Saturday, February 28, 2009

Everything's amazing and nobody's happy

Via Amba I've just seen a perfect rant about the times. Unfortunately embedding isn't allowed so you're just going to have to suffer and click on the link.

And herein lies a problem. Our economy has become tough. Unemployment is up (believe me, I know), the financial sector is a disaster, housing markets are desperate, etc. But the times are still great from a historical perspective. Hell, we could have several years of moderate contraction in the economy and we would still be in great shape from an absolute perspective.

And the toys! They're not really going anywhere. Our cell phones and HD TVs, the iPods and air conditioning, those aren't really going anywhere. You might not be able to replace them as often as you'd like, but they're going to be around when you DO scrape up the funds for new stuff. Unless they've been replaced by something even better, of course.

Food is plentiful, shelter is available, information is more widely disseminated than ever before. Here in the US we're not really having that bad of a time.

Even our biggest problems (debt, government) are tractable problems if we would address them calmly.

But we won't. "Bad times" has become a relative term. Compared to the fat times of the previous 26 years, the next few years are going to suck. But only on those terms, and not even entirely by those terms. In the 1980s we were thrilled to have Walkmen cassette players. (For you kids that may be reading this, those were small devices that played a cassette which contained roughly one album of recorded music. The cassettes themselves were as big or bigger than most MP3 on the market today.) I'd be pissed to be stuck with having to listen to only one album at a time now. But we thought times were great in 1986.

Unfortunately, we are responding to the current crisis in entirely the wrong way: We are increasing our debt load and expanding the role of government. This is going to lead to even tougher choices (relatively speaking) in the future, which we will certainly over-react to again. It's a downward spiral, and it's partly attributable to our impatience in waiting a couple of seconds for our miracles devices to send and receive signals from space.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fun with Comment Sections!

I've been commenting a lot of doom & gloom stuff over at the Ambivablog the last couple of days. I thought I would make my latest comment (so to be posted over there) a separate blog post here.

Amba, some nasty racist-types have glommed onto HBD. But that is hardly the whole of it. (You've got Gene Expression linked so I imagine you know some of this.)

Some of the nasty types have also not noticed that their preferred race (speaking solely of white American racial supremacists here) doesn't come out on top of every, or even most, categories. East Asians tend to top Caucasians for median IQ, as do the Ashkenazim (Hitler's ashes would swirl in a vortex if they knew). I suspect that if the population of the Indian sub-continent were looked at by caste the Brahmins would also top Caucasians.

As for the eugenics angle, different populations breed for different circumstances. Thus traits like sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs, pale skin in higher latitudes and darker skin in lower latitudes, etc. Some differences don't mean much to society anymore (from an objective stand point) and some do.

Intelligence (commonly discussed in terms of IQ, in some circles discussed more in terms of g-loading and the like) DOES matter in modern economies. Intelligence is not equally distributed, and that matters. Donna, want to start a fight? Mention that IQ matters in the midst of a bunch of liberals and watch the sparks fly! Larry Summers is lucky he can still get a job after sticking his foot in it, and he was a liberal in good standing. (This is actually orthodox among many groups. You can start fights bringing up the same topic in front of many Republicans & independents as well. And then there’s Derbyshire, who believes in HBD but thinks it may well be best if the vast bulk of the population believes the opposite. Derb is a fun guy!)

Other traits also have separate distributions. Risk taking would be another trait unevenly distributed, and a trait that matters in EVERY society. Too little risk-taking and innovation might come to a standstill. Too much and you might have high levels of crime, violence and war. (If I had to choose a society at one extreme or another, I would choose too much risk-taking. The ultra-violence has a way of eliminating itself from the population. But this appears to be directly linked to high levels of testosterone and I would guess it is easier to moderate that long-term than it is to breed up higher levels from a population that has too little. One can easily argue that the other way however. It would take someone using a lot of population genetics & the related math to make valid claims one way or the other on that, and their projections would still be subject to both chance and unknown unknowns in making their predictions.)

Case in point, Europeans that settled the US most likely tended to being amongst those that took greater risks. Moving from ones homeland to someplace half-way around the world, a complete mystery and wilderness to the vast majority of those travelling, and with no safety line home or possible retreat, implies a high level of risk tolerance. We mostly likely benefitted from getting a high proportion of Europe’s gamblers! Europe still had enough such people to conquer most of the world. But between immigration to the colonies (not just here but all European colonies, especially for the colonists that stayed put in their new locals) and the bloodshed of WWI, Europe probably reduced its level of risk tolerance.

But back to the point: These things matter. If intelligence does matter, and isn’t equally distributed (forget racial groups for the moment and just consider a normal distribution) then a policy that states that everyone should go to college would be stupid. As would a policy that has everyone graduate from high schools dedicated primarily to college prep. Yet that’s what we’ve done. It’s wasteful or money, talent and lives. How many of our social welfare policies make incorrect implicit assumptions about the covered population that have negative consequences? A great many, it turns out. (Again, intelligence is only one variable to consider. Others also matter.)

But this can’t really be discussed. Beyond simple medical facts that are irrefutable (Sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs) or now trivial matters (like skin color) we are not permitted to discuss that such things exist. Donna asked for an example of such denial. Ask and Ye shall Receive! Brad Delong a few years back started a bit of a blog flame war when he asserted that human populations MUST be homogenous. (He was responding to a post of Andrew Sullivan, so perhaps he just caught The Stupid from Sullivan.) As mentioned, this garnered a lot of response, including lots of comments from various heavy-weights in Delong’s comment section – which Delong deleted if they were too good at refuting his argument. The Update to this Gene Expression post also makes some excellent points broadly related to this topic.

(More commonly, one hears the assertion that recent human evolution doesn’t exist, or that if it DOES exist it only effects “trivial” issues like skin color. Delong just dressed it up with mathematics and charts.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Age of Competence indeed....

During Obama's management seminar on Monday our new Emperor put Charlie Rangel in charge of the breakout session on tax reform. Obama believes (or wants us to believe) that the second most corrupt man in Washington DC can actually fix the American Federal tax system. This is beyond farce.

ADDED: In his Not-A-State-of-the-Union-Address Address to Congress, Emperor Don't-you-dare-call-Him-Hussien claimed that Americans invented the automobile. Of course Germans invented the automobile, but don't worry. I'm sure His command of detail on every other subject is perfect.

Obama has decided to reform our energy policies. (A wonder that no one thought of that before.)He will also add a $600+ billion health care trust to the budget, give everyone an education through college, and reform the way government does everything. And He has declared that He will direct the government to cure cancer! My God Obama, is there anything He can't do?! Thank Obama that we have someone of His enormous intellect to figure these things out for us! All this while halving the budget deficit in four years!

Don't bother mentioning that President Carter made energy reform the center-piece of his Presidency. Or that Nixon got the ball rolling on cancer research back when Don't-you-dare-call-Him-Hussien still wiped snot off his nose with His bare hands.

Don't bother mentioning that the Medicare and Medicaid 'trusts' are already bankrupt; or that giving everyone a college degree will make college degrees even more worthless than they already are; or that it's impossible to believe that corrupt individuals like Charlie Rangel are best suited to reform the government that they helped corrupt in the first place; or that His efforts at efficiency come only AFTER He shoved an $800,000,000,000 crap sandwich down the throats of the tax payer; or that what He is claiming is mathematically and financially impossible.

Don't bother because no one wants to hear it. The nation has lost its mind. Or perhaps more than a century of 'public education' has completely destroyed the citizenry's capacity for thought. But now the public will only accept politicians who make assurances that all things are possible through government. This is how the American Experiment ends, not with a bang, but a whine of "Where's mine?"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some how, some way, we will find a dumber way of doing things....

The George W. Bush Presidency was the MBA Presidency. Those of us who have toiled in Corporate America should easily recognize that fact, although perhaps not everyone will understand exactly how that translated into the mistakes of the Bush Presidency.

But now we have someone else in the Oval Office, and the era of the MBA Presidency seems to have passed into history. Unfortunately that just means we will have to endure some other horror. Today I realized what that would be.

President Obama had a budget summit with members of Congress today. He came out and lectured the legislators that we can't continue down the current path. He blamed his predecessor for all manner of problems. He insisted that we needed to do things in a better, more intelligent manner. And then he had the assembled Congress Critters split up into smaller work groups. These groups were to spend the afternoon 'brainstorming' for better ways for the government to take care of its fiscal and budgetary responsibilities. These groups would then reassemble late in the afternoon to share their ideas.

Now one could remark on all manner of points. For example, don't these legislators, most of whom have been in DC for years, already know how things should be done? If so, why haven't they done these things in the recent past? Shouldn't OBAMA, having been a US Senator in the very recent past, also know these things?

Further, given that Democrats ran the previous Congress, shouldn't their leaders also share the blame for the past two years of fiscal and budgetary fiascoes? Apparently Obama is blaming Bush for all the budgetary woes of recent years. Doesn't this one-time law school lecturer on CONLAW know that all taxing and spending powers rest solely with Congress?

Or perhaps one could have listened to this and wondered exactly how long this Congress was going to be President Obama's bitch lap dog? Sooner or latter they will get tired of his pissy schoolmarm scoldings, and will re-assert their authority over this supremely arrogant upstart.

Those points flashed through my head but had little impact. What struck me was the breakout groups, the brainstorming, and the shared ideas at the end of the day. We have moved from the MBA Presidency to the Management Seminar Presidency. God help us all.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Home again

I returned home yesterday. The procedure went well, and the recovery was faster this time than last. Mom had the same procedure (a cystoscopy) done in early December, but this time she did not have complications with low blood pressure, and they removed the catheter before she left the hospital. So I only accrued a couple of days of exposure to cigarette smoke. Hopefully I will stop smelling like an ash tray after a few more showers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update

justkim here.

Icepick's mom's procedure went well. She's home and recovering. Icepick is going to spend the next few days with her and his brother to help out. He's pretty much internet-free over there, so he doesn't have access to e-mail or his blog. If you have any messages for him, please feel free to e-mail me or post them here. I'll be sure to pass them along.

Thank you to those of you who have sent the good wishes. I know Icepick appreciates them, and I appreciate that you all are here for him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blogging Forecast

Blogging will be light to nonexistent in coming days, with an intermittent chance of commenting. I will be staying with my mother for a few days while she goes through a "procedure" and recovery. Big fun will be had by none.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thank God the news media is covering the stories that matter

Currently the feature story on CNN:

Air Force One is one 'spiffy ride,' Obama says

Highlights from the story:

The president, who has made several trips around the country in Air Force One, was particularly excited during his first trip on the plane as commander in chief when he flew recently to the House Democrats' annual retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"Thanks for giving me a reason to fly Air Force One," he told the House Democrats after his flight, which took him away from a week of fighting for the economic stimulus bill.
Nice way to spend tax payer money, President Spendthrift! Was it really necessary to take Air Force One to go from DC to Williamsburg? The distance is ~250 miles. Surely Marine One or a car trip would have saved the tax payers some money.

But the President doesn't really think of it as tax payer money - he thinks it's all his.
"Hey guys, what do you think of my -- this spiffy ride here?" the president asked the group of reporters traveling with him on the presidential plane.
The press won't call him on this because they are so excited to be this close to the Imperator.
Riding aboard Air Force One is a treat for the president, but also for the reporters covering the White House, said CNN's Ed Henry.

"I'm always amazed that every time someone finds out what my job is, without fail, their first question is: 'Do you get to fly on Air Force One?' " Henry said. "There is a wonder and mystery about this plane that is just remarkable."
When the revolution comes, these guys will be first up against the wall....

Ask and Ye shall recieve

Instapundit asks, "[I]s it really true that Federal obligations exceed world GDP? I don’t think it is. I certainly hope not."

Let's see what the US government has to say. The United States Treasury Department issues annual reports about the financial condition of the United States Federal government. A Citizen’s Guide to the 2008 Financial Report of the U.S. Government is a lengthy report that will give us part of the answer to Instapundit's question.

Now, I'm just looking for quick and dirty answers, so if you want to dive into the whole 206 pages for more accurate numbers, go right ahead. (Remember, this is only the "Citizen's Guide" as well, so the 206 pages merely represents a thumbnail summary of the situation. That fact by itself ought to make you queasy.) Page 17* gives us the following chart:



The Net Position (Assets Minus Liabilities) line represents our national debt as of Sept. 30, 2008. The Sustainability Measures section captures the expected future liability on items such as Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years. Two categories are included. The Closed Group only considers people currently covered by the programs, and the Open Group which also includes future participants. The Open Group has a lower liability because many of those people will pay into those programs but won't receive benefits in that time frame. The Open Group is the more optimistic of the two estimates because it assumes we can continue to let new participants into the programs. Adding these two numbers gives a rough estimate of US Federal Obligations as of Sept 30, 2008.

Nation Debt ..................$10.2 trillion

Other Obligations ........$43.0 trillion

Total ..............................$53.2 trillion

These numbers do NOT include the TARP or the current stimulus package! Those won't appear on this report until next year's report.

Now for the world's GDP. I'm having trouble finding world GDP numbers for 2008. However the World Bank does give me numbers for 2007. According to this chart, world GDP in 2007 was $54.3 trillion. Assuming no growth in 2008, world GDP would slightly exceed us federal obligations. If one were to use the "pessimitic" number for US Other Obligations, that would add another $6.1 trillion dollars to the US total, easily pushing us past the world GDP number!

Given everything that has happened in the last four months, it is easy to believe that US federal obligations now exceed the world's annual GDP. Maybe I'll update this later with more accurate numbers, and maybe not. But the claim Instapundit wonders about is credible.

* Page 17 by the .pdf page count at the top; it's marked as page 10 on the print out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Woo hoo!!!!

We've done it!

Federal obligations exceed world GDP
Does $65.5 trillion terrify anyone yet?

(Read the whole thing. Go one, take some time & follow the link.)

We are now so broke that the entire world's economic output won't be able to pull us out of the fire! Hot damn! Also note that the obligations mentioned in the story linked above only include those of the federal government. State and local governments, not to mention the debt of companies and individuals, have their own obligations (i.e., debt). God Bless America!

Playing in the background is a CBS News report that what happened to the Japanese economy is that they didn't spend enough money to get out of their recession, and that they actually paid their bills. In other words, our media is encouraging us to acquire even more debt!

Fortunately we have a whole new fun game to occupy our minds....

Freedom

"Hello there. This is a wonderful day for me... Five minutes out of my iron lung... Five minutes out of my little prison... my kind and friendly prison."

-Polio survivor commenting on her progress. The ellipses in the quote represent pauses for the patient to stop and gulp breathes of air. She was still paralyzed and hadn't yet been removed from the iron lung, although it had been opened and she was breathing on her own. As seen in old footage during an American Experience episode called "The Polio Crusade".
I had recorded the episode a few weeks ago and finally got around to watching it this afternoon. When the recording stopped a commercial for Cialis was playing. I went from watching a program about the medical miracle of the 1950s to seeing a commercial for the medical miracle of the day. One might think our era compares unfavorably to the prior era in this regard, but one would be (partially) wrong. Freedom from the fear of such diseases as polio allows us to concern ourselves with much more trivial matters. Unfortunately such freedom creates a softness of spirit, even if the Cialis stiffens other things.

Fun for the whole Body Politick!

Donna B. has been moved to tears by the passage of the President's "stimulus" package.

The stimulus bill passed this evening was never read by a single Senator or Representative or by the President and his staff. No one person knows what the hell is contained in the full thing. I expect Obama to sign it Monday, not knowing having a clue what he is doing.

This is the reason for my tears tonight.
True to my alleged optimistic self I am looking at the brighter side.

It's a simple matter of looking at this from the right perspective: Don’t think of it as a gigantic spending bill, think of it as a magical mystery box instead! Imagine how much fun we’re going to have in the coming months and years discovering what’s been stashed in that Fantastick Federal Footlocker of Fabulist Fiscality! This is going to be the most funnest time we’ve ever had!

For the record...

The local drag races started at exactly 11:10 PM last night. Tonight the first race didn't start until 12:04 AM Saturday morning. That's a very late start for a Friday night. The first race may well have been fatal, as at 12:08 AM I heard multiple rescue sirens screaming to the scene of a race that stopped rather abruptly. Too bad the stupid-ass local law enforcement officers can't find the real speeders in this town.

At 12:10 AM the second drag race of the night started, and another just started at 12:12 AM. No doubt the police won't find them either even though they're all within earshot of the wreck at the first race.

And at 12:14 I'm hearing two separate races going at the same time. OutSTANDing!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Song for the Day

Just f'ing because, okay?



Also, Barry's oldest son is now in Crowbar. And Crowbar definitely fits my mood.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today's blog posts have been brought to you by the Mike Ditka Anger Management System

Mike Ditka used to wear a suit and tie on the sideline while coaching football games. He believed that the suit and tie might help him keep control of his famously volcanic temper. Today's blog posts have all been written while wearing a suit and tie, and for the same reason. I can assure you this has helped. If I hadn't deleted some of the things I wrote about local law enforcement, then they'd have likely come to arrest me.

Because the day couldn't get any better!

Today we discovered that Mom's bladder cancer has recurred again. One more trip to the hospital, to be followed by more BCG treatment.

Meanwhile my brother is likely very close to the end. He has barely eaten in three weeks and has lost ten pounds off his already slender frame in the last two weeks.

Furious

Today I got a speeding ticket. I was going 39 in a 30 mph zone. Okay, that's a little fast. In my defence I was the only car on the road, and the deputy sheriff who stopped me was comfortable enough with the conditions to step in front of my car to wave me down. After he gave me the ticket I asked him if he would be there tonight when the gang-bangers will be drag racing up and down that road at 100+ mph. He said they sometimes work at night. I also asked him about the nightly drag races in Hunter's Creek. He walked away at that point.

(The drag races start most nights at 2 AM. The other nights start earlier still. Everyone in the county seems to know about these races except for local law enforcement. They seem mistified by all the accidents down here.)

Incidentally, the cops managed to pull over the only two white men in suits in all of Pine Hills while I was there. Actually, the other "white man in a suit" was an illegal immigrant who could not speak a word of English. Unfortunately for him he looked too much like Whitey.

This happened right around the corner from my mother's house. The house which was invaded last year. After the invasion, an eyewitness to the crime identified the home invaders. The sheriffs deputies working that night went to the house of the invaders, asked to look around inside, said they saw nothing suspicious, and LET THEM GO. No finger prints, no further investigation, not one lousy thing. The Orange County Sheriff's Department is absolutely fucking useless. Those assholes will NOT go after criminals unless they are forced to by media pressure. (Shockingly, they managed to catch two men who had raped an 11 year-old girl a few days ago. The only reason they were able to do it was because the wife of one of the rpaists figured out what happened and turned him in. The Sheriff's Office would have never pulled it off on their own.) Normally deputies sit around looking to hand out speeding tickets to make certain they can justify there existence. And you can be goddamned certain they won't pull over anyone dangerous looking. They have no intention of taking even the smallest risks unless absolutely necessary.

Now, if they WERE interested in crime I could direct them to several crack houses in the area. Or the illegal "car repair" shop just a few hundred feet from where I was pulled over. (It might be a small illegal (meaning unpermitted) car repair business, but I suspect it's a chop shop for stolen cars.) Or I could direct them to the guys that invaded my mother's house last spring. Oh, wait, they already know about those guys! Or maybe I could direct them to the guys across the street from the home invaders that breed pit bulls for dog fighting. (I know this because they put up signs in their front yard advertising that that is what they do.)

So, let's review, shall we? In my lifetime I have had the following encounters with Central Florida Law Enforcement.

In 1988, I was in a car accident. The Orange County Sheriff's Deputy that appeared at the scene of the accident was seen pulling me and my brother by the hair while screaming in our faces. Later at the emergency room the hospital staff had to have the Deputy restrained when he kept barging into the area I was in, pushing around nurses and grabbing charts out of the hands of doctors. I generally never mention this episode for the simple reason that I don't remember it. I had a severe concussion as a result of the accident and several days of my memory have been erased. But several credible witnesses (i.e., NOT my brother) told me about this when I had recovered. I didn't pursue the matter at the time because I was too beat up from the accident, so too my brother, and our mother was recovering from a bad illness of her own. Apparently the deputy was a friend of the person who had t-boned our car. He was attempting to claim that I had been drinking, probably in an effort to cover up the fact that his friend had been speeding. (Lucky for me they test the blood for that sort of thing. I had NOT been drinking. Oddly enough, when we later visited the car in the junkyard, the back seat was covered in empty beer cans. I know those weren't in the car when I was. I almost suspect they were in the other person's car and the deputy moved them over to try and cover up for his friend.)

Last year, my home was burglarized. Again, the Sheriff's office didn't manage to do anything in regards to capturing the thieves. They DID manage to stain the carpets and furniture with finger print dust, however.

Also last year, Mom's house was invaded. I covered that above.

Now, a ticket for me while ignoring lots of real crime. And not just in Pine Hills! Yesterday there was another armed robbery/shooting at a business on the corner of Orange Blossom Trail and Oak Ridge Road. That marked the fifteenth reported armed robbery with gunfire at that intersection in the last eight months. (And "reported" is an important distinction. At a corner like that, there might be a couple of armed robberies a week that don't get reported. The hookers and drug dealers don't want to get caught by the police so they let all that slide.) As I've written elsewhere, the citizens have taken to defending themselves recently, because they know the police will not help them under any circumstances.

CNN can't spell

From a story about Obama's theatre gaffe:

Many stage afficianados believe that the prohibition only applies to performers or theater hands, and non-actors have nothing to worry about.
That should be either aficionados or afficionados. I've seen it spelled with one or two 'f's, but that second 'a' is wrong. A new "Age of Competence" indeed....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From the "It can always get worse" Files

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Kansas-based group to protest Caylee Anthony's memorial

Yes, this is the same group of idiots that protests at the funerals of US military personnel, claiming the deaths are God's punishment for the US harboring homosexuals.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The United States of Stupid

Or should that be the United States of Wuss? It's a tough call. A Wisconsin middle school teacher has been placed on administrative leave after a picture of her holding a firearm was found on her Facebook page. I can't decide if I'm more appalled by the stupidity of this action (guns are legal in this country; see the Second Amednment) or appalled by the continued wussification of the nation. I wonder how long it will be before we're suspending teachers just for saying words like "gun" or "firearm".

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lazy Blogging II

Back in November 2006 I took advantage of a lazy blogging tool mentioned by Michael J. Totten. Reading that I thought, "Hey, I can do this again! So here it is again. Changes from before are highlight in red, with the old answers scratched out.

Meme blogging! Via Michael J. Totten, the One Word Meme. Follow the links through Totten to see who originated this one.

You can only answer one word. No explanations.

1. Yourself: raging bemused
2. Your spouse: bemused cranky
3. Your hair: wacky unkempt
4. Your mother: smoking
5. Your father: dead
6. Your favorite item: memory
7. Your dream last night: unremembered
8. Your favorite drink: lemonade real Southern iced tea*
9. Your dream car: F-88
10. The room you are in: clean! messy
11. Your ex: non-existent
12. Your fear: idiots
13. What you want to be in 10 years: alive
14. Who you hung out with last night: wife
15. What you're not: healthy employed
16. Muffins: bran
17: One of your wish list items: teeth employment
18: Time: NOW!
19. The last thing you did: blogged
20. What you are wearing: clothes
21. Your favorite weather: steamy
22. Your favorite book: unknown
23. The last thing you ate: chicken spaghetti
24. Your life: happening aggravating
25. Your mood: sour raging
26. Your best friend: wife
27. What you're thinking about right now: cantaloupe**
28. Your car: Civic
29. What you are doing at the moment: typing editing
30. Your summer: desired
31. Your relationship status: married!
32. What is on your TV: nothing Crowbar
33. What is the weather like: cold pleasant
34. When was the last time you laughed: tonight now

* They shouldn't insist on one word answers for such questions.

** Having read that I was thinking of cantaloupe before, how can I not think of cantaloupe now?

I suppose I should be upset that so little has changed over the last 27 months. But I'm actually upset about the things that did change more than anything else. Unemployment sucks.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Let's hear it for the new "Transparency and Openness" in our government!

After one of Leon Panetta's confirmation hearings this week, a reporter tried to ask Panetta a question. The reporter was then "restrained" by a man who accompanied Panetta to the hearings.

Following Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing Thursday, several reporters approached the CIA director-designate in the hallway outside room G-50 in the Dirksen Building.

There, CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm — upon asking a question — was physically restrained by a man who accompanied Panetta at hearings both days.

Strohm, when reached by phone Friday, said he was unsure of the man’s role.

“I felt this hand grab my right arm and push me aside,” Strohm said.

By his account, Strohm told the man, “Please don’t touch me” more than once. Eventually, the man let him go.

Tim Starks, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, said he witnessed Strohm approach Panetta and ask a question, just before the man began “grabbing him by the arm and moving him away.”

“I said to the guy, ‘That’s not the way you do it,’” recalled Starks.
But no need to worry about the CIA now manhandling the press. The press will rollover for President Messiah anyway.
Starks said that he’s covered the CIA for years and had never seen a reporter strong-armed that way before, adding that the agency is typically respectful of journalists.

Reflecting on the incident, Strohm played it down somewhat, saying that he’s “had worse happen” while reporting.

A staff assistant at The Panetta Institute said they are not addressing any media inquiries before Panetta’s confirmation. The White House declined to comment.

After today’s hearing, there was no similar incident: Panetta briefly answered questions from reporters. [emphasis added]
"Played it down"? A reporter gets pushed around by some thug from the CIA for asking a question, and it happens in the halls of Congress, and the reporter just "plays it down"? Imagine if this had happened under a Republican Administration. My ears are ringing just thinking about the howls of outrage.

Anyway, we shouldn't be surprised. It's not like Obama hasn't resorted to political thuggery before.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cheery Thought for the Day

Various governments attempted to end the Great Depression using all kinds of ideas and tools. All attempts failed. What actually ended the Great Depression was World War II.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New Word of the Day

Althouse has a post on Daschle's withdrawal. (Ew.) Commenter Pogo says, "Daschle just got unicorned." Later I point out that he should have said, "Daschle just got unicornholed."

So, here's our New Word of the Day:

Unicornholed: Indicates the state of having been screwed by Barack Obama or his Administration.

The Modern American Soup Line

During the Super Bowl the other night, Denny's announced they would offer a free Grand Slam breakfast to everyone in America. This morning I wandered by the local Denny's. At 10 o'clock somewhere between 20 to 25 people were lined up outside. I have no idea how many more were standing inside. Regardless, I decided that even though I'm unemployed my time was more valuable than that, so I came home. Still, it was a bit shocking to see that many people that WOULD waste their time for one meal.

Here's some crappy video I shot using my Kodak camera during the drive-by....

Wow!

The nerve of some people! From Andrew Sullivan:

And enough with the complaints that the GOP has become the Party of No. That's their job. I'm immensely relieved that the Republicans, for obviously cynical reasons, have yet begun to re-earn their total-fiscal-asshole status. I want my Republican party complaining about spending and borrowing. I want them delaying a little and quibbling over every line. It's when they played the Rove-Bush bribe-the-electorate-with-your-grandkids'-money that I got off the bus.

So it's great to have you negative whiners, obstructers and and [sic] skinflints back. I missed you guys. We all did. [Italics in the original, bolding added.]
Is he serious? Sullivan supported Obama in the last election. In no way shape or form can one claim to support Obama AND claim to be against profligate governmental spending and power. Obama made it very clear that he wants the government to run the country's health care industries, and the country's finance industries. Obama also wants to dictate every last detail to the nation's energy industries, and the transportation industries. That's his whole program! Obama has also made it clear that the government cannot spend too much money for his tastes. Yet Sullivan now claims to be for fiscal restraint! Moreover, he is NOW claiming that the party he very publicly turned his back on is once again his party. Unbelievable!

Lobbyist, Journalist, Whatever....

The brouhaha over Tom Daschle should make one thing clear: Lobbyist, like journalist, and unlike lawyers & doctors, is not a strictly defined position. From an article I linked to earlier, on my other blog:

Daschle, a former senator tapped to head Health and Human Services, is not technically a lobbyist. But he was paid more than $5.2 million over the past two years as he advised health insurers and hospitals and worked in other industries such as energy and telecommunications.
Later the article adds the following:

Once out [of the US Senate, Daschle] was attractive and valuable to all sorts of government-regulated industries, even if he never registered as a lobbyist who could make straightforward appeals for or against legislation affecting his clients.

He received more than $2 million over two years as a senior policy adviser for the
Washington law firm Alston & Bird. He also earned more than $2 million in consulting fees from InterMedia Advisors LLC of New York, an investment firm specializing in buyouts and industry consolidation. An associate let Daschle use his car and driver, for which Daschle had to pay late taxes and interest.

Several health groups also paid Daschle $15,000 or more to speak to their gatherings.

"He welcomed every opportunity to make his case to the American public at large, and the health industry in particular, that America can't afford to ignore the health care crisis any longer," said his spokeswoman Jenny Backus.

If Daschle truly felt the need to make a case on this issue, he wouldn't have demanded exorbitant wages to "plead" his case. It's just another scam.

Of course, such scum as Daschle wouldn't be "attractive and valuable to all sorts of government-regulated industries" in the first place if those industries hadn't been so heavily regulated. All that regulation is just another example of the politicians and government functionaries ensuring their own comfortable existences. Remember that whenever anyone tells you that government regulation and money is the solution to any problem. Government IS the solution to many problems, but don't assume on faith that it can solve anything, or that the people selling on something don't have ulterior motives. For example:
[Fred] Wertheimer, of Democracy21, said that rather than dwell on Daschle's problems or the Corr and Lynn waivers, he focuses on Obama's executive order and the hope of progress to come on public financing of campaigns.
I have no doubt that Mr. Werthhiemer really has the interests of public employee unions and the Democratic Party at heart more than anything else. I base this knowledge on his forgiveness of Obama's many transgressions concerning both lobbyists in government and campaign finance. If he truly cared about these issues, he wouldn't be such a shill for one party.

Hit Reset, Then Continue

MicroSoft CEO Steve Blamer said the following recently:

We’re certainly in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime set of economic conditions. The perspective I would bring is not one of recession. Rather, the economy is resetting to lower level of business and consumer spending based largely on the reduced leverage in economy.
This hits the spot directly for me. We've over-spent and over-borrowed for many decades. Now the time has come to pay the piper. The biggest worry I have is that efforts to prop up the old model will only make matters worse. I don't think that means we should take no action, but it does mean that we shouldn't take action-for-actions-sake, nor should we attempt to spend-and-borrow at an even greater rate. The current Administration's plans for "economic recovery" are even worse than the old Administration's plans. But given the stupidity and hubris of the current ruling elites (in both parties, and in the other places where the ruling elite tend to settle) I expect them to take the current set of crises and turn them into utter disasters.

H/T: Steve Sailer

Back in the saddle

Wherein the following is too damned long

Getting Fired

Last April I rather suddenly shut this blog down. While at work on Monday April 7th, I got a call from the Compliance office of my company. My director requested my presence.

I knew this was a bad thing. Getting called by Compliance is a sign that one is in deep shit, and about to be fired. When I got to Compliance I was greeted by my director, who led me into a room with two people from the Compliance Department itself. They asked, "Do you know why you're here?" I said "No, but I assume I'm about to get fired." Ms. Muckity-muck from Compliance responded, "Then you assume incorrectly." Which was an outright lie on her part, but what the Heck.

Over the next four hours or so I was grilled about my Internet usage at work. "For some reason" IT had flagged my Internet usage and examined it in detail. "They found the results troubling" and forwarded the results to the Compliance Department. Said Dept. also reviewed my Internet usage in minute detail, and then contacted my director so that he too could 'scope me. At least that's the story they told me.

Company policy stated that no employee was allowed to use the Internet for any reason other than work, and that any violation of said policy could result in immediate termination. However, after four-and-a-half years of working for them I knew that policy was never enforced. (Shows what I knew.) Everyone I knew used the Internet for personal use at work to one extent or another, including my director. In fact, I had often used the Internet for non-work reasons at his behest.

During the interrogation they asked me several questions about this blog. My secret identity had been cracked. At the end of the interrogation they told me I was on paid leave, that I shouldn't return to the work site until they contacted me, and that they would review my case and decide which if any punishments I would receive. When I got home I took my blog "private" as a sign of good-faith on my part.

(Note: I had also not "outed" my director on his violations for "good faith" reasons AND because I had been made to sign an agreement at the start of the interrogation that I wouldn't "point fingers" at other people. Advice to anyone reading this: If you get called into such a meeting, screw good faith unless you really trust the person in charge. If you don't, then you may as well drag as many of the bastards down with you as you can.)

Long story short (which means you know you have a damned long way to go), the whole thing had been for show. That Friday they called me in and fired me.

Let me be very clear on several points. First, I had an excellent work record at my company. Second, I was doing four times the work I had been hired to do, and was doing it in half the time, and was doing a far better job than my predecessor. Third, I had requested more work to fill my time and my superiors had no additional work for me. In fact, they had actually taken some work away from me in the months prior to my termination. Fourth, I did NOT visit any porn or gambling sites at work. (I should mention that the director who fired me spends six months out of the year playing fantasy baseball at work for money, sometimes naming his teams after famous Klansmen, and uses company email to recruit participants into his son's nation-wide NCAA Basketball gambling pool.) Fifth, they could not (or would not) tell me why I my records had been flagged at that time. I had done nothing in the previous month that I hadn't been doing for the previous year.

I DID finally get them to tell me who made the final decision, and it had been my director. I don't think he realized that Ms. Muckity-muck told me that given his reactions later. That evening (Friday April 11) I went in to clean out my office. As I was taking down a couple of University of Florida banners in my office, the director who fired me said "I'm finally getting this damned Gator paraphernalia out of here." Yeah, a classy move from a classy man. Even my manager (who was in the room as well) flinched at that one.

Unemployed

So, four months before my fifth anniversary, ten weeks before vesting in my pension, and two days before turning forty, I got fired. Over time I have gone from thinking I had been the victim of a combination of bad luck and a personal vendetta, to thinking it had been a combination of personal vendetta plus the need to slash budget (I know our department was over-budget at that time), to now believing it was a combination of personal vendetta, the need to slash our departmental budget, AND that I was at the beginning of a silent lay off at work. Over the last nine months I've started hearing rumors that salaried heads are getting slashed for exactly the reason given for my termination. In this way the company can decrease its workforce while (a) keeping it silent to avoid bad publicity, and (b) if they're lucky they won't have to pay for unemployment.

I filled for unemployment anyway. The determination letter came in the mail, telling me my application for unemployment benefits had been accepted, and I claimed my first week. A day or so later, a second letter came, telling me that my application had been denied on appeal by the company. I then had to go through a twelve week process of appealing. When the day of the hearing arrived, I discovered that my old company didn't even bother to have a representative call into the meeting. (It was a teleconference, although all participants had to testify under oath.) I won by default. Still, I received permission to read my "Closing Statement" into the public record.

Since then I have been looking for work. Initially I got a few interviews, but people were reluctant to hire me for one of two reasons: Either I got priced out of a job, or they wouldn't hire me because I had been fired by my old company. Since then the employment market in Central Florida has completely dried up. I'm completely humped on that front.

Blogging Then

After I took down my old site, I just left it down. I didn't actually mean to stop blogging, but until unemployment issues resolved themselves I decided to lay low. I did put up another blog as a place holder. But I decided to keep the old blog private. Once my former director knew of my old blog it was possible he would share the knowledge. I had kept it private from work for a reason, and had no desire for those assholes to read it now.

But I did keep my old Blogger account. When I started blogging again I just changed the display name - I figured that the tools I had worked with didn't have the intelligence to track me in that manner. Unfortunately this caused a minor problem for me: All of the posts on my old blog now said "Posted by Outis". Since the blog was private, this didn't matter much, but it still annoyed me. Still, old comments (at Bill's, or XWL's or Althouse's blogs) showed up as Icepick, even though "Outis" would show up if one clicked through to the profile page.

Blogging Now

But now I've decided to make the old blog public again, and I even believe I will start posting under my old handle. Of course, this means that the Searching for Home posts will now state "Posted by Icepick" which loses some of the point. But what the hell, I'm not sure how many of my few readers got the point anyhow. (To be fair I never did make the point explicitly, although I will soon.)

So for now I think I'll quit being "No One", and get back to being Icepick. I was that guy for about four years (I had been commenting long before I started blogging), and this other guy for only about nine months, so the role should feel comfortable.

ADDED: I've imported all the posts from Searching for Home into this blog for now. All posts between May 2008 until the post immediately before this one were originally posted under the name "Outis" on the blog Searching for Home. Perhaps this doesn't make sense, perhaps it does. Mayvhe I'll go back to using the old blog, or maybe I'll just stay here. But it feels right to be posting as Icepick again.

Programming Note (Updated)

If you're paying very close attention you may have noted a slight change to the programming. I will explain that & more over the next 24 hours or so.

(Incidentally, who still reads this blog? There's me, my wife, Hurricane Heather & perhaps Reader_Iam. Anyone else?)

Update: I think I'm going back to my old blog, and will resume my old identity. Somehow it seems like the thing to do. I'll still make a few posts here, but probably not too many.

The Parable of Our Times

Goldilocks & The Three Bears explains the current times.

For example, consider the problem the Obama Administration has had with appointees not having paid taxes. Some ultimately get the job they were appointed to, and some don't. G&TTB explains which will succeed and which won't. Nancy Killefer had tax problems, but she didn't cheat enough. Tom Daschle cheated like a professional wrestler on his taxes, but he cheated too much. But Timothy Geithner cheated just right, so he got the job.

Really?

So another Obama appointment has had problems paying taxes. This one actually had to step down from her appointed job. (I guess she wasn't as indispensable as Daschle and Geithner.) The funny part (other than that the appointee was to be the "efficiency Czar") is that Nancy Killefer had far and away the smallest tax problem out of the bunch AND she had resolved the issue years ago. (Daschle and Geithner didn't bother resolving their "issues" until they absolutely had to.) The world, she is wacky....

The most amazing thing about the Obama Administration [Update]

I am amazed how many organizations and people have been willing to completely compromise their ethical standards to suck up to the Obama Administration. Of course we know the press has been completely in the tank for Obama from the get-go, and have refused to seriously question or investigate him on any matter. Yesterday I noted that human rights groups are now okay with torture, just so long as the Obama Administration calls it rendition. (Spare me the technicalities from Obama apologists around the web - rendition has no point unless one wants to have people tortured at one's behest.) [UPDATE: At least one liberal has stuck to his guns on this issue.] Today I read that many anti-lobbyist groups and anti-lobbyist crusaders are okay will Obama completely violating his anti-lobbyist campaign pledges.

ADDED: This article actually contains a real golden nugget of truth. In passing it makes the true goal of many of the anti-lobbyist lobbyists known:

Fred Wertheimer of Democracy21 is one of Washington's best-known advocates of more open and honest government. He called Obama's executive order "unprecedented and almost revolutionary in nature" and "a direct attack on the culture of Washington and the way business is done here."

"A few waivers will not undermine it," he said, provided they are justified and limited.

The best way to limit the influence of wealthy special interests, Wertheimer said, is to increase public funding for presidential elections and restrict the amount that private business can pump into campaigns and politics. That could pave the way for tighter restrictions on influence-peddling in Congress, he said.
The goal is to have a political process that is entirely government controlled - they don't want outside competition. If that sounds like the end of political liberty, it is - because the guys on the inside will never allow truly free elections again. One slight problem with the plan: Obama doesn't use public campaign financing. As always though, HE gets a pass.
Obama declined public financing for his campaign so he could raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on his own. Some people saw that a virtual death knell for campaign public financing, but Wertheimer said he believes Obama will deliver on aides' promises to help "repair the system."
In other words, it's just like Daschle and Geithner being allowed to be tax cheats, or Obama being allowed to do things the mere suggestion of which will get Rod Blagojevich thrown in jail. The in-crowd with the government apparatchiks will always get a free pass.

Monday, February 02, 2009

As predicted....

Obama favors rendition, which is to say torture. Also as predicted, Obama is getting a pass for being in favor of torture:

The decision to preserve the program did not draw major protests, even among human rights groups. Leaders of such organizations attribute that to a sense that nations need certain tools to combat terrorism.

"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured -- but that designing that system is going to take some time."
There is no need for a rendition program UNLESS one wants the "receiving" nation to torture the suspects. The human rights groups Democratic Party hacks & PACs know that, but they have decided that anything is okay just so long as it results in Democratic politicians grifters grafters getting to fuck the country over at their leisure. (Daschle, Geithner, we're looking at you.) Never believe anything told to you by some human rights activist again - they're in it for their own self-aggrandizement and political gain more than anything. (Although I imagine they also receive kick-backs from Democratic Party apparatchiks. Or at least a wink-and-a-nod that they won't be audited by the IRS.)

Another prediction has also panned out: bail-out money is making its way back into the pockets of the politicians who doled it out in the first place. As in the days of the Watergate scandal, just follow the money and it will lead you right back to the crooks. Only this time, they have been given a free pass to continue to screw the rest of us over. Don't be surprised by the results.