Friday, December 23, 2011

Apologies On Breach Of Blogging Etiquette

I did something on this blog last night that I've never had to do in over 12 years of blogging:

I had to take down a blog post.

True: I have removed personal information from this blog when asked to before, but I have never had somebody tell me to take down an entire post simply because they were concerned what other readers might think of it (and me), and actually listened to them... especially when that post did not specifically mention the person asking me to take the post down... especially when I stood 100% behind the content and opinion expressed in that post.

But, you see, in mentioning the company I work for on this blog, I inadvertently tied the content of this blog to that company. Thus I inadvertently ceded some measure of editorial control of my blog over to my company in the process. So when my company "seriously recommended" I take a post down because of their concern that my opinion would be confused with their own, I really could not say no. It's my mistake and I have to live with it now.

So, to those people who will notice that a post that they had read previously is suddenly missing from the blog lineup, you have my apologies for breaking a cardinal rule of blogging. It was not voluntary, and it will not happen again...

But that is primarily because this blog is ending and a new one will be beginning. The new blog will not have my name on it, or Epril's name on it, or my company's name on it. It will not link to this blog, nor this blog to it. You'll probably find the new blog eventually... but you may not. Sorry, if you don't. But all good things must come to an end.

Sorry Ron Paul

I've liked Ron Paul forever... or at least since 2007 when I first mentioned him on my blog. He's the only libertarian conservative running for the Republican nomination for President this year, the only constitutional literalist running for the Republican nomination for President this year. He may have some crazy thoughts regarding fiscal policy, but he played all the right social issue chords and role-of-government melodies with me.

I wouldn't vote for him anymore (though I would have before), because his fiscal policy is too severe a bludgeon in a time that requires more tact and gentle approaches to a shaky economy, but at least he is consistent. He is an old-school fiscal and governmental conservative with liberal views on society and government's need to stay out of it... just like me.

Unfortunately, he was at one point in time, a virulent, unabashed, dyed-in-the-wool racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, and conspiracy theorist of the highest tin-foil-hat-wearing order, and published all of those facts repeatedly in a regular personal newsletter. I knew it was sort of bad 4 years ago, and I figured: The guy's a bit of a kooky old man, allow him a few peccadilloes that he can deny and we can ignore if anyone ever asks. (If I had been more seriously examining him as a candidate, instead of just "pondering", I may have been a little serious about looking into the content of those "newsletters", but I wasn't, so I waffled on the racism stuff.)

But of course, now the newsletters are front and center... and they are bad. And now Ron Paul's denials are front and center... and they are weak.

Sorry Ron Paul. I gave you a whole heaping plateful of spaghetti-a-la-benefit-de-la-doubt and it was not nearly enough.

You no longer appear to me as a rough-edged old coot with a heart cast from American Gold Eagles, the hand-me-down spirit of John Jay, Adam Smith's blood, and Oakshott's tongue. Now I see a sad old politician trying to dodge reasonable questions, avoid responsibility, deny culpability... while at the same time (as we all deep down knew would happen), more newsletters with your signature on them are being discovered filled with ever-nastier white-supremacist content.

I'm sorry we can't find a better person to put your ideas in, because those ideas of yours... and those ideas alone... are worth something to this country. And the country will be all the poorer as nobody will appreciate those ideas because they are coming from the person who is Ron Paul.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Daily Report: On Her Way

Epril finally (FINALLY) got her visa. No reason for the 1.5 month delay was given nor apology offered. I had actually called the office of my Congressmen, Mr. Buchanan, and they sent out an inquiry. Based on the timeframes of the visa's approval and delivery to my wife, I suspect that their inquiry was a day too late to have an effect — my terse e-mail demanding either action or explanation sent a week prior was more likely to have done it — but I must say Rep. Buchanan's staff... their instant involvement and knowledge of what to do and who to contact was exemplary, and I can say without hesitation that contacting your Congressman (something I had never done before) is a worthwhile undertaking when you have a problem such as I had.

That said, Epril will be here next Wednesday. Christmas is no longer in the cards, I am afraid. Epril got a whiff of 4 a.m. church services, lechon baboy, and candied spaghetti, and decided to stick around for "her last Christmas in The Philippines". (Actually it was her mother's request.)

Epril and her family really are approaching this as if it were the last time Epril would ever see The Philippines or her family again. Obviously that's not the case, and I'm sure that on some level, they realize it, but at the same time, there is some finality to the way they are all going about Epril's "final days".

(Seriously... she might even be there for Easter, guys.)

Anyway, Epril will be arriving next Wednesday afternoon in Florida. After that, we'll probably eat something really American and really fattening. Then we will probably just spend a quiet few weeks at home.

Oh... and driving lessons.

You Know The Republicans Have Lost It When...

... when the most conservative newspaper in the country, The Wall Street Journal, has to come out and say the Republicans are idiots. And it's not even gentle or qualifying, like you would expect: The subtitle of the piece is "How did Republicans manage to lose the tax issue to Obama?" (And it gets more scathing from there.)
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

... But now Republicans are drowning out that victory in the sounds of their circular firing squad. Already four GOP Senators have rejected the House position, and the political rout will only get worse.

After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago, and the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining.
See? That's harsh coming from The Wall Street Journal.

It's true though. The other day, I said that the candidates in the Republican Presidential primary were giving Obama everything he needed to win without his lifting a finger to help or hinder. I suppose it is fair to mention that the rest of the Republican party is doing their part as well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Light Bulb Companies Pissed Off

My libertarian sensibilities were offended when I heard that the government was outlawing incandescent light bulbs. Turns out, I was just being suckered by Republican hyperbole. You see, "outlawing incandescent light bulbs" was actually President Bush signing a bill that required light bulbs to use 30% less electricity (for the same amount of lumens) by January 2012. The fact that most light bulb makers decided that this goal would best be met by switching over to the fluorescent light bulbs was simply a fact of expediency and simplicity. There are actually incandescent bulbs that use 30% less electricity for the same light, such as halogen bulbs, but they aren't as common in the market.

Of course, Republicans are still going on fighting the "outlawing of incandescent light bulbs" and are working hard to make sure that, come January 2012, not only is the light bulb requirement repealed, but ALL light bulb standards are repealed as well.

Which, of course, annoys the hell out of the people who make light bulbs, who have spent millions re-tooling all of their factories to meet the new standards and make the new format fluorescent bulbs. They not only see the Republican attempts to repeal the law as potentially undercutting them, causing them to have wasted all that money, but also opening up the market to any fly-by-night company who is able to coast in with cut-rate incandescent bulbs and make a killing. The light bulb manufacturers are imagining 25-cent light bulbs from China on shelves next to their 2-dollar bulbs that the government had insisted they develop.

(And of course, when the 25-cent light bulb burns your house down... well, that's another story entirely.)

Quick Thought

President Obama's chances of reelection are approximately 100%.

About 25% of that probability comes from the Republican primary in which every candidate had to claim "I'm crazy like you" to the people who are going to vote them in the primaries.

About 25% of that probability comes from attack adds from Republican candidates pointing at each other saying, "He's not crazy like us" to the people who are going to vote for them in the primaries.

About 25% of that probability comes from the rest of the American public looking at the Republican candidates and concluding, "You're crazy based on all the crazy shit I've heard you say in the Republican Primaries."

The remaining probability comes from the fact that President Obama has not even cleared his throat yet to start the actual campaign, and you know he's no slouch as a candidate.

Like it or not: Four more years. Those endless debates where all the candidates stood up and tried to out-tea-party each other was the best thing Obama could ever have hoped for. For every "I'll bring the jobs back" line, there was an "I'll arrest all the activist judges" line. Every candidate who said that they would repeal "Obamacare" also said they would start a war with Iran.

Republicans this year forgot the most important rule in politics: The more a politician talks (not makes speeches... but talks: as in debates, interviews, et cetera), the more likely he will say something that will make it impossible for people to vote for him. Think about it: If Rick Perry had never said a single word, he would still be the front runner in this race. But look at him now. If Mitt Romney hadn't attended a single debate, he would probably be polling better than he does. Bachmann and Santorum have done nothing in their lives except say jaw-dropping crazy shit since they graduated from high school. And let's not even get started on Gingrich.

Anyway, I put Obama winning the coming election 57% to 43% of the total vote... 14 points... against Romney. 60% to 40% against any other candidate.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Typhoon Hits CDO, Hundreds Dead

CDO has been pummeled by one of the first typhoons to make it over the mountains in decades, and the results are catastrophic.

Due to it's peculiar location, as you can see in the image below, which is a map of the eye of every typhoon to cross the Philippines in the last half century, CDO and Mindanao are rarely visited by big storms. Therefore when one does come through (even a small tropical storm, as this one named "Sendong" / "Washi" was), nobody is prepared, and the results can be hideous.

Anyway, I assume my wife is okay because I spoke with her yesterday afternoon after the worst had passed. I don't know about her family out in Jasaan though. The last time a big storm came through, their house was endangered. But I'll assume everything is alright since Epril made no mention of it.

However for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people who lost their lives yesterday, and all of their family and friends, the small size of this storm, or the rare path that it took will be of little comfort. Keep those poor souls in your thoughts.

UPDATE: BBC is reporting now 652 confirmed dead and 808 additional still missing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Daily Report: Delayed

Bad news: Epril won't be arriving on the 13th as hoped. Her visa has not yet been approved, and the soonest it could arrive in Epril's hands at this point is Monday morning... the time at which she was supposed to be getting on a plane to Manila. God damn. Now it is a day-by-day waiting situation, which is just ridiculous.

This whole visa application process has been one bullshit situation after another. First all of the paperwork that Epril mailed to me from The Philippines took almost 50 days to arrive. Next, the American government lost her entire visa package between the California Service Center and the New Hampshire National Visa Center for 2 months. Now, the American Embassy in Manila is taking over a month to approve her visa. All of these things should have taken days at most to accomplish... and instead my wife and I have been kept apart an additional 4 months total on what is essentially governmental idiocy. It would be a fucking joke if it wasn't so frustrating and upsetting: We've got rather important Christmas plans that might be spoiled.

So, I retain my long-term optimism... but in the short term, I really want to just climb into bed and wait for the "here and now" to go away.

I miss my wife.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The New Truth About Lying

When Mitt Romney's campaign put out an anti-Obama advertisement in which Obama was accused of saying something damaging/stupid, when it was clearly evident (when the Romney campaign's dishonest editing was redacted) that Obama was quoting somebody else's damaging/stupid statement, Mitt Romney's campaign responded with the following statement (and no, this is not a joke):
“First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.”
Think about that for a minute: Mitt Romney's campaign is saying that ALL political ads are trying to get people to think bad things about the other guy, so there is no need for them to be true.

That should be repellent to any sensible person. It is degraded. It is mercenary. It is the Romney campaign proudly and shamelessly admitting to being morally bankrupt and willing to lie to achieve power.

Yes, I have had it pointed out to me before that shit like this has been going on since America was founded. Go ahead and state then that Romney's campaign is in keeping with the finest tradition of Tammany Hall, and therefore is just engaging in "politics as usual". Yeah... Let's welcome back the days of Boss Tweed. Just remember: As of now, Mitt Romney is a guy who is apparently willing to blatantly lie to the American people about even the simplest crap, like the content of a campaign ad, and admit laughingly to moral turpitude when called on it, and who wants to run a government that already has serious problems with transparency, civil rights, and moral balance.

You know that 25 years ago, something like this would have sunk a presidential campaign in a heartbeat. Now a disturbingly large idiot segment of the American population just yawns and ignores, forgets, or even cheers for it.

Interesting Story On Police Usage Of Force

The Huffington Post has a very interesting (and disturbing) cover story today about the increased use of "SWAT" teams (with raids up from a few thousand per year nationwide 20 years ago, to well over 50,000 a year now) and the general use of unnecessary violence for all kinds of law enforcement activity. The author documents (with links) how SWAT teams were sent to all kinds of places where no potential for resistance would normally be considered... such as the house of a person who had defaulted on student loans, or the Gibson guitar factory (over suspicions of illegally imported wood), or even on a group of vacationing Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas.
Dress cops up as soldiers, give them military equipment, train them in military tactics, tell them they're fighting a "war," and the consequences are predictable. ... [I]t has become routine to use force that is disproportionate to the laws the police are enforcing. Because it has happened gradually over the course of about 30 years, the public has become accustomed to it.

Today, SWAT teams are routinely deployed against people who pose little to no threat at all. It's hard to come up with a legitimate reason that the federal government needs to send heavily-armed, heavily-armored SWAT teams to raid medical marijuana clinics, for example. ... There's also little justification for sending SWAT teams to raid the offices of doctors accused of over-prescribing prescription painkillers, co-ops accused of selling unpasteurized milk, or for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to send paramilitary squads into businesses suspected of employing undocumented immigrants.

At the 2008 GOP Convention, police staged preemptive raids on the homes of possible protesters and rabble-rousers. There were mass arrests of protesters and journalists, few of which resulted in any actual charges. At the 2009 G20 summit in Pittsburgh, camouflage-clad cops deployed sound cannons and arrested protesters, students and even onlookers. This was not because they broke any actual laws, but on their potential to cause disruption.

In 2009, I wrote an article for the Daily Beast about the odd phenomenon of cops shooting dogs. In drug raids, killing the dogs in the targeted house is almost perfunctory. We also see stories about cops killing dogs while chasing suspects across the property of a third party, or killing a dog who growls at them after they were called to a house on an unrelated matter. ... The often cold reactions from police departments to these incidents also show a certain indifference to the people they are supposed to be serving -- again, more the way a soldier interacts with citizens in another country than as with a police officer serving his community.

The amount of force the government uses to uphold a given law is no longer determined only by the threat to public safety posed by the suspect. Now, it appears to give an indication of how serious the government is about the law being enforced. The DEA sends SWAT teams barreling into the offices of doctors accused of over-prescribing painkillers not because the doctors pose any real threat of violence, but because prescription drug abuse is a hot issue right now. The feds sent SWAT teams into marijuana dispensaries not because medicinal pot merchants are inherently dangerous people, but because officials believe the dispensaries are openly defying federal law. It is, to put it bluntly, a terror tactic. Sending a couple cops with a clipboard to hand out fines and shut down a dispensary doesn't convey a strong message. Sending a bunch of cops dressed like soldiers to point guns at dispensary owners and their customers certainly does. ... The amount force government authorities use, then, is no longer based not on what sort of threat a suspect poses to the government or those around him, but on the political implications of the laws being enforced. It isn't difficult to see how we get from here to pepper-spraying and beating peaceful protesters, particularly if the protesters are becoming a thorn in the side of politicians or are losing support from the public.
The author summarizes with a good point: Back in the 1990s, political conservatives were the ones decrying the excessive use of law enforcement firepower at Ruby Ridge, Waco Texas, and even in the Elian Gonzalez raid, while liberals were mainly silent. With the Occupy protesters now being targeted for excessive use of police violence, the Conservatives are nodding their heads in satisfaction and offering congratulations to the cops for a job well done. When the pendulum swings back again, and it becomes Tea Party activists being beaten by police for waving guns around at a political rally, or it is Christians protesting gay marriage who are pepper sprayed because they were "outside of a protest zone", or abortion protesters who are tasered for blocking a sidewalk... will those same congratulations offered before still be forthcoming? Somehow I doubt it.