Sunday, July 31, 2011

Whatever The Deal, This Isn't The Time

So the Congressional Republicans are steadfastly holding the economy hostage against raising taxes on people earning over half a million dollars a year. In two days, the Congress will refuse to release the money to pay for the same budget it passed earlier in the year. (As Bill Clinton described it: Essentially voting on the same budget twice.)

(Of course, this will give the President a veritable line-item veto, another unforeseen bonus. One reason I'll never be president: Suddenly given a choice to spend limited Federal money where I choose, the first places to get fucked would be Federal offices, contracts, and activity within the districts of those Congresspeople who were such a pain in my ass.)

In their senseless battle, Republicans have endangered the U.S. credit rating. A cut in credit rating could mean an increase in interest rates for everybody. (And every tenth of a percent that the interest rate on federal debt payments go up, it tacks on an additional $13 billion a year to the budget deficit... not to mention an estimated $1000 annual "tax" on the average American family via increased interest rates on mortgages, car loans, and credit cards.

But really and most importantly, now is simply not the time to be engaging in massive cuts in government spending: During the recovery from a recession. Conservatives like to cry that "raising taxes will cause businesses to contract, not expand." I've got another point of view: 22% of all government contracts go to small businesses, and most of those contracts are in the "discretionary spending" category where Republicans are focusing the vast majority of their cuts.

Even Herbert Hoover recognized that you don't cut government spending, and that you instead raise taxes on millionaires when the economy is in the pits.

I'm all for smaller government and lower taxes, but you can't just start mindlessly, drastically slashing and gouging at the bloated federal government like it's some independent, separated entity that is not completely insinuated into every facet of life in this country, especially not when every facet of life in this country is in a straitened economic situation. Spending cuts have to be done slowly and with forethought and impact studies. I cannot imagine that any several trillion dollars of spending cuts hastily dreamed up in the last 3 or 4 weeks have had any kind of real impact studies done on them. Instead, this package of cuts will be passed and then a few weeks later several hundred people working on government project 1175 (whatever that may be) will hear that they are unexpectedly being laid off from work. Repeat that for however many number of government contracts have been cancelled all around the country. Start paying all of those people unemployment, and what has really been gained? Certainly the economy has not gained anything.

Our federal government is like a really jury-rigged electrical system in a big old house built in 1789, with hundreds of miles of wires running willy-nilly everywhere. Not at all a good thing: It's pervasive, it's a problem, it's dangerous, but it currently works. God only knows why it works, how it works, for how much longer it will work, or how much electricity is being wasted while it works.

Now imagine our current poor economic situation as that house in the middle of a stormy winter night when we need all the electricity for lights and heat and cooking and generally staying alive.

The current plan in the Congress is, on this particular night, to go up in the attic and just arbitrarily start ripping out the most "useless looking" wires from the rats' nest they see up there.

In other words, it is not that ripping those wires out and putting in a modern, efficient electrical system does not need to be done; but when the lights and stove and electric heater suddenly go pffft on this particular night, the poor timing will become immediately and horribly obvious.

I honestly would love to see a balanced budget and a government surplus. I think that the survival of America and its position as a world leader depends on having a government savings account. The Chinese certainly do. Nothing would make me happier and more optimistic about America's future than a tiny federal government that spends less, provides less, and impacts less on this country, and a debt burden that does not eat up massive quantities of our resources every year that could be spent on American social stability and economic strength. It's necessary, it's healthy, and it's inevitable.

But tonight it's cold, and waiting the short amount of time necessary for the sun to come up and the temperature to rise is the safer course of action in my opinion.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Daily Report: Update

Both of Epril's approved visa petitions, after being "lost in the mail" for nearly 2 months (from May 27 to July 20), finally showed up in New Hampshire and were entered into the system. Epril's Choice of Agent form and my Affidavit of Support have now been submitted. Although timelines seem to be sketchy as hell, we are looking at approximately 100 more days until Epril's interview in Manila — November 7th. Sigh. I guess we'll miss our hoped-for anniversary reunion on September 27th. Well, one can always hope against performance to date that things will speed up now and exceed stated statistics.

I had my pool cues sent back from The Philippines and I've been practicing. I found that the local bar that I went to a few weeks ago for 50-cent beers, that has the nice full-sized pool tables will, any time of the day, let you play pool for free as long as you buy a beer. That's an awesome deal. There is a pool hall also in the area, but they charge anywhere from $5 to $7 per hour depending on the time of day. Anyway, I've managed to get my game back to about 50% of what it used to be back circa 1998 so far.

I have had yet another opportunity fall in my lap, and this one seemed atypically providential... and also a bit deja vu: There was a certain point in my life where I was having a very tough time, and out of the blue I received a phone call... on a phone that never rang... in a place in which I never spent much time... but happened to be in front of that phone at my most needy moment. It was an old friend from college who offered to have me come back to New York City to work... and the rest is (my) history.

Fast forward to now, and my phone rings again, and there is the same old friend, whom I had lost contact with for more than a decade, who contacted me again with yet another opportunity. Actually, this opportunity requires a major amount of effort on my part, but it's an enjoyable effort. I've been getting up at 7 every morning, studying this stuff straight through until 5 in the afternoon, having my quick cocktail hour with my Uncle, having a nap from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then working from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. at my regular job. I haven't been this exhausted since college... and it feels good.

That's about it from here in Cougar Town. (I haven't even had time to watch an episode of Cougar Town in almost 2 weeks; maybe I'll enjoy one before going to bed tonight.) I'm seriously up to my eyeballs in stuff to do. It was only Epril asking me to write in my blog that had me dedicate this time before going to bed to write here instead of reading my book. But I'm afraid that really is all the time I have now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Classic John Stewart

John Stewart does one thing undeniably well: He finds people making hypocritical remarks, and then strings together a bunch of examples of their hypocrisy in a long, fun to watch, stream of "gotchas", accompanied by some of his classic self-deprecating Woody-Allenesque me-too-ism humor and a bit of overacting thrown in for good measure. This clip below is a classic example of that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

American Geniuses

It's uplifting to see some American teenagers that are so far beyond normal levels of genius that they enter the realm of "awe-inspiring".

Shree Bose is a high school Junior from Texas. After losing 2 grandfathers to cancer, Shree simply decided to start working on a cure for cancer.

I don't know how she did it precisely, but she started off studying the fairly-common chemotherapy drug, cisplatin. First, she figured out how it worked on cancer cells. Second, she DISCOVERED (yes, discovered) how an intercellular protein commonly found in cancer cells eventually helped those cancer cells develop resistance to the drug. Third, and most importantly, she DEVELOPED (a junior in high school!) a method to manipulate that protein, stopping the cancer cells from developing resistance to cisplatin.

To put it simply: Shree Bose accomplished by herself what would normally require a team of university MD/PhD researchers to accomplish.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

A New "Worlds Best Break Dancing Video"

When I'm inclined to add the disclaimer, "no special effects used", you know you're going to see some pretty frickin' good moves.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Perfect Paragraphs

Andrew Sullivan strings a bunch of them together:
The Republican refusal to countenance any way to raise revenues to tackle the massive debt incurred largely on their watch and from a recession which started under Obama's predecessor makes one thing clear. They are not a political party in government; they are a radical faction that refuses to participate meaningfully in the give and take the Founders firmly believed should be at the center of American government. They are not conservatives in this sense. They are anarchists.

Their fiscal anarchism has now led to their threat to destabilize and possibly upend the American and global economy because they refuse to compromise an inch. They control only one part of the government, and yet they hold all of it hostage. I cannot believe they are prepared to allow the US to default rather than give an inch toward responsibility. Except I should believe it by now. Everything I have written about them leads inexorably to this moment. Opposing overwhelming public opinion on the need for a mixed package of tax hikes and spending cuts, drawing the president into a position far to the right of the right of his party, and posturing absurdly as fiscal conservatives, they are in fact anti-tax and anti-government fanatics, and this is their moment of maximal destruction.

Boehner and McConnell have one goal and it is has nothing to do with the economy. It is destroying this president and this presidency. They are clearly calculating that the economic devastation their vandalism could create will so hurt the economy that it could bring them back to power through the wreckage. And they will use every smear, every lie, every canard possible to advance this goal.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My New Toy

Mom was wondering if I bought a Kindle. Actually no...

Daily Report: House Guest

I have a house guest: Uncle Bob's friend from Canada, a fellow named Mark, is staying in my house for a couple of weeks.

I like Mark because he's exactly like the kind of person you (hope to) find sitting next to you at a bar in Pattaya: In his mid-60s and tall; an old, globe-trotting adventurer, well-spoken and rakish, amusing and easy to laugh, and chock-a-block with stories: Trips through the mountains of Turkey, time on a ranch in the Outback, exploring fishing villages in Micronesia, or buying black market cohibas in Havana... and obviously lots and lots of stories about his time in Bangkok.

I enjoy his stories, and try and toss in my own paltry adventures when opportunity presents itself, but mostly I find myself saying, "Oh yeah... I saw that on the National Geographic Channel" as if somehow being aware of the existence of the places Mark has visited should justify my own membership status in Mark's Super Adventure Club.

And of course, as one would guess, Mark is full of the energy I haven't seen since I was 14: After we sat up till 3 a.m. drinking, Mark was up at 7 to ride his bike 7 miles to the beach, then came back and played a round of golf... and was half finished with his day before I had even woken up.

So yes, Mark is cool in a dozen ways that I'm not.

Oh... it looks like Mark is done writing an e-mail to his blonde model girlfriend back up North. So I'll have to go see if I can get some more stories out of him. Talk to you later.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Leonard Nimoy Does Bruno Mars Video

He does creepy old guy every bit as well as he does Mr. Spock.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Most Illegal Website Ever

Every movie and TV show ever, from the in-theater-/-on-TV-now variety to the classics, right in your browser, YouTube-style, free of charge.

Only hideous criminals should click on the link.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cool Land

I was chatting on the phone with a friend and, while doing so, idly gliding around the United States from a satellite's vantage when I noticed hundreds of square miles of curiously-plowed fields over Western Washington... quite cool. I'll have to find out what crops they are... or if somebody knows, leave a comment.