg Easterbrook:

On the big outrage, of the $172 billion taxpayer-funded giveaway, we now know much of it used to cover credit-default swap debts AIG refused to honor. Large amounts went to foreign banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale of France. AIG simply handed over payment in full, without negotiating. When AIG was days from insolvency, it should have said to Deutsche Bank and others, “If we go bankrupt, you will stand in line with all the other creditors at the bankruptcy court and be lucky to get 10 cents on the dollar. Would you accept 50 cents on the dollar to settle instead?” Negotiating with creditors to avert bankruptcy is a standard business tactic; General Motors and Chrysler have been doing this for the past few months. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, a year ago Merrill Lynch was owed credit-default swap payments by an insurer called XL Capital, and after negotiations, Merrill accepted 13 cents on the dollar.

But instead of negotiating a reduction of debt, AIG simply immediately handed over full value. After all, the money was coming from taxpayers’ pockets, and when has anyone cared how much taxpayer money is wasted?

I’m reminded of Milton Friedman’s essay on the four ways money is spent.  Companies receiving bailouts are like the rich man’s girlfriend—they don’t care how much money they spend.  Is there anyone who thinks that the banks and insurance companies are going to unwind their debt smartly when they have a massive pool of free money to play with?  Would you aggressively negotiate with your creditors if you knew a rich aunt would give all the money you needed?

In a related note, the details of the Chrysler bankruptcy are emerging.  Hold on to your hats.  If I read this right (and it’s quite possible I don’t), then the biggest liability Chrysler has—the extraordinarily generous pension and health benefits of their retirees—will not be dinged at all.  In fact, the US fucking government will back it up completely.  So our bailout of Chrysler is, slowly but surely, morphing into a bailout of the UAW.  In fact, McArdle thinks that this is just kicking the problem down the curb to the next President so that we can have both a Chrysler collapse and huge liabilities for their unions.

Where is the outrage on this?  Unions are a business—labor is their product.  Do you think everyone would just nod quietly if, for example, Obama said he would guarantee that GM stockholders did OK while their union got the shaft?

This is the can of worms—no, not worms—this is the can of hissing poisonous constricting snakes that Bush, Paulson and Bernake opened last year when they decreed that no business would be allowed to fail, no politically connected person would be hurt financially and fuck the long-term consequences.

And people wonder why there are tea parties.

Last note: am I missing something or does Congress have to approve this deal?  I would think that they would but Obama might be able to slither some funds out of TARP or the Stimulus (both of which, incidentally, are having gigantic problem with waste, fraud and abuse).  Not that the Democratic Congress is likely to stand in the way of a union bailout anyway.  But still, I’d like to see some debate on it.  If they’re going to screw the taxpayers again, they could at least use a comfortable position.

The one good thing that might emerge from this?  If we can keep hold of the narrative, a generation of Americans is going to learn an awful lot about economics and politics.  Barack Obama may end up playing his role of Carter to Bush’s Nixon, after all—teaching Americans the hard way that, in the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/25/09 at 08:38 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Storm Of The Century

Does this mean Nostradamus was right, after all?

For scary speculation about the end of civilization in 2012, people usually turn to followers of cryptic Mayan prophecy, not scientists. But that’s exactly what a group of NASA-assembled researchers described in a chilling report issued earlier this year on the destructive potential of solar storms.

Entitled “Severe Space Weather Events — Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts,” it describes the consequences of solar flares unleashing waves of energy that could disrupt Earth’s magnetic field, overwhelming high-voltage transformers with vast electrical currents and short-circuiting energy grids. Such a catastrophe would cost the United States “$1 trillion to $2 trillion in the first year,” concluded the panel, and “full recovery could take four to 10 years.” That would, of course, be just a fraction of global damages. 

Needless to say, shorting out the electrical grid would cause major disruptions to developed nations and their economies.

Worse yet, the next period of intense solar activity is expected in 2012, and coincides with the presence of an unusually large hole in Earth’s geomagnetic shield, meaning we’ll have less protection than usual from the solar flares.

The report received relatively little attention, perhaps because of 2012’s supernatural connotations. Mayan astronomers supposedly predicted that 2012 would mark the calamitous “birth of a new era.”

But the report is credible enough that some scientists and engineers are beginning to take the electromagnetic threat seriously. According to Lawrence Joseph, author of “Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization’s End,” “I’ve been following this topic for almost five years, and it wasn’t until the report came out that this really began to freak me out.”

As it turns out, legitimate scientists are puzzled at how quiet Sol has been lately. I just hope it’s not up to Peter Graves to save what’s left of us.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/25/09 at 03:15 PM in Science and Technology  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

“And Then We’ll Start Calling Him Names”

Obama is going ahead with his health care plan:

Mr. Obama has given way in some battles with Congress, but the new stance suggests he may be much less willing to compromise when it comes to health care, his top legislative priority, even if it means a bitter partisan fight.

The no-filibuster arrangement is fiercely opposed by Republican leaders, who say health care is too important to be exempted from the Senate rules that usually mean major bills must win support from 60 senators.

At the White House meeting this week, Mr. Obama told senators from both parties that he did not want a health care overhaul to fail if it came up a vote shy of the 60 needed to break filibusters, the people with knowledge of the session said. Republicans have used the procedure themselves in the past, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told Mr. Obama in the meeting that that approach was likely to heighten partisan tensions in Congress.

Oh noz! Not the horrible partisanship of the kind we’ve already been seeing for the past four months!

Seriously, this is why the Republicans are so clueless. They could have worked with some of the Blue Dog Democrats and come up with an alternative proposal, one that was more free-market based. But instead, they are allowing themselves to get rolled by Obama, who will most likely get his own agenda through regardless of how ill-conceived it might be.

But that’s the modern Republican party for you-when you have no ideas, just go back to comparing Obama to Stalin, a la the left and Bush=Hitler. Yeah, that’s worked wonders so far, hasn’t it?

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/25/09 at 03:04 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

College Kids

Attending New York University for three years was the worst decision of my life. This type of shit reminds me of why.

On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist and former columnist for The Boston Herald, addressing the controversial subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. He also disputes the notion of a hate crime epidemic in America. The event was, in part, the Republicans’ response to the controversy over the case of Jason Varnell, a black UMass student who faces charges for stabbing two white men and has received strong support on campus for his claim of self-defense against a racist attack. (About two weeks after Feder’s appearance, one of the men Varnell stabbed was acquitted of violating his civil rights.)

A group of left-wing students announced their intent to protest Feder’s appearance. The campus police then demanded the organizers pay an added $444 for security, nearly tripling the costs to the club.

It’s bad enough to place a burden on unpopular views by requiring student organizations to shoulder extra costs for hosting controversial speakers. It’s doubly outrageous when, even with the extra costs, the controversial speech is still silenced.

A similar situation happened at NYU during the whole Danish Muslim cartoon fiasco. The school’s objectivist club invited speakers to talk about the cartoons with all of the cartoons on display. NYU’s Muslim community forced them to cover up the photos or close the event to the public. The administration took the side of the protestors and the cartoons were covered up. Looking at those black-shrouded canvases was an eye-opening experience.

They [protesters] laughed raucously when Feder was introduced as an “author and intellectual.” The announcement that no protests or disruptions would be tolerated during the speech was greeted with open jeers.

As Feder began to speak, the protesters hissed and hooted. At one point, a group of them noisily turned around their chairs to face away from the podium. Finally, a woman in the audience interrupted Feder, rising to shout out a statement about the murder of a transgendered African-American woman. Feder asked the police to escort her out; from the video, it appears that she walked out on her own, to the cheers of her fellow protesters, and even paused to wave to her friends and yell a derogatory comment to Feder.

Finally, as the disruptions continued, Feder cut his speech short and left the podium.

Campus liberalism is often fascistic in nature. It has its own uniform, code words, and moral dictates. Professors often encourage this sort of behavior openly, or at least justify it. There are no consequences and no reproaches for the offenders; college is one of the only places in the world where ideas have no consequences, thus it is no wonder that liberalism and socialism flourish so openly there. I know many left-wingers who are ashamed of the students that use the above mentioned tactics but they feel powerless.

Of course, freedom of speech does not protect speakers from criticism. But disruption and harassment are another matter. The students who objected to Feder’s ideas could have engaged him in forceful debate during the question period. (Who knows, they might have found that his ideas were not quite as worthless or demeaning as they assumed from the get-go.) They were also within their rights to hold up signs and posters expressing their objections. It is worth noting, however, that some of the signs captured in the video—"Abolish hate” and “Hate speech leads to hate crimes"—supports concerns that hate crime legislation ultimately targets thoughts and speech. This is particularly worrisome since some definitions of “hate” are broad enough to include opposition to affirmative action, abortion, or same-sex marriage.

A genuine liberal would be embarrassed by these actions. But in some quarters, intolerance of dissent is now a cause for self-congratulation. When Feder remarked that he had spoken on numerous college campuses and had never experienced anything of the sort, one student could be heard shouting, “Go UMass!”

Just as I intend to home school my children (with the possibility of letting them attend specific private schools or programs if they wanted to) I plan to advise them very carefully about college. You can get a much more rigorous education without six-figure debt in most scenarios. Certain fields require graduate level training of course, but what many big expensive four-year schools offer just isn’t worth it.

Don’t think that this story is unusual or uncommon. The scope of the ideological bias on campus is staggering, but ultimately, not even my biggest issue with post-secondary education. The problem is that since we have bought into this idea that every kid ought to go to college, schools have necessarily dumbed down the curriculum. Charles Murray’s book Real Education does an excellent job of explaining this point. It is not wrong for professors to talk about politics or even have an explicit political bias. The problem is that most students lack and are never taught the critical thinking skills necessary to digest, analyze, and ultimately come to an informed conclusion about whatever they learn.

A long but good quote on the problems with post-secondary education for the finish:

Posted by The Contrarian on 04/25/09 at 09:00 AM in • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Never Blog Drunk

Leftwing Australian author, journalist, and “universalist” Antony Loewenstein never could figure out what animal he was thinking of.

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 04/25/09 at 08:33 AM in Fun and Humor  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Obama H Christ
by HARLEY

We have know for some time that there are those that equate Obama as the next Christ figure, well look no further.

image

NEW YORK, April 24 /PRNewswire/—Michael D’Antuono may raise more questions than answers when he unveils his highly controversial new painting, “The Truth” on the South Plaza of NYC’s Union Square on the 100th day of Barack Obama’s presidency. The artist’s politically-, religiously- and socially-charged statement on our nation’s current political climate and deep partisan divide has been privately raising eyebrows (and voices) since its creation.
The 30” x 54” acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross; atop his head, a crown of thorns. Behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. But is he revealing or concealing and is he being crucified or glorified?

D’Antuono insists that this piece is a mirror; reflecting the personal opinions and emotions of the viewer; that “The Truth” like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. D’Antuono expects that individual interpretations will vary as widely as they do in the political arena. The work will be seen by one viewer at a time behind a voting booth-inspired public installation.

Until now, Mr. D’Antuono has chosen to paint purely non-political subject matter, opting instead for iconic celebrity portraits and hard-luck romantic narratives. However, now the artist feels the need to make a statement. “Aided by the media, politics has taken a nasty turn in the last decade and I firmly believe that this is one of the underlying causes of our nation’s current problems,” says D’Antuono.

Take what you want from this painting, the pseudo religious overtones and political posturing. I am sure that this will light another firestorm among the religious right, and the left. i also see this being a big seller, commercially.
Now everyone is entitled to their opinions, i for one find this a bit trite, and pompous.

what bothers me the most is the deification Obama is receiving in some quarters, i thought it was bad with George bush after 9/11, but this blows that out of the water.
now given that Obama is such a GREAT speaker and he is being adored by the masses despite his significant flubs, and massive budget expansions, i worry we might be sing the birth of a new charismatic leader who rules bt the poll and charisma only.....
or am i wrong?

Posted by HARLEY on 04/25/09 at 07:00 AM in Deep Thoughts  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, April 24, 2009

Update about Lee, including memorial info
by JimK

I’ve been putting this post off for what i think are obvious reasons, but all that has done is make me feel worse, so...Like Lee always quipped at me, “band-aid, one motion, right off.” Yeah, we spoke to each other in TV and movie quotes half the time, what of it? ;)

This is a long post, with information about a memorial service at the end, so it’s going behind the cut. Hit the “read the rest” link to see it all.

Posted by JimK on 04/24/09 at 03:17 PM in Etcetera   Lee in China   Tooting My Own Horn  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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