Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain has lost his mind

If elected, John McCain will be the oldest first-term president in history. According to actuarial tables, he is likely to die in office.

If that happens, he will be replaced as President of the United States by a person that only a handful of people southeast of Juneau have ever even heard of, much less know anything about.

There's a reason for that. This person Sarah Palin has, for 18 months, been the governor of a state that has


the same


of people


Denton County, Texas.

Scary much?

Yeah, but on the positive side, she's a religious zealot who thinks creationism should be taught in schools and that abortion should be illegal. Yay Republicans!

Kill me now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

John McCain deserves our respect...

...and a nice, uneventful retirement from his long and faithful service to the country.

Back in the mid-sixties, when the United States desperately needed young men to enlist in the armed forces, John McCain signed up to go over to the other side of the planet and kill a lot of gooks. I mean no snark when I say that this was an honorable thing to do -- under the circumstances -- and something that is deserving of our respect; nor should our respect be diminished in light of the unfortunate circumstance which has since arisen, i.e., that we have since discovered that it was a very stupid idea to go over to the other side of the planet and kill a lot of gooks.

At the time, the policy of the U.S. government was that if we did not engage in this type of "containment" action, we would eventually be overrun by communists. This policy was questionable, even at the time, in view of the expense of such actions in blood and treasure, and in view of a parallel line of rhetoric (which turned out to be 100% correct) which stated that the system of government called "democracy" and the system of economics known as "capitalism" were far superior to those known, respectively, as "totalitarianism" and "communism". In other words, if our systems of government and economics were so superior, then wouldn't they naturally prevail on their own, without the necessity of having to send hundreds of thousands of soldiers ten thousand miles away to fight a proxy war?

Nevertheless, at the time this was all thought to be a good idea, and was really only questioned by those dirty fucking hippies (who, at the time, were thought to be a bunch of spoiled college kids who simply used "peace and love" rhetoric because they lacked the courage to fight for their country -- a group easy to ignore from an ideological standpoint, but a bit harder to actually ignore, especially when there are thousands of them blocking up the streets). Of course, the DFHs turned out to be right. And, as it also turns out, the Communism-Containment ideology underpinning the Vietnam War was revealed to not have been its only underpinning; as we were to later learn, the enrichment of the military-industrial complex and the furtherance of the political fortunes of some of our leaders played a large role in the decisions to escalate that war and to stay in it a lot longer than circumstances warranted.

But and so nevertheless (again), John McCain couldn't have been expected to know all of this at the time. He did what he did out of a sincere desire to advance the vital interests of his country. No problem there. The problem arises when you understand that, even with the benefit of so much hindsight, and even though he himself turns out to have been one of the worst victims of all this, John McCain still failed -- and continues to fail -- to recognize all of the very important lessons which flow from these terrible mistakes made by the country's past leaders.

Vietnam was a mistake. A monumental waste of people, resources, and national energy. John McCain cannot recognize this. He feels that the mistake was in withdrawing without achieving "victory".

By the same token, Iraq was a mistake. A monumental waste of resources; a crazy and irresponsible squandering of the nation's influence, political capital, and general goodwill, made much worse by the fact that it was conceived in secrecy, its true purposes unknown and -- still -- unexamined, and then sold as something that it most decidedly was not. A boondoggle of historic proportions.

And John McCain cannot recognize this. He believes the mistake was not sending enough troops and equipment in the first place. He further believes it would now be a mistake to leave. Because to do so would preclude "winning" and "victory", never-you-mind what those concepts mean in the present context. "We must continue to fight, we must destroy the enemy, we must win and achieve victory." These are slogans, suitable for bumper stickers and mass-email subject headers. But the most cursory intellectual examination of them reveals that they are empty and meaningless, bereft of any substance, and persuasive only to the simple-minded.

But because we know that John McCain is an honorable man, that he would not use such vacuous arguments to mask a more sinister objective (as would Cheney, for example), we must then conclude that John McCain himself is simple-minded. That he lacks the capability to analyze, to inquire, to look beyond the most transparent appeals to emotion. That he is incapable of learning history's lessons.

John McCain is a courageous man. He has an admirable sense of duty to his country and to his countrymen. But he is a simple man. He does not possess a vigorous intellect or a curious mind. He relies on his gut. And his gut tells him that America has enemies, and that we must fight them.

And while I have just described a person extremely valuable -- and worthy of praise -- as a soldier, I have also described someone extremely dangerous as a president.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I almost want him to win

John McCain doesn't know how many houses he owns. According to some media reports, the number is as high as twelve. Most outlets put it in the range of 8-10. Obama's latest ad goes with a conservative number: 7.

The real number is zero. John McCain owns no houses at all. They are all owned by his trophy wife. A lady who inherited $100,000,00.00 from her father, who made his money selling liquor and beer. An honest living, to be sure, but McCain didn't earn a dime of that, and he owns none of the proceeds.

But of course the guy also has never had to work a day in his life. He hasn't the slightest clue how much things cost or how much people make. He offered disgruntled union workers $50/hour to pick lettuce. They yelled at him and tried to take him up on the offer. He walked off the stage, then. Maybe he should stick to offering bottled hot water to dehydrated babies. At least they can't heckle him.

Some people I know claim that John McCain is a regular guy; one of us. A hard working man's man who will protect us against Big Government taking away our paychecks. Only, he hasn't the slightest clue what an actual paycheck looks like. Except the ones that come from the government.

The only thing that John McCain knows is that there are Evil people out there. He wants to send the Marines out to kill them. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, China, wherever. He knows that if there's one thing the United States is good at, it is making bombs, and delivering them. He believes we should stick within our core competencies: killing motherfuckers and destroying the dirty hovels in which they live.

Some people I know think the same way. Cut taxes, increase spending, make more bombs, and kill the fuck out of whoever stands between us and cheap consumer goods, cheap oil, and cheap credit. Because we'll never have to pay that shit back as long as we can kill the motherfuckers who loaned it to us. It's a reasonable way of doing business, a reasonable way of living... to someone who's never had to pay a single bill in his entire life.

I love a good trainwreck. That's why I almost want to see this guy elected. The reason why I don't is that I love my country -- as hokey as that may sound -- and this guy is primed, ready, champing at the bit to destroy it in the most massive global trainwreck humankind has ever seen. I'm not exactly a huge Obama fan these days, but you just wait til this dumb clueless angry old asshat sits his pasty rump down in the driver's seat.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

talk to the hand

These constant daily pronouncements of outrage -- followed, of course, by strongly worded "Russia must..." directives -- from McCain and Bush and Cheney and whoever else, seem to be, shockingly, falling on deaf ears in Moscow. As these guys note:
Outside of blogs, editorial pages, non-binding diplomatic responses, and other release valves for hot gas, I’m not sure any likely objection to Russian behavior amounts to anything. Nobody can force a country with 12,000 nuclear warheads to ignore what it feels are its vital interests, not even a country with 8,000 nuclear warheads. I have no doubt that there are very well-considered legal and moral arguments about how Russia has done a terrible thing, and I’m sure the World Police and International Relations Jesus will be spurred into action by their eloquence and power. Similarly, I’m sure Russia doesn’t give a fuck, and Russia has the under-appreciated advantage of actually existing.
And in a couple of separate posts, Monsieur IOZ sizes up Vlad The (New) Impaler:
Bush is off playing fanboy at the Olympics. Cheney and McCain are left struggling mightily to raise a couple of hard-ons, AKA stuck with their dicks in their hands. Obama is, as always, ready to expostulate in the tongues of angels and honeybees. Meanwhile Bad Vlad is in his shirtsleeves commanding the invasion from the front lines, judo-chopping enemies left and right, basking in the glory of national re-ascendence.
Meanwhile, are people really that confused about Putin? Is he really such a mystery? I mean, dude's a Russian. He's practically a fucking archetype. Civility stretched like thin skin over old barbarism. Iciness giving way to biting humor. Biting humor giving way to violence. Fatalism mashed up with unpredictability. The guy could've wandered straight out of a 19th-century novel, and yet everyone remains befuddled. Hey, America, there're these things called books . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Big Picture

I've been meaning to mention this blog that I check out from time to time. It is the Boston Globe's photojournalism blog, and it is pretty awesome.

There's a lot of great photo series on there, but a couple of recent favorites:

War photos from Georgia.

China's Olympic preparations.

Spectacular photos of Jupiter.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

pot, meet kettle

Because he has set such a sterling example by his leadership over the past 7.5 years, President Bush is able to weigh in on the events in Georgia:

Attending the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush directly called on Russia on Saturday to stop bombing Georgian territory, expressing strong support for Georgia in a direct challenge to Russia’s leaders.

“Georgia is a sovereign nation, and its territorial integrity must be respected,” Mr. Bush said in a hastily arranged appearance at his hotel in Beijing. “We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for the end of the Russian bombings.”

Quiet y'all, I think I can hear Vlad Putin laughing all the way on the other side of the world.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

3+ hours of my life I'll never get back

To the question "David Lynch: genius or fraud?" I've always tended to come down on the genius side. I liked Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive is one of my favorite all-time movies.

But that was before I watched the steaming pile known as Inland Empire. Looking back on the experience, I find it hard to believe I stayed with it until the end. Utterly incomprehensible, and barely interesting even during brief highlights.

Hey, I know what: let's film a bunch of actors doing a bunch of dialog in a bunch of different languages in a bunch of different costumes in a bunch of different scenes in a bunch of different settings with a bunch of sucky lighting with a bunch of really crappy cameras that I just bought down at Fry's, and when we're done filming all this crap, we'll cut it up into 3 minute segments, mix the strips of film in a giant hopper, spin the thing around real good, pull the strips of film out at random, and splice them all together into 3 hours worth of craptastic crapola. Sound good? Ok, I'll bring the 'shrooms.

cui bono?

I'm a fan of conspiracy theories. It's not so much that I buy into them as being true so much as I like thinking about the implications if they were true.

But you don't have to be wearing a tinfoil hat to think there is something very fishy about the whole anthrax-scientist-suicide thing. Putting aside any crazy theories or conclusions, just the basic facts are striking:

Fact One: Back in 2001, shortly after 9/11, the fear factor in this country was ramped up from Shocked and Frightened to Uncontrolled Paranoia as a result of letters containing weaponized anthrax being received through the mail. This resulted in 5 deaths and 17 cases of serious illness. (Source: various contemporaneous media coverage; my own personal recollection)

Fact Two: The anthrax used in these attacks came from the government's own anthrax laboratory, which is under the direct control of the U.S. military. (Source: FBI)

Fact Three: The perpetrator of these attacks was an anthrax expert working for the U.S. federal government. (Source: FBI)

I don't think you have to be a shrill whacko conspiracy theorist to think that this is really an extraordinary set of facts. Think about it: the perpetrator of the first and only biological weapons attack in United States history was a government scientist working at a government biological weapons lab.

I'm not sure I even know what to say about that. But let's throw in a few more facts:

Fact Four: The perpetrator is now dead of an apparent suicide, leaving behind no suicide note or other explanation. (Source: Various recent media reports)

Fact Five: The letters accompanying the anthrax used jihadist rhetoric and were clearly intended to connect the anthrax attacks to 9/11 and to be the work of Arab terrorists (one read as follows: "9/11/01 -- This is next -- Take penicillin now -- D-e-a-t-h to America -- D-e-a-t-h to Israel -- A-l-l-a-h is great"). (Source)

Fact Six: The anthrax letters were primarily directed at members of the news media and Democratic congressional leaders. (Source: contemporaneous media reports and my own personal memory)

Fact Seven: Immediately following the anthrax attacks, many media outlets, led by ABC News, began reporting that numerous government sources were telling them that the particular kind of anthrax used in the attacks had been scientifically proven to be the same variety produced by Saddam Hussein's biological weapons facilities in Iraq (John McCain, appearing on Letterman, also identified Iraq as the culprit, without attributing any source). (Source)

Study those facts, and draw your own conclusions. A useful question to ask when trying to make sense of something like this is to ask: who benefits? Another: what goals or objectives might be advanced by this sequence of events?


One more minor point: if I were a person who was about to be publicly accused and prosecuted as the perpetrator of a heinous act of terrorism, I might very well decide that my best option would be to kill myself. However, I would certainly not do so without first disseminating a document which stated one of the following: (1) I did not do what they say I did; I am being falsely accused, or (2) yes, I did what they say I did, and here's why it was perfectly justified. I don't think it is reasonable to believe that a person in such a position would not leave such a message behind. Which leaves two possibilities: (a) he left a note, but it is being kept secret by someone for some reason, or (b) he didn't kill himself.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

drink up, Johnny

One thing you will always find in my freezer is a bottle of Stolichnaya. Currently there are three, but that's not usual. Usually there's only one. But if I ever notice I'm getting low, I'll get another bottle so as to not be without any. Thus, sometimes there are two. But usually one, only.

Why are there three? The third bottle was a gift. It is 100 proof, rather than the usual 80. It is not quite to my taste, but I won't pour it out.

When I drink vodka -- usually every couple of weeks or so -- I drink it in a glass (or, sometimes, a Solo cup) with ice. That is all. After the first drink (which is rarely 100% pleasant), I enjoy the taste. I also enjoy the near-immediate feeling of well-being that comes after only three or four sips.

This odd blog conducted a test to find out "which is the best vodka?" A very subjective question, to be sure; I prefer Stoli, so that would be my answer. But these nice folks (I won't criticize them, being fellow vodka-enjoyers) state that Stoli is a "sentimental favorite", with a "classic bottle", but that its continuing popularity could be attributed to "snob appeal". I don't know what that means.

One thing that I have noticed: when a bottle of Stoli is put into a freezer and kept there for some time, it develops a curious (and annoying) characteristic: if you touch the metal cap and/or the metal around the neck, your fingers will smell. They will have a metallic/chemical smell. I have observed that this phenomenon occurs every time, with every different bottle, in at least three different freezers with three different freezers-full of (other) contents. I can't explain this phenomenon, and 'the google' does not appear to contain an answer.

Knowing this, I just recently (yes, as recently as within this last half hour) developed a strategy for dealing with the bottleneck-metal-chemical-smell presentment: I get a paper towel, fold it half over and then into thirds, and use it to grip the bottle cap, making sure that my non-toweled hand does not touch the metal on the neck of the bottle. After the vodka is poured, the towel is discarded. I call this the Howard Hughes Strategy.

-Editor's Note: vodka was consumed by the author before and during this blog post.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not quite as exciting as when the Aggies discovered cold fusion, but...

this looks like it could be big: "Major discovery" from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution.

Via The Agitator.

The discovery is a process that mimics photosynthesis by which solar energy can be stored using cheap, natural materials. Finding such a storage mechanism -- apparently -- was the last major barrier to "transform[ing] solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source." As the article states, "within 10 years... electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past."

As alluded to in the headline, we've been disappointed by stuff like this before. However, in these types of announcements you usually see a lot of hedging by the scientists, who are eager to manage expectations and warn against over-excitement.

But this article is peppered with stuff like "revolutionary leap", "unprecedented", "giant leap", "enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind", "the importance of [this] discovery cannot be overstated", "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years", and etc.

The leading researcher is quoted as saying "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon... I know this is going to work." Not much hedging there.


Meanwhile, I've been thinking a lot about energy issues lately, mostly from a standpoint of politics and public energy policy. And, somewhat relatedly, the other week I was watching a nature show (I hardly ever watched these before I got the HD Plasma TV setup) where some dirty hippie egghead scientist type (the kind of person John McCain and his supports just absolutely hate) was conducting experiments on giant redwoods (or sequoias or whatever). This guy said that one of these trees transports something like 2 TONS of water hundreds of feet vertically EACH DAY. The most basic knowledge of physics will tell you that that requires a heck of a lot of energy. Where does all this energy come from? About 1000 sqft of sunlight. The hippie scientist guy characterized this as "the most efficient hydraulic system known to man". Which at the time led me to the obvious idea that we ought to be able to figure out how this works, and start implementing it ourselves... and that -- maybe, just maybe -- this ought to be a pretty damn high priority for us, as, you know, a society, civilization, species, etc.

Of course, it isn't. These guys at MIT did what they did using a $10m donation from a private family trust. I hate to get too political here... but imagine what could be done with even a fraction of the $1+ Trillion we have committed to our failed adventure in appropriating cheap oil from Iraq.