Monday, March 30, 2009

Why, Oh WHY Didn't You Do This The First Time?!?

"President Obama today announced that struggling automotive giants General Motors and Chrysler will be given a limited period of time to 'restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional taxpayer dollars." Obama said that both automakers may need to file for bankruptcy "to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger.' " ( lede)

Okay, then: why weren't they forced to restructure the first time around?!? Did Rich Wagoner do something so heinous that only now he be "requested" to step down as head of GM? [UPDATE: Oh...] Was there any real point in giving them cash, given that they had no real mechanism in place to make those changes (which were never well-specified)? And --let me get this straight-- it was argued that "GM and Chrysler are too big to fail" and too many jobs were at risk, but today it is being said explicitly that there will be job cuts? Wouldn't the outcome have been the same without the bailout money?

Or was this an excuse to guarantee financial and moral suasion to take over these industries and channel money to cronies?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You Want Something Worse Than Katrina or Ike (or Krakatoa)? Here It Is...

FuturePundit: Solar Carrington Event Repeat Today Would Collapse Civilization:

First to go - immediately for some people - is drinkable water. Anyone living in a high-rise apartment, where water has to be pumped to reach them, would be cut off straight away. For the rest, drinking water will still come through the taps for maybe half a day. With no electricity to pump water from reservoirs, there is no more after that... There is simply no electrically powered transport: no trains, underground or overground. Our just-in-time culture for delivery networks may represent the pinnacle of efficiency, but it means that supermarket shelves would empty very quickly - delivery trucks could only keep running until their tanks ran out of fuel, and there is no electricity to pump any more from the underground tanks at filling stations.

Read it. And then be very scared. I haven't heard anyone talking about spending money for this anywhere in the Obama Stimulus. Trillions to "build infrastructure" and "save or create jobs" and we could still face this. I wonder if my old Faraday cage would avail me here...?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Attention Under-30s: This One's for You!

The American Spectator : From a Crotchety Old Man: read all of it, but here are my two favorites:

7) An assertion is not a reasoned argument. Nor is a series of assertions. Your opinion isn't valuable because it's yours; it's valuable if you back it up with reason, with an explanation of cause and effect. And not all opinions are equally valid. And emotion, especially anger, does not an opinion make. And invective isn't a proof of authenticity.

9) There are certain things you must know in order to be a good citizen, among them a basic understanding of American history and civics. If you're in college and don't know the difference between the First Amendment and the First Commandment, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you don't know that the U.S. Civil War was fought in the mid-19th century, or that the Constitution lists Congress as the first branch of the national government, or that the Korean War occurred between World War II and the Vietnam War, then you don't have enough sense to be taken seriously.

Tell it on the mountain!!! [italics added]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nothing an EKG couldn't fix

It happened again: I began having chest pains, dizziness and an impending sense of doom. Two years ago the same things happened (along with sweats, serious dizziness and tingling pain down the left arm) and I spent a night in the cardiac unit, after which they told me it was only stress and that my insurance would require me to put up $1000 as my share of the total bill.

So I was a bit sanguine about all this. Stress, I said. You have a history in both maternal and paternal male lines of heart disease, Mrs. said. It will pass, I said. You need to go get it checked out, she said. And then Mutti said it. And then Dear Father said it --well, not so much said it as barked it ("..but Dad you're increasing my stress by yelling at me to go to the doctor." "And you're increasing mine by not going and putting my granddaughter's father at risk.")

I gave in and took the morning off to go see my practitioner. Stress increased when I was made aware that my new insurance plan did not cover office visits. However, I'm not paying an additional $75/month to lower an annual or semi-annual visit by $30, so feh. He leveled with me: he would feel better if I underwent an EKG. "But Doctor, I am a Hairy-Chested He-Man!" "Well, you can pull the 'trodes off yourself when we're done so that it hurts less." Ow.

Even so, the EKG revealed what I already knew: I had suffered no cardiac event, everything was normal, I'm probably having stress coupled with reflux. Reduce stress and tomatoes (!). Xanax optional. And the EKG was only $25 extra on top of the office visit.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today is National Medal of Honor Day

National Medal of Honor Day: I especially liked the story of the only Conscientious Objector to win the MOH, Desmond Doss.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Make Fun Of Guys Who Wear Superhero Costumes

...because sometimes they can be real heroes.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Thai 'Spider-Man' to the rescue:

The firefighter dressed up as the comic book superhero Spider-Man in order to coax the boy, who is autistic, from his dangerous perch... The sight of Mr Yoosabai dressed as Spider-Man and holding a glass of juice for him, brought a big smile to the boy's face, and he promptly threw himself into the arms of his "superhero", police said.

Wish I still had my Classic Batman costume...

Monday, March 23, 2009

I see the idiots are running the asylum again

UK population must fall to 30m, says Porritt - Times Online: wherein it is argued that the UK must reduce its population by more than half to reduce global warming.

Let's leave aside the question of climate change for just one moment. If we're proposing mandatory population controls, who is going to be in charge, and who must be made to obey? It's no great secret that the fastest growth rate in Britain comes from immigrant families, most of whom are Muslim. Is the British government really going to lecture Muslim families on birth control? How fast can you say fatwa?

This is soooo reminiscent of the "ZOMG-we're-going-to-run-out-of-food-cuz-Malthus-predicted-it" crowd of the 1970s, or even the same period's "the-planet-is-headed-for-a-new-Ice-Age" people. Again: I'm not saying that there's never cause to panic; I just get suspicious when it's the government or the New York Times that says so.

Malaise? No no, best not use that word...

The flood of negative information washing over the American landscape has been staggering. It's almost enough to make me start stocking on (non-lead) ammunition for pistols, rifles and shotguns. I haven't been linking because there's simply too much out there not to find quickly. Left, right, or dead-center, few people are happy with The Way Things Are Going. However, the use of the word "malaise" is very dangerous, because --even though he never quite used it ---it reminds everyone of Jimmy Carter, and Carter was one of the worst Presidents we ever had. And as bad as things look now, they were worse at the end of 1979. So let's whistle past the graveyard and not use that word.

Anyway, I've been busy futzing with the garden and building a new backyard fence over Spring Break. School is back now, and so am I, albeit sluggish of keyboard.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blast Your Hide, Big-Box Store!!!

Garden Season continues apace, and I am getting close to filing out my Spring Quota. I am focusing right now on the cuculberts: cukes, zukes, and assorted squashes. I had some good luck last year with specialty cucumbers, and spent a good deal of time the last two weeks hunting them locally, but with no success. As time is of the essence now, I resorted to regular, boring ol' hybrids --the kind you find at your local Big-Box Store's garden center.

So I went to the local Orange Temple Of Doom (you figure it out...) and plonked down the obscene sum of $2.79 for a 4" peat pot that ostensibly holds one or two plants. This one held five cucumber plants, so I took it as the best deal going and got them into the ground. You can imagine, then, my chagrin when I toured the Farmer's Market near campus today and found "six-packs" of the same vegetables for $1.99. And these had 10-12 plants each, and they were in much better shape than the ones at the Big-Box!

What The...?

Pentagon: Chinese Ships Harassed Unarmed Navy Craft in International Waters

"Because the vessels' intentions were not known, Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the vessels in order to protect itself," the Defense statement said. "The Chinese crew members disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet."

--is that code for "the Chinese sailors mooned us?"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics; or, Go Look At The Bumper Stickers

Copious Dissent - Your Daily Dose of Liberty: Analysis of the Indiana University Study on Republican Media Bias

I'm not all that surprised. I remember Bloomington well from my grad school days. You can pick out both rednecks and college professors by their bumper stickers. Not a lot of Republican stickers on campus.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Of Perceptions and Pundits

Little Green Footballs - David Brooks Smells Something Funny:

One unfortunate factor that exacerbated the tendency to dismiss all critics of Barack Obama as kooks: the many right wing bloggers who did act like kooks, enthusiastically and relentlessly promoting stories like the birth certificate nonsense, the “Michelle Obama ‘whitey’ tape,” the “Obama is the love child of Malcolm X” rubbish, and countless other insane and/or stupid smears. The damage they did (and are still doing, in some cases) to the center-right blogosphere was enormous; when some of the loudest voices are screaming gibberish, they drown out everyone else and tar the whole group by association.

That's the problem, innit? Your loud voices are the ones that stick most in the minds of people. Someone says it's time for hope and change and says it loudly enough and people believe. No one pays attention to specifics. Certainly the mass media is looking only for the glaring images that attract looky-loos.

You can almost see the same thing happening now. The Administration is trying very hard to make Rush Limbaugh the face of the opposition. And credit to Saul Alinsky, it's working. Anyone who thinks the government is doing the wrong thing is automatically a Dittohead. And Rush is eating it up because it's great for his ratings. And Americans are buying the image of conservative opposition as fat Bourbon Republicans. As long as that's the image, things aren't going to improve. In fact, I'm thinking they are going to get much worse. Maybe not Depression-era worse, but close enough to be uncomfortable.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bayou City History: The cane that came home

Bayou City History: The cane that came home: I'm glad there's at least some recognition that today is Texas Independence Day, in the newspaper of the city where (close by) the decisive battle was fought. There's this in the San Antonio newspaper; the comments thread includes the obligatory idiot declaring the "terrorist" actions of the rebels not worthy of commemoration. Attention ill-informed cretin: there were Tejanos who supported the Revolution, and Texas was not the only province that rebelled against Santa Anna. Texas, however, won where the others failed.