Monday, August 30, 2010

By the Numbers

It's interesting to read the speculation about how many people attended Glenn Beck's end of summer party in Washington, DC over the weekend-- coincidentally held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I had a dream" speech, at roughly the same place-- on the Mall between the White House and the Capitol.

Well there's a lot of talky-talky about whether they drew 700,000 partiers, as some claim. Michele Bachmann got all creeped out and challenged anyone to claim it was less than a million, on pain of being labeled a co-opted socialist liberal journalist.  Beck claims 300,000 low-end estimate. A firm hired by CBS news estimates 78-96,000. I believe the National Park Service estimated less, but you know who they answer to. Make no mistake, an open ratings war is raging right before our eyes! Supposedly Al Sharpton was also having a do nearby, to celebrate the "real Dr. King." I wonder if their crowd was being counted as part of the Tea Party.

Take it from me, millions of dollars are being made here. The numbers are a ratings gimmick. The higher the ratings, the more money Mr. Beck and Ms. Palin will make. Oh, I guess they also reclaimed racial equality, feminism, and all forms of spirituality for the conservatives. I know that because they said so themselves. Michele Bachmann may have said something as well, though I don't know how to tell.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

OK, I don't want to say I told you so

The Washington Post is reporting that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the alleged USS Cole bombers, will not be prosecuted. I predicted this in two earlier posts. In response to the second, a commenter whom I have reason to believe is a member of the Cole Families, asked why I was in favor of the bad guys, "Whats your problem with the 9/11 and Cole families?"

The answer to that is I'm not in favor of the bad guys, and I have no problem with the 9/11 or Cole families. Here's the real problem. Our previous administration's cavalier approach to rounding up bad guys in the Middle East, and their methods for handling them and collecting intelligence was not conducive to collecting evidence for their eventual prosecution in a court of law. I don't condemn the motivation, and I can't even say it didn't seem logical at the time-- to round up all the baddest guys they could find, and find out as quickly as possible what they were up to, if anything! The problem is they were collecting intelligence, not evidence. And that's helping the prisoners when they come before a judge.

They've attempted to try these guys in military court with almost zero success, and the administration has even suggested bringing them to the mainland and trying them in civilian courts. Much squalling and gnashing of teeth ensued, but no prisoners have moved.

It's time to admit that Guantanamo has been a failure and move on. Besides being a blow to US credibility in the world, it's netted us next to nothing in bad guys. It's expensive, and it's divisive. We were even reduced to the embarrassing spectacle of trying to repatriate the Uighers-- peaceful Chinese Muslims who are reviled in China and who no government particularly wants-- who had been turned in as "foreigners" by some Afghanis to collect a reward. We've had to become international social workers for some of these prisoners. And unfortunately, now we're stuck with Khalid Sheik Mohammed who really is a bad guy and is unlikely to ever be freed, and this guy named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who it appears can't or won't be prosecuted. Uggh.

Friday, August 27, 2010

This is kidnapping for ransom

North Korea is a horrible country, and the product of pathological narcissism on the part of its rulers. Two former American presidents have been forced to travel to that starving hellhole to pay humble obeisance to the rulers there, in exchange for the freedom of some hapless American citizens who have been sentenced to long jail terms "at hard labor." Both Bill Clinton and, more recently, Jimmy Carter have been summoned, both bowed before and spoke to the leaders as if they were actual humans, and both were given the prisoners they'd come to free. Carter was actually snubbed, when the leader Kim Jong Freak left town with his family to visit China before closing the deal. Jimmy had to deal with the sniveling underlings. This is a nasty smelling business.

Here's what Christopher Hitchens said about North Korea in Slate back in February (in an article soberly entitled "A Nation of Racist Dwarfs/Kim Jong-il's regime is even weirder and more despicable than you thought"):
Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming.

I hope we shall never forget

In an announcement of revised flu-death statistics over the last few decades, a spokesman for the CDC made a stunning announcement.
The [new] numbers confirm that influenza has a substantial burden on mortality, but that burden can be quite varied.

(quoted from Bloomberg). We must not forget this! This is insurance actuary-speak. It's amazing how it sucks all the air out of any discussion of the topic, and leaves the mind gasping for breath.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hooray for Maine's two Republican senators

Once again, Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have broken ranks with the nay-saying sorry Republican minority to vote with the Dems and allow stalled legislation aimed at helping the recession devastated state governments move to the floor of the Senate.

Notice, I didn't say they voted for the legislation, they just voted to let the legislation proceed to the floor where it could be debated. This is, of course, what the rag-tag Republicans most fear-- honest debate in an open forum. Somehow this barely one-third party is able to speak as if they represent the majority in this country. Thankfully, at least two of their number see through their cynical tactics of blocking progress on any legislation that might address actual issues faced by the country.

Thanks Olympia Snowe, thanks Susan Collins. I don't agree with either of you a lot these days, but this solid vote in favor of progress and open debate is heartening.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Marijuana has amazing power!

Marijuana today has the amazing ability to destroy rational thought in people who don't use it! This nearly unbelievable effect can be seen both here (MyFoxMaine) and here (LA Times)! For the link averse, the LA Times piece associates legal marijuana with 400,000 deaths from tobacco use, and then somehow predicts a benefit to those tricky and unrepentant tobacco companies. The MyFoxMaine piece seems to think kids at a sketchy Christian school will be adversely affected by even getting a zoning ruling favorable to a possible marijuana dispensary-- apparently they fear this poisonous influence more than the poisonous influence of dogmatic religion in the classroom, though that's probably the subject for another blog post. Maybe it's the combination of poisons that has them huffing and puffing.

Face it folks, pot is scaring the bejeezus out of what's left of the morals establishment because it's the ultimate "f**k you" drug. People under the influence of marijuana are much less likely than the rest of society to listen or be influenced by puffed-up, sanctimonious, nanny-government, petty potentates. This freaks out the functionaries and pundits, and it pulls the rug out from under many racists, law-and-order radicals, and those (many) who profit from the billions spent prosecuting the war on drugs. It's about f$%^&$g time!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Junk and trash and valuable stuff

wires

As a practicing father quite a few years ago, I used to hate Barbie dolls because of their accursed high heels which would lie about the house waiting for me to step on them in my bare feet. Over the years, toys have been packaged with more and more little pieces, mostly plastic. Those little plastic pieces slowly broke off, fell off, were removed and put aside, and eventually filled corners and piled up under furniture. (Where they gather becomes a dead zone). Those Barbie heels could impale 1/4" into the soft part of the instep.

Well nowadays toys still come with too many parts. I present as evidence these photos, taken yesterday, while I was engaged in the enterprise of moving hard drives among a couple of computers (don't ask why I do this kind of stuff on vacation, Mmmkay?). I have a couple of large wheeled organizers for wires and parts and such. I try and keep one with digital and computer parts, and the other analog stereo, cable, phone, and TV. Yesterday I sorted them out for the first time in a few years. Ugggh.