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Monday, March 31, 2008

Spitzeus Spitz on Zeus, and gets the Prodigal Sack.

The Fall of Spitzer reads like an epic Greek myth. Spiztius, the man who fought with giants, earns the favor of the father-god, Zeus--who always prefers the mighty. Spiztius smiling with Zeus many blessings, and full of hubris, is a pompous and pious man. Meanwhile, Hera, the jealous wife, catches Zeus canoodling some water nymph along the river Archeron. To wreak her revenge, she decides to snare the mind of Spiztius by using his hubris against him. She convinces another nymph, Kristenides, and her blond sister, Kristedavises to wash each other's hair along the river. Spiztius happens to be walking by, castrating rapists as he goes, when he sees the girls and is instantly taken by lust. He ravishes them along the river (or rather they ravish him, because we all know how lusty river nymphs can be). However, Kristenides and Kristedavises are actually Zeus's distant cousins. (There are less then a hundred characters in the Greek Pantheon, so they're all cousins.) When the profligate Zeus finds that Spitzius has wronged the virtue of his cousins, he is outraged and immediately makes the man a constellation: nine stars, an outline of a man chasing the diminishing specter of his own piety for the rest of time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Renewed Outrage

I'm at the point in State of Denial where Woodward talks about the 2004 election. It's a riveting read, in part because I remember that election more strongly then any prior political experience save back for when I worked for Congress. It kills me. It just does.

So as you know, the Kerry campaign was planning on challenging the election. I even recall him doing so, for a couple of hours. They had a couple of good reasons: The first being that several hundred thousand provisional ballots hadn't been counted. According to election law, as I understand it through Woodward's analysis, if it's a close election the provisional ballots should be counted. I do not know if they have to be counted in such an event. Merely that it is an option. The second reason was the vast voting irregularities we all remember hearing. Lines of hundreds of people in Democratic districts waiting in the cold to vote. Many of them not getting their chance. We all thought, that even if the election didn't turn out the way we'd hoped--at least those concerns would be redressed. If I had to stand out in the cold or rain for six or eight hours, I'd be pissed. I don't frankly know what I would have done--maybe start a revolution.

Here's the kicker and this is what caused the "renewed outrage." 1) In the White House, things were tense, a huge discussion between Dan Bartlett, Bush and Rove among other's including Mary Matalin. In that discussion, the question was whether or not to "declare an early victory." And attempt to preempt the electoral mess that would result. Jim Frances, who'd run Bush's campaigns in Texas, wanted the speech--thinking that they wanted to get the numbers out there. Start winning hearts and minds and all that rot. Their reasoning at the time was this: Bush was ahead by 140,000 votes or so. There were only 250,000 provisional votes. Kerry would have to get most of them to win. It seemed a sure thing. But if Kerry contested, that would bring the whole thing to a standstill, and Bush would be embroiled in yet another legal battle with every lawyer in DC. The fighter in Bush agreed with Francis' assessment. Dan Bartlett and Steve Hadley, used everything in their personal arsenal to fight that. Bartlett, who later confirmed this as his finest moment said, "You cannot go out there and put the crown on your own head. You just cannot do it." How telling. How fucking fucked up is that? Goddamn! Someone actually had to tell these people that? As a piece of strategy, I can certainly understand Francis' point--preempting the facts with false facts--changes things. It persuades people, and in effect, changes facts. But that the word crown was used as a metaphor--absolutely horrifying, and absolutely unsurprising.

First off, the whole lawyer thing. People love to hate 'em. And I agree, you can hate the process, to some extent. But people forget. It's there for the redress of grievances. Fergawdsakes! Spurn the advances of your own lawyers sure, but ignore them and you have no legal standing whatsover!

The second thing, is what Woodward reports about Kerry's decision. His decision, which the candidate recounted as the only truly "presidential" moment he got to face, was to back off and accede. He saw the ballot problem. And he considered going out to Ohio, camping out with the disenfranchised voters. What happened?

Well as I understand, it was some hazerai about gentlemanly conceding. Doing the Right Thing. Not leaving the nation without a president during the midst of an occupation dubbed War. What a shitshow. Kerry can feel all grand about it if he likes, but his concession robbed thousands of Ohio voters of their rights. That isn't the Right Thing. Why am I writing this now? Why rehash it? Because there's this notion in America that if we don't have a "leader" the country will collapse in rebellion, every state will secede, there will be vicious mobs roaming the streets, "cat's and dogs living together...mass hysteria" thank you Dr. Venkman. It's totally ridiculous. Many of us knew then that the president wasn't providing any real leadership in Iraq (or anywhere else). Does it take time for a bureacracy to change over? At the top levels, yes, but it's not like the people at the post office were going to throw off their shackles and revolt. This whole notion that Democrat leaders have that they have to choose for the good of the country, choose solidarity. Fuck that! He chose, and it cost America 4 more years of it's verifiably worst leader in 200 odd years of history.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bats, Frogs, Chinook Salmon, & Bees

These are all species that seem to be disappearing. And rapidly. It's so infuriating, and so horrible it makes me want to cry. And McCain has the nerve to declaim against government spending on the environment. And it is all happening so fast. And with so little notice. Well, here are some good articles.

Bats. Frogs. Chinook Salmon. Bees

I have a private fantasy that I'll share with you. In many fantasy novels, the magic generally flees before evil is defeated. And then? It flees totally. This is most evident in The Lord of the Rings. The book starts out with talk about the war with Sauron, which took place a thousand years before the present, when there were at least three elven kings. The dwarves were a mighty nation, living in two separate places on the continent, the Ents were a much larger population, and the Hobbits, well, they were quiet as usual. Point is, the dwarves begin to die off, they war with each other, with the hosts of mount Moria. They grow insular and retreat into their mountains. After the War of Five Armies, the dwarves of Thorbardin nearly vanish. So that by the time of the second war with Sauron, they barely lift a hair to help. Most notably, the elves begin their portage, and eventual voyage to the Summer Isles, leaving Middle-Earth behind.

And if this were the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, these animals would be fleeing the coop before an intergalactic highway built by the Vogons would go straight through the Earth.

Well, we don't have magic obviously, but maybe, all these animals. Maybe they're like the elves, dwarves, hobbits, and ents of Middle Earth. Maybe they're all boarding some magic crafts somewhere and leaving this world behind. How sad and tragic to think of our world without any animals save ourselves and the ones most direct to our subsistence. This begs the question of whether or not the world CAN survive on such a small circle. Still it's nicer to think that maybe they're all running off somewhere then dying, as those bats are doing, by the thousand.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Bombing of Bear Stearns

Hat tip to Sox First blog for the photo and some ideas.

So yada yada, the whole financial world is rocked by the sudden and surprising dissolution of Bear Stearns yesterday. The deal must have been hush hush, most of the employees had no idea. And is it any wonder? They own 30% of the stock.

So now what? JP Morgan bought them out. For 2$ a share, what a lark! Now I don't know nothin'. But explain to me, why JP Morgan would buy a company that is leveraged out the ass in Prime Mortgages? Isn't that the whole cause of the meltdown? Do they think it's going to get better soon? Afterall, with thousands losing their jobs, it certainly won't be increasing the budget of middle America. Personally, I can't see how things will recover until we can start moving money into the hands of the people who really control the market, namely the consumer. Some of my favorite blogconomists have been predicting this fall for a full year. And it just seems once again, like the really smart powerful players all missed the party. I mean...come on! Ponzi sound great if you can get out before the house of cards collapses. But when you're a bank--you don't ever get out. Not if you don't want to screw over every single client you have.

Well, at any rate, it isn't for me to moralize on a subject I barely understand. I am dead curious about the fallout of this. Some are predicting bigger losses for the other financial houses. Will Merrill start divesting? Will Deloitte and Touche be tarnished? PWC? AM New York said that the city will feel this. but really, will it. One thing's for sure, there's a whole lotta real estate opening up in midtown.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Let me be the first

To coin the name of Ashley Dupre's first Album: Spitz or Swallhoes

It's the Social Network morons

Having viewed, like the other 4 million people Ashley Dupre's myspace page I can't help but think. What sort of high priced call girl service allows the girls to keep myspace pages? For someone like Elliot Spitzer, who was famous for blustering, "Get me the Emails!" in many securities fraud suits, you'd think he'd have vetted the place first. Moreover you'd think if anyone knew that the IRS monitors payments over 10 grand, it would be him.

It just stinks. It stinks to heaven.

Not that he's not guilty. You know, here's the thing. American businessmen all over the world are using services like these every day--and in fact, many are probably using mafia connected services, like the Russian mob, or the Triads. But you don't hear about them. First, no one cares about "the faceless American businessman." Second, the mob owns their girls. Human trafficking is a huge problem in the States. The girls don't have lives--this is of course is the real problem with prostitution. The propensity for women to be abused and to have their civil rights abridged, restricted or degraded. This is why most civilized nations have banned it. That being said, New York City, and America in general offers an entirely different form of prostitution. We have televised date shows, where women compete for a man, and if they win, receive piles of cash. In effect, to hit it off, (and sleep with) the bachelor. Women in this town go to extremely expensive bars, where they meet extremely wealthy men, who take them out spend money on them, and take them home. Every night. For them, this is totally normal behavior. They of course, aren't necessarily going to meet men in hotel rooms, minus the booze, minus the club. But then again, when their clients aren't the Governor of New York--I'm sure those restrictions are loosened.

Sigh. I'm making excuses for the man. I shouldn't do that. But I can't help it--when you see the pictures of wall street rejoicing, you can't help but think--goddamn it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer Resigns

So he's out. I hadn't really been looking forward to blogging on this subject. There will be plenty of people eviscerating him, excoriating the party that vouched for him, and his electorate that voted him in. Fewer certainly, have been defending him, but they are out there.

I don't want to do either of those things. I expect that a lot of my posts, as some already have been, will be shouting for the resignations of corrupt Republicans. So, it is my duty, to at least comment on Spitzer.

I'm glad he resigned. I do think there was the potential for a great governor in him. Some have told me, and I agree to an extent, that his reputation as a "bulldog" would have isolated him, and made him an inept governor. While there certainly have been many cases of that happening. Urbane politicians only excel at getting one thing done: Nothing of consequence. So I'm sorry he'll be leaving. However, a man who rails and pontificates on morality and greed, has to live up to a certain standard. And if the man believed in prostitution, he should have been pressing for it in the legistlature--not in hotel rooms.

That being said--I do feel a bit sorry for him. Silda Spitzer, or Wall Spitzer, is a beautiful woman, and he has produced three beautiful daughters. But, maybe the man had certain special sexual needs, that he just couldn't ask his Harvard educated, blue-blood wife to fulfil. I don't make excuses for him, but I think it behooves us to have some sympathy. I won't get any more graphic then that--but provided his needs fall within the realm of legality, then-maybe he should be forgiven in the sense that sexual preference is a condition of life on this planet. He obviously didn't choose his preference when he chose his wife, and that's unfair and unfortunate for everyone involved.

Anyway, I mostly feel rotten for his wife. Who, afterall, is really bearing the brunt of all this. His shame will ruin him--that's his fault. Her shame is his fault too. And his kids shame, his fault too. The man has a lot to answer for--I can't even begin to imagine it.

On the upside--we have Lt. Gov. Paterson set to be sworn in on Monday. Provided he's not neck deep in corruption as well. I am hopeful for Paterson, though I don't know too much about him. I think it's neat to have a blind, black governor. We will have to see how things proceed.

The Straight Talker

First--I'm a little bleary today, so excuse me for any mistakes or gaps in logic.

So McCain made a shot across the nose of research spending. It's a campaign ad, so it's the usual fare. I guess what gets me is it's the usual sort of Republican rhetoric that harkens back to the days of Newt. In a way, it's good to see were on regular footing again. Spendocrats and Defeatocrats. I don't mind it so much cause the rhetoric is old, tired. It's still effective, but it doesn't have the glitz of the freshly minted pejorative. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll start seeing them soon.

What gets me about this whole thing is that the ear mark problem has nothing to do with money set aside for research. For 8 years the Republicans have been siphoning funds away from the NIH. Research money that really ought to go medical study. The ear mark problem is for the side projects that give money to Congressmen's constituency. Here are some notables, compiled by ThinkProgress:

42. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) used his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to steer earmarks towards to one of his closest friends and major campaign contributor. [Link]

45. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) earmarked funds to increase the property value of lands that he later sold for a profit. [Link]

55. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) accepted contributions from disgraced lobbyist Mitchell Wade and MZM, Inc., her largest campaign contributor, in return for a defense earmark. [Link]

63. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) secured a federal earmark to increase the property value of his land and reap at least $1.5 million in profits. [Link]

I mean, that's what I think about when I hear the word earmarks. Frankly, I think spending 3 million dollars on compiling the DNA of bears is a wonderful thing. God knows that they, like every other animal save homosapiens, will be extinct in fifty years. Or relegated to zoos and circuses. And the fact is--I might know some of the poor gradstudents who will be receiving that money. And they deserve it goddamn it!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Drinking water t'aint no suprise

I'm feeling pretty clever about that title. But seriously, people--drugs in the water? Get your heads out of your asses! I'm glad the AP has drawn some attention to this--but as Sam Becket would say, "Use your head, you're on Earth, there's no cure for that!"

So get this, the AP says that trace amounts of many different kinds of pharmaceutical drugs are in the water supply for 41 million Americans. Frankly, the study only included the water supply of 41 million people, otherwise it would read 300 million.

This might come as a surprise to some people, but literally everything is connected! You don't need to be a scientist to figure that out. Spit on the ground, where does it go? Are you suggesting you know how to destroy matter?!?

Entire undersea environments are being destroyed, every goddamn day as millions of metric tons of farm waste get spilled into the rivers and oceans. And it does two things! 1) sinks into the ground and enters the water table (your wells) or it evaporates into the air and rains down on top of you (your reservoirs). Here's another little tidbit. Unless you're buying organic meat products, every ounce of protein you take in from an animal has been pumped full of antibiotics before it was even killed. You think those antibiotics disappear when the animal dies? You think that "honest business" or "honest government" cares about protecting your health?

Conservatives make the argument that a good customer is a live customer, is a healthy customer. So big business has a necessary interest in keeping you healthy. But Big Tobacco is the first example of how this is patently untrue. Countless millions go into pulling the wool over American's eyes, and you know what's really a shame? Those same industries could put that money into R&D to actually make their products safer. They choose not to.

Alas, you know and I know that legislation will get proposed. It will be weak and inneffectual, because the politicians have to do something. They get their props, and then the lobbyists get to it. And afterward, if it even passes, the agencies with the authority to enforce it will be given neither the money nor the manpower to do their jobs.


As someone who has tried repeatedly to gain employment with them, I can understand why anyone might think that the following comment is made out of hurt, or anger at rejection. So let me just state for the record. I like the organization very much, and I think they do an excellent job of rounding up the political news of the day.


Many liberals have made the argument that to combat right wing influence in the media, we need to strike back with our own invective and framing. I support this so long as invective means passion, and framing means critically deconstructing the pathetically obvious attempts at changing news by choosing what to report on, and how to report on it.

Sometimes ThinkProgress goes to far. And they do what all partisan's do--I do it too--make blanket statements, over exaggerate, and see things in a way that only someone whose only perspective is from one extreme. This conflagration over Rep Steve King, for example. I in no way defend Steve King for making a very obvious smear attack on Obama. However, as a matter of fact, the man's name does not shout, "I am a Christian!" Of course, what a man's name connotes is really immaterial, but that's not the point here. The difference is a question of perception. My name does not shout "I am an atheist!" though it should, in fact with influences from several cultures, really shouts, "mumble-de-mumble." Did I think the man was Muslim when I first heard his name? Not at first, but when I learned he was black, knowing a smidgeon about Black history, I thought, well maybe he is a Muslim. Nothing wrong with that at all. The point is, ethical considerations aside, it is a reasonable inference to draw. And so criticisms on Steven King on that one point, aren't necessarily fair.

The "dancing in the streets" comment is a slur because King infers that the terrorists will be thrilled that Obama would be president. The initial premises being, terrorists are bad. The things that badpeople like must be bad. The bad people are Islamic. All bad people who are islamic, like all other people who are islamic. Obama's name sounds Islamic. Therefore, Obama must be bad.

However, reasonable logic shows on examination that neither of those premises are accurate and therefore the conclusion to be similarly flawed. However, it is nonetheless also true, that for a great many Americans, those premises are fundamentally true. So from a fairly small-minded perspective King's point is true.

From my own perspective, it is definitely true. All thinking people will be dancing in the streets when a Democrat is elected President of the U.S.

Premises (All people are capable of rational logical thought, unless physically, or emotionally incapable. Providing terorists are physically and emotionally fit, they are capable of rational logical thought. The U.S. policy in the middle east is repugnant and ought to be changed. A democratic president will commence a policy shift in the Middle East.)

This post started with me criticizing ThinkProgress' methods. Allow my digression. As a useful tidbit of information, this serves to show the electorate several things. 1) Steve King is a true to form Republican circa 2000. 2) Steve King is biased against Muslims--not that he hates them--but that his conclusions depend on erroneous and biased assumptions as demonstrated above. (The gentile who says "Jews are smarter then gentiles," is biased, even if his rhetoric is in this case complimentary to the offending population.) And another would be that 3) Steve King conflates a vote for Obama with a vote for terrorism. 4) Steve King, who knows better, serves to strengthen the Islam smear against Obama. (the logic of which I won't even touch!)

As a news item, those 4 points are useful--if you're Iowan, or have general concern over the media's campaign and election treatment against Democrats. If you're Iowan, vote the bastard out. (Some Thinkprogress staff or readers might be) .If you're concerned about the Right Wing Media putting a frame on the campaign, then lambasting the man--misses the point. The man can be challenged on his arguments, not on his rhetoric. And ThinkProgress uses it's own rhetoric by following the "terrible" smear with updates, and more news coverage. The fact of the matter, is Steve King is a Republican, he did what Republicans do. And in all likelhood, his constituency agrees with him as they voted for the man. So don't waste your time or mine denigrating the man. I don't give a hoot about Steve King unless he's done something illegal. Do what MediaMatters does--collect the information and publish a dispassionate review of it.

Show a video showing all of the conservative commentators, and all of the statements they make that you disagree with for a particular network, but the constant updates over a relatively minor rhetorical trick that should come as no surprise? You're smart people Think Progress, move on.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Repubs Finally Get Digital

So get this, after years of moaning about how the blogosphere has been overwhelmingly leftist, the GOP has finally gotten with the digital age.

It's true. Government propaganda is top down. And there are only so many ways wingnuts can deep throat the words of the President, and General Petraeus. Actual discussion is the nature of democracy and is of course will always be more open and liberal.

Still, this was troubling to me--not because there was anything wrong with it--Just because I know that my Party will utterly fail in responding adequately. Moreover, the GOP will get these websites up and running, the media will do specials on them, and it will be made to look as if these are "real" people setting up "real" websites. They aren't.

If the GOP begins to claim that they are, then they will have done something wrong. However, no doubt, the Press, when it comes time, will skip the job of actually asking questions, and will simply report what they read as if it were true. So again, the GOP, won't have actually done anything wrong. Afterall, it's not their fault that the Press is inept.

Of course, they won't be right. They would still be liable, but wiley GOP lawyers will no doubt weasel their way out of that with little difficuly. Afterall, what's a little campaign grease compared to Telecom Amnesty.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Staggering incompetence

Not the most orignal start to a blog. But, on par with my other blogs, I don't think anyone will read it.

So here it is. I've been reading Bob Woodward's "State of Denial." And it is a most absorbing read. Disclaimer: I have not read "Plan of Attack" or any other Bob Woodward book. He's a charismatic writer, but not what I would call a practical writer. The book gives a sense of events as they happen, but new names and new events are introduced with every page, and it's hard to get a sense of who is doing what, when and why. I need timelines and spreadsheets, man!

Regardless of how much I understand or absorb. The sheer monumental incompetence of the prosecution of the War in Iraq and it's aftermath is breathtaking. My girlfriend wrote in her own blog once, "Confrontiveness? Adversarialness? Is that why this subfield is considered useful? The ability of its practitioners to create new, vague, distorted jargon that is better suited to corporate middle manager ladder climbers is just barely outstripped by their constant babbling about how useful their work is." She was taking about gradschool, but the feeling is the same. The middle manager "conslutant" way of doing things in this country has taken over the reigns of the federal government.

Woodward's work drives this home again and again. Rumsfeld, "the perfect consultant," comes to the post of SecDef like he's Jesus. It's his job to Fix the Entire Military Apparatus. Why? Because he didn't like how it ran when he was SecDef last time. In otherwords, they were smart enough to let his megalomania take over. But the Bush cult of personality thing says, "I like this guy, Dad likes this guy, I'm gonna let him do his thing, and trust him." I have no problem with that persay, we'd all like to think we could trust our underlings to work efficiently. But sometimes they need a swat upside the head. Look at me, I should be working right now. Plus, blind faith in our friends can't be the guiding factor in selecting competent people for jobs--we all know this already--but why should Bush understand this? Afterall, he is the perennial, bad seed who gets the job because of his connections, but can't actually hack the job, because he is afterall, a drop out, an unqualified loser.

I think it underscores the advanced state of cronyism in the workforce today. I just hope I get to use it myself before the whole damn thing crumbles.