Archive for February, 2009

The Pork Laden Porkulus Bill! (pssst….it’s full of pork!)

Feb 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

I noticed that there weren’t a lot of Republican Congressman on the teevee tonight repudiating deficits and wasteful spending and instead wisely elected to have a less obvious target for calls of hypocrisy; the underwhelming Bobby Jindal. Apparently they think that Americans are so fucking stupid that they won’t remember the past eight years of Republican non-stop shopping with the Treasury credit card. If portraying themselves as budget hawks is their strategy towards reinvention then they’re even more doomed than I thought.

-mg

ps……PORKULUS!!!

Infrastructure, infrastructure.

Feb 24, 2009 in Barack Obama, Energy

Matt Yglasias offers a useful map of our nation’s high-voltage grid, illustrating how poorly equipped it is to distribute wind and solar to the rest of the nation.

Just imagine if oil were shooting out of the ground in Arizona and nobody wanted to build a pipeline, or railroad, or any other means of siphoning it into our gas tanks (no, oil shale and tar sands are not appropriate analogies, drooling righties). Well, it isn’t dirty-ass oil, it’s sunshine. Bright, clean, Superman-powering sunshine, turning Arizona into an arid kiln where you can cook your breakfast on the hood of your car. But it can also power refrigerators in New York and electrical cars in Minnesota. Couple that with all the employment-stimulating work it will generate, and it’s another slam-dunk for Obama as soon as he makes the move. Fortunately, he’s acutely aware of the situation and making plans.

-jb

It’s never fun to do the hard work.

Feb 24, 2009 in Religion, Science

A letter that should be cut-and-pasted every time a creationist/ID-theorist thinks scientists owe them debate time:

Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren’t members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.

“Conspiracy” is the predictable response by Ben Stein and the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are a joke, because science places a high premium on intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that overturn previously established principles. Creationism doesn’t live up to these standards, so its proponents are relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs, websites, and obscure journals that don’t maintain scientific standards.

Finally, isn’t it sort of pathetic that your large, well-funded institute must scrape around, panhandling for a seminar invitation at a little university in northern New England? Practicing scientists receive frequent invitations to speak in science departments around the world, often on controversial and novel topics. If creationists actually published some legitimate science, they would receive such invitations as well.

So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn’t science and doesn’t merit an invitation.

It kind of makes me sad that there are people somehow constitutionally incapable of accepting what science discovers about the world and moving forward, but so it goes to demonstrate that we are hardly guaranteed understanding of who and what we are. Given the difficulty of the actual answer, it isn’t always easy to blame people for coming up with gods and devils, Heaven and Hades.

-jb

Can we start the revolution now?

Feb 23, 2009 in Politics

-jb

Another dispatch from the Republican Meltdown.

Feb 23, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives

Remember those rightwinger militias in the 90s who were convinced Bill Clinton was coming after them in black helicopters filled with jackbooted thugs, their hysteria culminating in the Oklahoma City Bombing by radical rightwinger Timothy McVeigh?

Glenn Greenwald notes that after eight years of silence while George W. Bush ate up and shit out the Constitution, they’re getting hopped up on the crazy after four weeks of Obama. While it sounded mostly like racist fever during the McCain/Palin hate rallies, this clip from the Glenn Beck show seems to indicate that it’s time to start target practice and ATF/FBI raid drills…

It’s really hard to overstate Glenn Beck’s state of panic here. Just imagine if the Obama administration, instead of monitoring peace groups, returned to the Clinton practice of monitoring groups of angry gun-hoarders preaching violent overhaul. Glenn Beck and every other right winger would swear they’re next (what do you think the Fairness Doctrine hyperventilating is about?), and the cacophony will escalate to violent proportions all over again.

But as Greenwald points out, it’s much less a phenomenon of issues, but rather Republican dead-enders who would have cheered the Bush administration towards full-blown fascism, but who boil and seethe at the thought of a Democrat behind the wheel. Make it Barack Obama’s smiling “Halfrican” mug, and you get all the oomph of white rage locked and loaded for another eight years.

Somehow, though not easily, we will be free of this cult of idiots. After all, how many people can avoid laughing or swishing bile in the back of their throat while watching Glenn Beck?

-jb

Blaming Clinton after all these years.

Feb 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

Wingers believe that Bill Clinton caused the current market meltdown as much as they believe that Ronald Reagan was a free market lovin’ evangelist. In both cases there’s a sliver of truth which, like all good propaganda, is all it takes to convince an uncritical mind. In the case of Reagan he was certainly an evangelist but hardly a practitioner. In fact, he was one of the most protectionist presidents the country has ever seen. As for Clinton and his detractors the only noteworthy historical moment on our long march into financial Armageddon was the regulatory changes made to the Community Reinvestment Act in 1995 that required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make mortgage loans more available to people who would not otherwise qualify for them. At the time the changes were lauded on both sides of the political isle because not only is purchasing a house viewed as an investment vehicle it can also encourage responsibility in the buyer as well as serve as an anchor to their respective local communities. To borrow a popular Republican phrase, it got people involved in an “ownership society”. A few of the crazies mention Clinton’s last minute signing of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act but most don’t because even the most casual analysis reveals that it was a Republican bill, hence it’s exclusion by most of the online lunatics who are slavishly devoted to white-washing any Republican participation.

David Fiderer lays out a more instructive time line of events as a preface to his critique of Time Magazine’s recent article listing the 25 People to Blame. Fiderer goes over conspicuous omissions, factual inaccuracies and some straight up smears written if only to satiate the desires of the media bipartisanship cult. Here’s a favorite passage about frequent right-wing dartboard target Barney Frank and racial scape goat Fannie Mae:

Everyone in financial services knows when and how things happened. Hank Paulson’s report to the President reflected the common knowledge expressed by Treasury, the Fed, the SEC and the CFTC:

‘The turmoil in financial markets clearly was triggered by a dramatic weakening of underwriting standards for US. subprime mortgages, beginning in late 2004 and extending into early 2007.

“We see this in all the numbers. According to a survey by the New York Fed, about 77% of subprime mortgages and 85% of Alt-A mortgages were issued after 2004. What happened in 2004? Subprime mortgage securitizations were able to take off because, as Bloomberg reported, in August 2004 Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s loosened their standards for rating mortgage backed securities…

And this:

In October 2005 the House, by a vote of 331-90, passed a bill to establish a new federal regulator created for Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Home Loan Banks. The new regulator was authorized to set capital standards and, if it deemed necessary, require reductions in mortgage portfolios. The White House opposed the proposed legislation and instead supported the pending Senate bill. But the Senate bill never came up for a vote, and the legislation died. In other words, the Republicans failed to negotiate a deal when they were in charge, and now place the blame on others. And once again, Fox News treats their distortions of history as reportable fact.

One Republican has a different take on events. Rep. Michael Oxley claims his bill was opposed by White House ‘ideologues’ who wanted to privatize Fannie and Freddie and who opposed a bigger government role.

Looking back on how we got to where we are currently there are lessons to be learned. Some of them have to do with the undue influence the corporate finance lobby has on our political process or the dangerous outcomes of putting fanatical ideological devotions to a mythical “free market” before rational policy making. Sadly, these mistakes will go misunderstood to a frighteningly large portion of the population because accurate and constructive analysis is not what they seek. Doing so would lead them to inconvenient conclusions; that problems can’t be blamed solely on a specific political doctrine or solved with slogans.

-mg

Shorter Rick Santelli.

Feb 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

Free markets for thee but not for me.

Stomach flu.

Feb 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

Came on like a thunder clap. Be back when I can consume solid food again.

-mg

What’s with Republicans and taxes? Sheesh!!

Feb 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

Shorter Red State: Sarah Palin’s tax dodging is different because the dollar amounts are relatively small (other people have done it too!) and tax law is hard.

-mg

Colorado (all four dozen of them) protests the stimulus package.

Feb 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

If the people at this crowd represent the number of Colorado residents who are against the stimulus bill then I don’t think we’ve got much to worry about.

Dullard Michelle Malkin has some triumphant pics up from the Mesa, Arizona protest. Not to be outdone by their Denver cohorts, Mesa protesters had a hot dog vendor and a wider variety of Obama-as-Soviet-Commissar sandwich boards. I looked but I couldn’t find any footage from the Bush stimulus protests. The site’s search function must be down.

-mg

Only Republicans get to complain about the media.

Feb 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

Kos beat me to it. Yesterday I read Limbaugh butt-boy Jonathan Martin right a snarky post about how pathetic, feeble and overtly political it was for Obama to describe the Beltway Media as “out of touch” in regards to public opinion over the stimulus plan. Kos points out that Obama’s observation is hardly political considering that it is consistent with several public opinion polls that are completely in line with how the public feels about the bill and how they perceive the current administration’s performance. And despite the recession, approval ratings of Obama are exceptionally high while public opinion of congressional Republicans continues to wane.

The entire crux of the fringe right over the past twenty years is that the media is liberal and that the Republicans are the righteous underdogs taking on the well-heeled and nihilistic opposition. Even when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the Executive branch their party was repeatedly characterized as the collective David taking on the insidious media Goliath….always under attack and always outnumbered For a flunky like Jonathan Martin to write articles chiding Obama because he rightly accused the Beltway press as being out of touch with mainstream opinion is absolutely absurd. Martin’s mentor, the thrice divorced, drug addicted, sex tourist Rush Limbaugh manufactured a multi-million dollar industry out of pandering to Red State paranoia of Librul Media(tm) conspiracy theories about Socialist cabals and their insidious schemes to enslave us all to Big Government. The fringe right, whether it be fact or fantasy, owns scapegoating the media for the advantages of political gain for it has been their common refuge for the better part of two decades.

-mg

It’s the principle of the thing!

Feb 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

Opposed on principle. Desired by necessity. So it goes with the stimulus plan for financial basket case states like Alaska and Missouri. From the article:

But Mica wasn’t alone in touting what he saw as the bill’s virtues. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also had nice things to say in a press release.

Young boasted that he “won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

One provision would have made it harder for minority businesses to win contracts, and Young explained that he “worked with members on the other side of the aisle to make the case for these programs, and was able to get the provision pulled from the bill.”

Yet later in the day Young — who recently told McClatchy that he would’ve included earmarks, or local projects, in the bill if it had been permitted — issued another statement blasting the overall measure.

“This bill was not a stimulus bill. It was a vehicle for pet projects, and that’s wrong,” he protested.

In one press release Don Young sings the bill’s virtues and in another he brags about voting against it. Now, unlike other more hypocritical (Republican) bloggers I can accept the fact that Don Young is a politician and is therefore a slave to his genetic predisposition towards frequent displays of dishonesty and cowardice. Especially if we understand the definition of politics to be the debate over the allocation of scarce resources. Yet to release two simultaneous statements, one praising the stimulus and another denigrating it, is a political misstep that speaks to either a basic ignorance of the modern ease of accessibility of public information or a blatantly cynical attitude towards the intelligence of the population at large.

-mg

The Romans invented this thing called “A republic.”

Feb 16, 2009 in Economy

And that’s what we are, Californians.

The roots of California’s inability to address its budget woes are statutory and political. The state, unlike most others, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to pass budgets and tax increases. And its process for creating voter initiatives hamstrings the budget process by directing money for some programs while depriving others of cash.

I was rather disturbed at the scale of proposition voting when I first moved to California. Every single goddamn election features a roster of what are essentially bills handed off to the populace, guaranteed to appear if anybody with sufficient cash can hire some people to get signatures. The texts are complicated, virtually guaranteed to be read by 5% of the voting population and no more, and the most reliable way to cut through the fine print is to see who’s backing the proposition.

I know California votes Democratic, but the populace has adopted Republican schizophrenia on taxation and spending. Via proposition, it requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, but new spending proposals are on the ballot every goddamn election. Everybody loves the spending, nobody loves paying for it with taxes. The sickness continues in the legislature:

In a Legislature dominated by Democrats, some of whom lean far to the left, leaders have been unable to gather enough support from Republican lawmakers, who tend on average to be more conservative than the majority of California’s Republican voters and have unequivocally opposed all tax increases.

And now that our economy is tanking, reality is hitting California hard: a $41 BILLION deficit. The lawmakers are locking themselves inside the Capitol building, but rest assured that when they leave, California will still have proposition voting.

The purpose of a republic is to have elected politicians who will, hopefully, read and understand the bills and be able to fully devote themselves to governance. They make promises, they get re-elected if people are pleased, and if they do their job right then the public feels involved in the government’s choices and all is well. All in all, when it comes to governing a large nation or state, or even a small state, direct democracy is simply not up to the task. If California doesn’t wise up, the unraveling will continue.

-jb

Fleet Foxes versus The Mountain Goats

Feb 16, 2009 in Culture, Music, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

Kinda;)
[youtube brZTvGIzeGg]

Anyway, Fleet Foxes are one of my favorite new bands. I call them “The Belle & Sebastian of the Appalachians” which isn’t very clever since they’re from Seattle. They devote themselves a little bit to their lo-fi look, but mostly to the music, and the results are frequently transcendent.

-jb

Just don’t call it welfare, k?

Feb 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

Republicans are keeping bank nationalization on the table.

Has anyone checked Red State today to see if they’ve posted one of their grim “slow march towards socialism” warnings? I would assume not considering that it’s a Sunday so the troops have to wait until tomorrow for their marching orders. And to think that it was only a month ago that The One was bellowing:

They got elected, they increased their numbers in the House, they increased their numbers in the Senate, they got the White House now, and they’ve got a crisis that people think can only be fixed with the all-mighty and powerful government interceding to save this or to save that, when in fact, the government is going to nationalize the automobile industry. It’s going to nationalize some banks. It’s going to nationalize the mortgage industry, and may end up nationalizing the automobile industry.

-mg

Hard times for Republicans.

Feb 15, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives

Frank Rich writes the eulogy. We will always have two major parties, and people with an (R) next to their name will still win some elections. In time (hopefully a very long time) they will have a majority again. But the cult of Rush Limbaugh wearing a Ronald Reagan mask will die.

-jb

Darwin’s cat.

Feb 14, 2009 in Religion, Science

From alicublog:

Just so with Darwin. In their politically degenerate phase, conservatives can loosen up about him — there’s not much powder or provender there in the Age of Obama; no need to play dumb. When a stimulus moment arrives, they’ll have the option of putting the masks back on, and you’ll see Jonathan Wells and Ben Stein and all those guys riding on the top of the float again. It’s sort of like the routine done at Big Hollywood and in other such conservative movie games — denouncing film as a liberal plot at one end of the mood swing, declaring film a conservative phenomenon at the other — but played out much more slowly over a longer period of time, as befits the evolutionary model.

Right wingers don’t understand Darwin to begin with. Take for instance their frequent abuse of the phrase “survival of the fittest”. They use it as a metaphor for natural selection and only when they are looking to bully people with a bunch of “free market” rubbish or rationalize some preferred atrocity. Natural selection only occurs when the environment favors a coincidental genetic mutation. My favorite example is Felis silvestris lybica, the progenitor of the common house cat. When the earliest farmers of ancient history perfected the cultivation of crops and the storage of grains in the Fertile Crescent, mice, rats and other pests were attracted to these abundant sources of food and thus attracted wild desert cats which hunted them. That particular agrarian environment favored a domesticated cat because of the unique combination of ample rodentia and humans and over a long enough time period a genetic mutation occurred that produced a phenotype that was both happy to hunt mice and fall asleep on your lap. As an obvious consequence this breed of newly domesticated feline prospered and was widely put to use as an effective method of vermin control. Sea merchants recognized the benefits of the cat and they were soon a frequent companion on trade ships. From there, as they say, the rest is history. Right now as I type this there is a cat snoozing quietly to the left of my keyboard and like every other house cat in the world she is a direct descendant of some goofy desert kitty that just happened to enjoy the company of humans some ten thousand years ago.

So when the radical right wing speaks of “survival of the fittest” they’re actually espousing a form of crude eugenics. And regardless of what they might believe about the fastest among us passing along their superior traits in some genetic marathon the baton that they’re handing off is composed of the same shabby and imperfect DNA that made its first appearance on this rock some two hundred thousand years ago. There isn’t even any directional selection. Natural selection also approves of the slow, who do not charge into danger. How do we know? Because it only has one criteria: if it exists, natural selection has approved of it, for now.

The incompetence of the Washington Times Rev. Sun Myung Moon adherent and columnist that leads the alicu-post is another part and parcel of the GOP.

Actually, Darwinism has always been more philosophy than science.

There is no support, of course, except Jonathan Wells and his inability to understand Darwinism. Darwinism is the core of the biological sciences. I understand that people like Mr. Wells manage to acquire degrees in biology, somehow, but the body of science that has accumulated around Darwin’s initial hypothesis is more vast than most single minds can wrap themselves around. But lo and behold:

This assumption is still an assumption. No one has ever observed the origin of a new species by variation and selection – much less the origin of new organs and body plans.

Aha! As in, “If you’re a rube who doesn’t understand science at all, or feels hostile towards it, AHA I HOOKED YOU YOU SUCKER!” As in, have you ever seen a fish jump out of the water and grow legs? AHA YOU WILL NOW FIND ME CREDIBLE!

This is, of course, a moron’s test of what is “science.” No, while Mr. Wells may be doing his best imitation of a baboon, actual scientists are, every single day a)discovering new evidence that supports Darwin’s theory and b)using the theory of evolution in order to make new predictions that largely bear out. Given that anybody who understands the process takes eons (although Ray Kurzweil makes the case that evolution has sped up exponentially since it began) knows they will never see a significantly new species arise, the science proceeds along quite undisturbed.

Indeed, for your pleasure, observe the top ten signs of evolution in the human species.

Or merely consider that Darwin made his predictions before the discovery of DNA. Now we have a massive body of knowledge based around the study of DNA, we can see the commonalities between human and fruit fly, and we understand that all living species use the same essential framework.

Wells sniffs as he notes that most educated conservatives long ago put aside Scriptural Creationism. Ah, no, Mr. Wells, they just moved back the goal posts to where the science became difficult and uncomfortable again for the emotional soup-cans they call their brains.

Nature’s ways are subtle and yet tremendous. The shortness of human life is not a concern. If the entire human species were wiped out tomorrow, it would be no more than a hiccup in the lifespan of the universe. There is absolutely no guarantee that our brains are capable of getting around the riddles that led to them. Especially when people say shit like this:

Darwin lacked sufficient evidence for the latter, however, so he ruled out the former by simply declaring that only natural explanations are “scientific.”

Yes…when you say, “God did it!” and go home to pray instead of doing further research, that isn’t science. When you make predictions, and evidence confirms them, and you use that to make more predictions, and further evidence confirms them, and when this continues for a century or so, that is science. People like Mr. Wells will draw the line and say, “Well, yeah, but God did the rest.” Until “the rest” is restricted further.
Such are the ways of fools who place more stock in the writings of men than the observations of the actual universe “God” placed them in.

Naturally, not one stunning scientific insight occurs in the length of Mr. Wells’ article. Instead, he just wants language welfare, where his whining can be classified as “scientific” and where people who spit out their drinks and laugh at his idiotic suggestions are hampering his “academic freedom.”

So with that, I declare 2+2=5, deplore those who only consider numbers and counting and such things to be mathematic, and condemn those who snicker as academic Hitlers.

Will the fail never end?

-mg&jb, in that order:)

Detached from reality.

Feb 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

These Bloomberg dullards miss the point entirely:

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) — Eric Langan could run a U.S. bank, based on his $494,713 salary last year, according to President Barack Obama. Langan would rather stay in his job, overseeing 18 strip clubs as chief executive officer of Rick’s Cabaret International Inc.

“A bank? No. I’m not interested in working for a bank,” Langan said in a telephone interview from his office in Houston. Besides, he just got a raise to $600,000, putting him $100,000 over Obama’s cap for a top official of a financial institution receiving federal bailout funds.

Fellas, these banks are broke. They can’t afford to pay them over $500K themselves because they are insolvent. Bank CEO salaries at this point are purely hypothetical. Eric Langan won’t work for a bank because his paycheck would bounce. My advice? Go elsewhere and find another job or apply for unemployment. No false equivalancy or suppressed correlative can make up for the insulting fact that not only did they gamble with other people’s money, they lost and expect compensation for their failures.

-mg

The definition of insanity.

Feb 10, 2009 in Economy

You know what it is but watch it in action:
[youtube uX4P6I-7JTI]

These guys are like the extras in War of the Worlds who just found out Tom Cruise was packin’ heat.

-jb

FAIL.

Feb 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

The complete reversal of the Obama’s views on state secrecy.

-mg

Success!

Feb 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

At having a town hall meeting with unscreened participants encouraged to ask unfiltered questions.

-mg

Today may be the day you die.

Feb 10, 2009 in Economy

But you’re unlikely to appreciate that when you wake up tomorrow.

On Thursday (Sept 18), at 11am the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the U.S., to the tune of $550 billion was being drawn out in the matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help and pumped a $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn’t be further panic out there.

If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2pm that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.

Unfortunately, we’re not in the clear yet, so let this be instructive.

-jb

Yes, but a nude Kate Winslet always deserves an Oscar.

Feb 10, 2009 in Culture

Damn…I have a screener of The Reader ready to fire up, but Ron Rosenbaum deconstructs the movie’s apparent stupidity so devastatingly I might just have to watch it on mute, fast forwarding to Kate Winslet’s next display of glorious nekkidness.

Indeed, so much is made of the deep, deep exculpatory shame of illiteracy—despite the fact that burning 300 people to death doesn’t require reading skills—that some worshipful accounts of the novel (by those who buy into its ludicrous premise, perhaps because it’s been declared “classic” and “profound”) actually seem to affirm that illiteracy is something more to be ashamed of than participating in mass murder. From the Barnes & Noble Web site summary of the novel: “Michael recognizes his former lover on the stand, accused of a hideous crime. And as he watches Hanna refuse to defend herself against the charges, Michael gradually realizes that she may be guarding a secret more shameful than murder.” Yes, more shameful than murder! Lack of reading skills is more disgraceful than listening in bovine silence to the screams of 300 people as they are burned to death behind the locked doors of a church you’re guarding to prevent them from escaping the flames. Which is what Hanna did, although, of course, it’s not shown in the film. As I learned from the director at a screening of The Reader, the scene was omitted because it might have “unbalanced” our view of Hanna, given too much weight to the mass murder she committed, as opposed to her lack of reading skills. Made it more difficult to develop empathy for her, although it’s never explained why it’s important that we should.

Or, rather, the only justification is removed:

Daldry said he’d had a big fight with the author of The Reader, Bernhard Schlink. In the novel, when Kate’s mass murderer learns to read, one of the things she reads about is—guess what?—the Holocaust. We’re led to believe that she’s learning about it, or at least the extent of it, for the first time, from reading Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Hannah Arendt, and is suitably horrified. You get the idea: Reading can develop a moral sense, a path toward redemption….

But Daldry said he and Hare eliminated the Holocaust education aspect of the novel (over the strong objections of Schlink) because he didn’t want the film to seem to be about redemption; too many Holocaust films offer a kind of false redemptiveness, he said.

While many a director has wisely altered book content for the screen (did you REALLY want spend a third of The Godfather following the plight of a girl with an oversized vagina?), as a rule the author of a book should be trusted, especially on thematic concerns.

I imagine I’ll have to watch the film to see if Kate Winslet’s character escapes trite redemption, and while I’d like to keep joking about her nudity redeeming the film, Rosenbaum says it’s no joke:

The nudity, which I’ve had cause to reference before in a column on the irresistible (to culture-makers) attraction between Nazis and sex, gives new meaning to the word gratuitous. To my friend, it was a manipulative tool used to create intimacy with and thus empathy for an unrepentant mass murderer. And what’s more—to shocked gasps, he said exactly that to the director in the Q&A session. And didn’t stop there, calling The Reader a “dishonest and mediocre” film that used nudity to disguise its thematic nakedness.

So the director eliminated the Elie Wiesel and inserted Kate’s cinematic treasures in lieu? Good grief.

Worst of all, Rosenbaum says, The Reader is part of a new “Them Germans weren’t such bad people after all!” genre in film, along with the popcorn-fest Valkryie and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

I will watch The Reader because I don’t really believe in condemning movies I haven’t seen, but if Rosenbaum is right, then it is a horrendously misguided film. Then again, he hated Life is Beautiful, which I can’t imagine doing without being tediously self-righteous.

-jb

CHARGE!!!

Feb 09, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives

Republicans are hopped up and ready to go, yo!

“We’re so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this time,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of several younger congressmen seeking to lead the party’s renewal. “It’s not a sign that we’re back to where we need to be, but it’s a sign that we’re beginning to find our voice. We’re standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty. That was the tallest pole in our tent, and we took an ax to it, but now we’re building it back.”

So let’s see…when they had power, they acted without principle, but now that they’re out of power, they (supposedly) return to it, and this is a great reason to return them to power soon?

Alternative theory: They have no principle except power.

Faith In Humanity Update: The public isn’t impressed.

Sixty-seven percent of the American people approve of how President Obama’s handling his efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, as opposed to 48% for Democrats in Congress and 31% for congressional Republicans.

Daniel Larison, via Balloon Juice, offers a succinct line:

Of all the times to acquire zeal for austerity, which is rarely popular in the best of times and risky even for popular majority parties, they have chosen the middle of a recession after having taken two huge electoral drubbings. This is something like discovering antiwar scruples only in the middle of an invasion.

While Republicans are still able to obstruct, so far managing to neuter the stimulus bill of its most effective elements and getting Democrats to throw in hundreds of billions of less-effective tax cuts, let’s take a moment to appreciate that they can only passively fuck up our lives nowadays, not actively like in the Bush years.

-jb

Reefer madness.

Feb 08, 2009 in Uncategorized

I don’t think Michael Phelps owes anybody an apology nor should he be made to feel beholden to some form of unwritten jock morality code. Personally, I’ve never been a big sports fan so I don’t labor under irrational expectations when it comes to athletes. I know that we pay these people to throw a ball or swim fast and that we don’t purchase a ticket to go hear Marcos Mateo reflect upon his personal feelings during the fall of the Berlin Wall and pretending otherwise is idiotic. For some stupid reason a lot of people insist on drawing a positive correlation between how fast a person can run and how pious and prim they are in their private lives. It’s a ridiculous assumption that unfortunately never seems to go away regardless of how many times it’s demonstrated to be completely asinine.

Michael Phelps’ greatest crime was demonstrating that an individual can smoke pot and still be a highly successful in their endeavors. That pulling a couple bong hits doesn’t immediately reduce one to a raving lunatic, a sexual deviant or a hardened sociopath. In a saner world we could learn from such an example and take it upon ourselves to put our dwindling tax dollars to work towards projects that are more fruitful than paying enormous sums of money to keep non-violent, petty criminals incarcerated.

-mg

GOP still outnumbering Democrats 2:1 on cable news.

Feb 06, 2009 in Journamalism, Politics

I’ll get clean this time, Mama!

Fortunately, the imbalance on the networks is not going unnoticed. A House Democratic leadership aide told Politico’s Michael Calderone yesterday that “what happened with cable last week is that Republican House members were the only show in town.” A “very senior” Democratic aide told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that the leadership is “aware of the problem and are taking steps to fix it.” The aide noted that “there is also an onus on producers to remedy this issue.”

There’s been an onus on them since they shut up dissent on the Iraq War. What is this new onus, and what does it mean?

-jb

Republicans cornering the CEO vote.

Feb 06, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans

As I was saying in the comments section of my previous post, the GOP is “fuming” over $50 milion for the NEA because lefty artists will get some rent money, but when it comes to loser CEOs of bailout-begging corporations, their allegiances kick in:

President Obama has proposed capping compensation for executives at banks that take taxpayer bailout money at $500,000. Republicans hate the idea — a position that puts them uncomfortably on the side of people currently about as popular as armed burglars and subprime mortgage brokers.

And there they should stay, lackey dogs of organized embezzlers who have no idea how to fix our problems.

-jb

Yes, morons, Ronald Reagan did have a stimulus package.

Feb 05, 2009 in Uncategorized

All in all Ronald Reagan sent 1.5 trillion dollars to the Pentagon who then distributed it amongst the aerospace, steel, information technology, and all of their inter-related industries.   Basically, Reagan created what’s called an artificial demand.  And he didn’t stop there.  In fact, Ronald Reagan was the most protectionist president of all time. During the 1980’s he:

  • Forced Japan to accept restraints on auto exports;
  • Tightened considerably the quotas on imported sugar;
  • Negotiated to increase the restrictiveness of the Multi­fiber Arrangement governing trade in textiles and apparel;
  • Required 18 countries, including Brazil, Spain, South
  • Korea, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Finland, Australia, and the European Community, to accept “voluntary re­straint agreements” that reduce their steel imports to the United States;
  • Imposed a 45% duty on Japanese motorcycles for the ben­efit of Harley Davidson, which admitted that superior
  • Japanese management was the cause of its problems;
  • Raised tariffs on Canadian lumber and cedar shingles;
  • Forced the Japanese into an agreement to control the price of computer memory chips;
  • Removed third-world countries on several occasions from the duty-free import program for developing nations;
  • Pressed Japan to force its automakers to buy more Ameri­can-made parts;
  • Demanded that Taiwan, West Germany, Japan, and Switzerland restrain their exports of machine tools;
  • Accused the Japanese of dumping roller bearings on grounds that the price did not rise to cover a fall in the value of the yen;
  • Accused the Japanese of dumping forklift trucks and color picture tubes;
  • Extended quotas on imported clothes pins;
  • Failed to ask Congress to end the ban on the export of Alaskan oil and timber cut from federal lands;
  • Redefined dumping so domestic firms can more easily charge foreign competitors with unfair trade practices;
  • Beefed-up the Export-Import Bank, an institution dedicated to distorting the American economy at the ex­pense of the American people in order to artificially pro­mote exports of eight large corporations.
  • Nationalized Continental Illinois and Penn State bank because they were “too big to fail”

And I have yet to see one of these Republicans pony up any evidence that tax cuts do anything to create jobs nor have they been challenged by the “liberal media” to do so. The Librul Media ™ also refuses to ask any of these mouth-breathers what the country can point to that was a result of the Bush tax cuts.  Reagan slashed taxes the moment he entered into office and the result was predictable; ballooning deficits, a worsening recession, and finally, significant ground lost in the mid-term elections.

Two things brought us out of the Reagan Recession; deficit spending and the lowering of interest rates.  In fact, in 1982 Reagan hiked corporate income taxes by 100 billion dollars.  Within two years inflation was in the single digits again and corporate earnings were up by 29%.

Cutting taxes is not an economic policy, it is a slogan.

-mg

Assemble yer forces.

Feb 05, 2009 in Barack Obama, Disappointing Dems

What John Cole says:

Looking around the blogosphere, the growing consensus among liberal blogs (too lazy to link, just go to memeorandum and hunt for angsty titles) is that Obama is losing control of the debate. I am not so sure if I would say that, yet, although we are seeing the polling numbers for the stimulus bill plummeting. This makes perfect sense, because even I am not sure the stimulus bill is a good bill or worth it.

There is a reason for this, and that is something Tim has touched on several times, and I have mentioned over and over. No one is selling it. The Democrats are simply AWOL. All I see on my tv are Republicans talking about wasteful spending, as if they have any credibility on that topic. I would pay to see Barney Frank matched up against a Republican opposed to the stimulus bill, because every Democrat has an easy retort- “If you have so many good economic ideas, how come you never passed any of them along to the last President?”

It isn’t so much that Obama is losing control in the debate. The Democrats just aren’t participating, and this isn’t so much a debate as a Republican monologue. We all know, given our “liberal” media, how that is going to play out in the long run.

*** Update ***

BTW- The next time anyone in Congress opposes any infrastructure stimulus spending, whether it be on roads, bridges, whatever, the very first thing I would do is go through every single Iraq appropriations bill, target line by line the spending appropriations for rebuilding Iraq, and then look at the roll call vote. I bet all sorts of fun could be had pointing out “fiscal conservatives” who repeatedly voted to build infrastructure in Iraq, without so much as blinking, who are now getting the vapors about a couple billion being spent domestically on similar projects. America First, the saying was, right? The Democrats do have interns, don’t they?

Other bloggers like Josh Marshall are seeing it, which tends to mean Obama gets it too, and will likely counter-maneuver. I think the odds are good that he’s playing a bit of rope-a-dope, but that he wishes he’d have spent a little more time mobilizing Democrats beforehand. It ain’t too late though.

There’s a simple lesson that just has to be learned: The MSM has Republicans on speed dial for appearances, and vice versa. Republicans cannot govern, but they can talk, endlessly, while only saying one or two things. They can focus like that. The MSM loves them for it. If Democrats aren’t determined to fight for airtime, then get ready for four years of defeat at the hands of 40 Republican senators. Obama is willing to do a media offensive all by himself, it seems, but the Democrats are muttering, “Singlehanded mutinies don’t work, stranger!”

Really, can any human being be as cowardly as an elected Democrat? I’m going to start suspecting the fucking Illuminati, Skull and Bones, or the bleedin’ Freemasons if Democrats don’t change the game soon. It’s just not scientifically possible to have so much power, against such an easily dismantled opponent, and still be afraid.

-jb

Democrat admires and seeks to imitate the Taliban.

Feb 05, 2009 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives

Oh, wait, it’s a Republican.

“Loyal opposition party” = We don’t have a goddamn clue what to do or what we stand for, but we think pissing all over anything Obama and the Democrats do will keep the base happy.

Of course, Bush and Cheney always kept the base happy. Presuming Obama isn’t going to offer two more terms for them, it’s best to just keep crowding them out.

Oh, and by the way, attacking Republican hypocrisy on filibusters would be helpful, folks. We have 58 Democrats in the Senate, and we still can’t get anything done because the last 40 Republicans are moving in 100% lockstep?

This aggression will not stand, man. Line in the sand, dude.

-jb

Who’s laughing now?

Feb 04, 2009 in Uncategorized

The funny thing is that pundits like Ben Stein still get paid to tell people that the stock market is poised to make millionaires of us all.

-mg

Straight up stolen from Ballon Juice.

Feb 03, 2009 in Uncategorized

But I don’t care.

Check out this piece of winger paranoia:

Best gag video I’ve seen all month!

If you reach the kill screen it shows a 30 second spot of Osama bin Laden plugging The New York Times!!

-mg

Rush “Da Godfadduh” Limbaugh update:

Feb 03, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics

Carville dares to speak the obvious, naturally eliciting feeble protest from CNN’s John Roberts:

-jb

Support your local Borg-like monopolistic operating system.

Feb 03, 2009 in Uncategorized

Right now I have the build 7000 beta version of Windows 7 running on a separate partition on my primary hard drive and I must say that I like it quite a bit. Performance wise it’s what I want in an operating system. It starts fast and can move quickly between applications…even resource hogs like Mozilla Firefox. And it’s not as obnoxiously intrusive as Vista. It does have it’s problems, of course. It doesn’t like my 24 bit sound card nor does it like any of my music production software. It also doesn’t completely recognize my video card and takes liberties with some of my custom settings. Overall it seems agreeable and that’s saying a lot for a Microsoft product.

-mg

Goatface drops out.

Feb 03, 2009 in Uncategorized

Count me among those that are glad that Daschle is out of the running. Health care reform would have been doomed if he had been Health Secretary.

-mg

Defending marriage.

Feb 02, 2009 in Uncategorized

After I got my marriage license this morning I safely secured it in a secret location, so no gay people can destroy it!

-jb

They need that TARP money for bonuses.

Feb 02, 2009 in Uncategorized

Atrios touches on this topic but he doesn’t take it into the end zone:

In this article about Morgan Stanely job cuts we have this info:

Banks and brokerages worldwide have cut more than 250,000 jobs since the middle of 2007 as credit losses and write-offs caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

This destroys a key argument made by the CEOs handing out hefty bonuses; that if they didn’t their talent would go elsewhere. The truth is that there is nowhere for them to go! NOBODY is hiring right now.

I guess we know now why the original bailout package included immunity for those who drafted it; so they couldn’t be held responsible for the enormous fraud that it was designed for.

-mg

Over the cliff they go, you betcha!

Feb 02, 2009 in Uncategorized

Yeah, yeah…it’s been out there a while:

Regarding the future of the party, 46% of unaffiliated voters say follow Sarah Palin, while 26% like McCain. Just five percent (5%) give the nod to Bush, and 22% are not sure which way the party should go.

Put them all together, and 42% of voters say the GOP has been too conservative in the last eight years, 29% say too moderate, 16% about right, and 13% are not sure. Thirty-six percent (36%) say the party should become more like Palin, 32% like McCain, seven percent (7%) like Bush, and 25% are undecided.

Red State pin-up girl Sarah Palin scored high which most of the blogs have covered sufficiently. I don’t think that there’s anything remarkable about a poll showing that they see her as the future of their party considering that she’s gotten the most coverage and there aren’t a lot of Republican up-and-comers to choose from. Especially ones that meet the all-important “like to have a beer with” criteria which was a key feature that was lacking in the marketing of McCain’s personal image…much to his detriment. But how in the hell is Palin any different than Bush? If the Republicans want to rally around a bona fide Jesus-freak radical like Palin I’m all for it. Continue the delusion, Republicans. It’s worked out great so far.

-mg

A matter of texture.

Feb 02, 2009 in Religion

This piece from one of Sullivan’s readers is compacts a lot of meaning and power into a few paragraphs:

The first philosophy major is correct that atheists are very rare indeed if the atheist is defined as a person who has managed to step completely outside the cultural norms and values that have been expressed and codified by the many religions over the years. But very few atheists try to make such a claim: Richard Dawkins, for instance, is happy to call himself a “cultural Christian.”

What assertive atheists like myself (and Dawkins, if I read him correctly) argue is that because religion can be understood as a product of human culture, human culture itself can be improved by denying the absolute, allegedly objective truth of the claims made by particular religions on our allegiance.

Rather than believing in the objective truth of the commands of a particular god named Yahweh, we can instead look at the human cultural universals that Yahweh’s followers exhibit when compared to the followers of Allah, Shiva, Buddha, and so on. Rather than evaluating the truth and goodness of our received values by referring to scripture, we can evaluate the effects of both universal and local values in terms of their results on human happiness and well-being, and we can make changes where our received values fail. We can see if declining to believe in a particular god or its commandments causes people to erupt in spasms of self-indulgence and violence (it doesn’t); we can see if devout faith reliably prevents people from being cruel (it doesn’t); and we can conclude that something besides religion’s scriptural and bureaucratic authority is at work in the phenomena of human goodness and evil.

I’m emotionally at a place where I would enjoy sitting next to Sullivan during Mass. Last night I sat down with Lil’ Miss Samari and picked out appropriate Bible readings for the wedding (it was multiple choice, I wasn’t that enthusiastic). I’m basically taking a bit of a dip into Catholic culture, but it’s not threatening to me. More and more each day I understand the perspective of my Humanities professor who didn’t believe a scrap of the Bible was literally true, but declared himself Catholic.

I don’t believe I ever can, but out of respect. I believe the church is essentially the domain of the believers, and that you should have at least some belief in the Resurrection, and not regard Mass as some traditional poetry and song number, before you proclaim yourself a member of the fan club. I also intend to do nothing to lend credence to the parade of dandy fops in the Vatican, a principled disrespect.

But I don’t live in the Vatican, and the Catholic community I’ve met so far is a top-notch grade-A group of people. I don’t think these people need a fake pope at all to keep their ways alive. But I hope they do, because it’s been an excellent family to join.

I’m marrying Lil’ Miss Samari because she is as truly wonderful as a woman can be. I’m getting married in a Catholic church because I believe it can capture the grandiosity and sacredness of the event. I can have spiritual agreements with these people, and concede the profundity of certain conceits of theirs.

Yet I still believe myself capable of doing the same in temple, mosque, or synagogue. How elegant would this world be if everybody could stay true to their own cultural beliefs yet enjoy comfort and rest among unbelievers?

Ah, but elegance springs from within, as the letter above states, and we make the choices. Religion is a texture applied to ethereal shapes.

-jb