2016/04/23

How's the political opposition doing these days?

What John Kasich reveals here is where his head is at. He's asked about voting rights, a subject one would think would call forth an American, inclusive response that everyone could get behind. Instead, he shows us, just as Senate Majority Leader McConnelll did a few weeks back*, that he's thinking entirely in narrow, partisan terms. He wants less voting because if there was more voting, those extra votes might go to Democrats.

*Asked about the Senate perhaps becoming, y'know, er, productive, the Majority Leader responded thusly:

As proof of the Republican Congress’ “incredible” productivity, McConnell quickly pointed to the Keystone XL pipeline, which was vetoed by President Obama. The Senate Majority Leader immediately added, “We put the repeal of Obamacare on his desk. We put defund Planned Parenthood on his desk*.” Neither became law.

In other words, McConnell was asked about how inclusive and bipartisan his Senate was being and he responded by talking about efforts that were designed to stick it to the President and the Democrats and to raise the middle finger of Senate Republicans to them. Is there any hope for the two sides to get along and for both of them to focus upon the needs of the American people? Sure, but not with the current mind-set that prevails on that side of the aisle these days.

So how's the other Republican-run branch of the US Government, the House of Representatves, doing? Yeesh!

"I think I do it better," the House speaker told CNN during an interview this week, adding that his leadership style is different than his predecessor, whose resignation last year shocked Washington. "Not to knock John [Boehner], but I spend more time with all of our members on a continual basis."

[...]
Republicans say the speaker’s agenda project — the product of several task forces and dozens of meetings among rank-and-file House members — will provide specifics, and perhaps even draft legislation, on key issues of importance to conservatives, including health care, taxes and national security.

Ri-i-i-ight! Well, Ryan sure makes it sound as though the House were a beehive of activity with people accomplishing great things left and right. How does the reality look? Well, there's the rather important fact that Ryan couldn't make the mandated budget deadline of April 15th. Ryan should have produced a detailed budget document by that date and that document is nowhere in sight because of deep disagreements between those who wish to carry out the agreement that Boehner arranged before he left the Speaker's office and those who wish to make even deeper spending cuts than anybody outside the Freedom Caucus has signed onto.

Boehner managed to make the budget deadline every year he wa Speaker and remembe, Ryan used to be the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. So much for all that “I spend more time with all of our members” guff. What good does it do to spend more time with members if you can't get your most basic, fundamental job done? As the saying goes: “You had one job...”

As for getting out a health care alternatve to Obamacare, “Why, that’s something the Republicans have been working on so long that … exactly no one is still waiting for them to provide a solution.”

But hey, we can still provide imaginary solutions to problems that we've already made rat progress on! Ryan tells us: “College and heath care keep getting more expensive. ISIS continues to spread.” As far as I know, college costs continue to rise, but the cost of health care? Politifact points out that “On average, premiums have risen by about 5.8 percent a year since Obama took office, compared to 13.2 percent in the nine years before Obama.” So actually, there has been a substantial slowdown in the rise of health care costs. How are we doing on Daesh (ISIS)? Daesh is not doing as well as they'd have everyone believe.

Even in Syria and Iraq, Daesh holds territory only because the states have collapsed. I remember people would do this with al-Qaeda, saying it had branches in 64 countries. But for the most part it was 4 guys in each of those countries. This kind of octopus imagery is taken advantage of by Daesh to make itself seem important, but we shouldn’t fall for it.

No, Daesh does not have an air force or a navy and just about every target that is identified as important to Daesh gets bombed (In January, the US located ther Treasury building and bombed it, leaving their soldiers in a tough spot for a while), so it's not the succesor to Nazi Germany and will never have the capacity to become a world power.


So, not surprisinly, Speaker Ryan, who used to be regarded as a golden boy wonk who could do no wrong, is taking some really serious hits to his image. 

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Other items: Back in the old days, people could rely on the magazine Foreign Affairs because it was rigorously fact-checked. Unfortinatey, that's not the case anymore. Their latest piece on global warming is complete mess. To survive past the year 2100, we don't need to come up with awesome new inventions, we need to deploy what we have. We need to be constructing windmills and installing solar panels as quickly as possible. Of course we should work on both developing new technology and on improving what we already have, but we're not doomed because we don't have new tools and inventions. We just need to get cracking and to speed up deploying the stuff that we already know works.


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Yeah, 120,000 voters were improperly purged from the voting rolls for the primary on April 17th, but did the pro-Hillary people cheat in Brooklyn? That's not at all clear and it's really not clear that Bernie would have won without the voter purge. Bernie suporters would be well-advised not to throw around wild accusations.   

2016/03/12

Mess-cranking


Back in the Navy, my rate/rank designation was PN3 (Pronounced pe-en-three, we always fully spelled out our designations). That stands for Personnelman (My rate or specialty) and Petty Officer Third Class (My rank, it was equivalent to being an Army Corporal). During our first term of four years, we served four months on the mess decks (food storage, preparation, serving and eating area) where we, for all intents and purposes, lost our rate designation and became just Petty Officer Third Class or Seaman or whatever our rank was.
One of our duties was Pier Sweeper. I was sent out to the pier with instructions to clean up any trash that I saw. I went out and saw one piece, then another, then another. Pretty soon, I was dragging a big, formerly empty box full off trash back to the dumpster close to where the beginning of the pier was. Finished, I went back up to the Quarterdeck to report to the Officer Of the Deck that I was finished and was headed back to the mess decks. The OOD returned my salute and said how impressed he was.
I had been taking so long, he figured I had just gone back onto the ship by the other entrance (That would have been the Midships Brow) and so he was pretty impressed to see me dragging such a large load. I indicated that my actions were all in a day's work and not a problem and headed down below.
A month later, an announcement came out over the 1MC that another ship of the same function as the one I was on was coming into port, would load up and head right back out again to get to Miami, which had just suffered a hurricane (Hurricane Andrew in 1992). They wanted to take a few volunteers from our crew down with them. I was initially depressed and discouraged and wished I could go with them. Then I thought about my situation and realized that there was no reason I couldn't. I asked my immediate supervisor, who gave his okay and then went to the group that was assembling.
Guess who was in charge of the volunteers? Yup, it was the OOD who was impressed by my Pier Sweepers performance a month earlier! He very cheerfully approved me for the trip and I was on my way! I packed a few things into my duffel bag and walked over with the other 20 or so sailors who were approved for the trip. We tossed off our duffel bags at our assigned racks (Our sleeping areas that contain a bed, a under-the-bed storage area and a small stand-up locker for shoes and hanging shirts and pants) and went back up to help load a food shipment onto the ship's mess decks.
The next day, I introduced myself to a female Petty Officer First Class (Two ranks above me). and she said she remembered me and noted approvingly that I was a hard worker. We had gotten off on the right foot!
The trip to Miami was good. I got a Letter of Commendation out of it. We didn't get ashore much, but I got into town on our last day there.

2016/02/21

Can we speak ill of the dead now?


I presume that the desire to not speak ill of the dead comes with a time limit after which it's perfectly okay. In updating prawnworks, I came across this piece from early this January. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia advocated an absolutely dreadful idea, that government should take the side of religion over non-religion. 

Sorry, but I see a very short, steep and slippery slope between religion vs non-religion and, say, Roman Catholic vs Baptist. People might recall that, back in the old days, being declared a heretic, a non-Christian, someone who was Christian, but believed the wrong things, or was a witch, led to many people being burned at the stake and executed in many other ways.

2016/02/12

Pride, Prejudice and Zombies


Had a hard time choosing what film to see tonight as usually, Michael Moore is like Quentin Tarantino, if I learn he's putting out a film, that's reason enough for me to see it. But I had the feeling PPZ was kind of a boutique film, one that wouldn't be in the theaters long. Sure enough, on the film's second week at 8:00pm on a Friday, the film was in a back theater and there were only about 10 other audience members. 

Awesome stuff, though! I read all of the major Jane Austen novels for a course back in the 80s and the film was very true to the spirit of the novels while having lots of fighting (The characters have a connection to both China and Japan, so the heroes get to use the long, curved, samurai swords). I thought I recognized our heroine, Lily James, and sure enough, it turns out she played Cinderella in 2015.

2016/01/25

Conspiracy theories


Had an online conversation with someone who believed that the Illuminati and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) were exerting immense influence on our politics. I ran a search on “Illuminati Front Group Council on Foreign Relations,“ and the first six pages of results got me lots of authors and publications I never heard of. Wikipedia shows up on the 3rd page, the actual CFR shows up on the 6th. Which establishes, I guess, that even if some people take the Illuminati/CFR theory seriously, they're on the fringes and not part of the usual left-right dialogue.

Snopes is a pretty good debunking site (His answer to Snopes was “Snopes is ran by a Leftist couple out of their home,” which I don't consider a particularly meaningful or relevant response) and they say that Illuminati is a general, catch-all phrase identifying a mysterious, sinister agency where, yes indeed, if you type Illuminati backwards, it does indeed get you to an NSA website. But generally, “Illuminati” is a pretty vague, mysterious reference that doesn't refer to any particular individuals.

Ron Paul is a believer in CFR conspiracies. He says some good, peacenik-supporting stuff here and there, but I generally don't regard him as much of an expert on anything.

Good thinkpiece on the whole subject. The author feels the CFR generally does wish to establish a one-world government, but if they intended to be secretive about it, they're not doing a very good job of that, as it's quite easy to see what they've been saying and doing since they were founded.

As with other conspiracy theories, the CFR theory is plagued by sloppy research. The New American purports to tell us the history of the 1948 Marshall Plan. Slight problem is that it identifies David Rockefeller's study group as the inspiration for the plan, but the Marshall Foundation published a six-page PDF that reviewed the history of how the Marshall Plan came to be. It reproduces several memos, none of which are authored by Rockefeller. In 1999, Rockefeller was awarded a second George C. Marshall Foundation Award for “his long-time commitment to positive international economic development, his humanitarian service to community based on the recognition that a healthy, vibrant society depends upon a sound economic base.“ Nothing about his study group designing the plan. Bio.com doesn't write a terribly lengthy biography of Rockefeller, but it rather notably covers the immediate postwar years by talking entirely about his tenure at the Chase Manhattan Bank. The Rockefeller Center similarly doesn't give him any credit for the Marshall Plan. Sourcewatch draws all sorts of connections between Rockefeller and NAFTA, the Bilderberg society, the Trilateral Commission, etc., but again, nothing about inventing the Marshall Plan. Not sure all this completely debunks the New American theory, but it certainly doesn't give me any confidence that New American knows what it's talking about.

A major problem I have with the idea of secret societies covertly pulling the levers of power and arranging big changes behind the scenes is that it's actually pretty hard to keep lots of things a secret. The Koch brothers are two people who are determined to shape American society to their specifications. Their ideas are truly awful. David Koch ran as the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980 and the party got about 1% of the vote. In 1984, he founded Americans for Prosperity and has been an outsider-manipulator ever since. The Kochs played a substantial role in creating the Tea Party, for instance.

Now, the Kochs are trying convince people that they're running an “apolitical and altruistic reform movement to enhance the quality of life—as 'a movement for well-being,'“ as opposed to being a crassly materialistic movement that wants to throw the weak and helpless over the side and to reward the already rich and powerful with still more riches and power. It's not working out that well because the higher the profile they get, the more people notice them and the more investigative reporters poke and prod at, and break down, their carefully-constructed and maintained public images.

2015/09/01

Archie

The famous (and chaste) love triangle of Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge was born in Archie Comics #1 in 1942. In 1954, Archie's cultural cred was established by Mad magazine via a Will Elder/Harvey Kurtzman parody. I read a number of Archie stories in the late 60s and early 70s. 

For many decades, Archie comics have been relegated to the “kid's corner” of comics shops while the more mature super-hero titles occupy the main section (Some comics shops have a far-back section where they keep the sex comics, but that sector isn't anywhere near as big as it once was). The company that publishes Archie has been trying lately to break out of the kid's corner by first introducing a gay character and now by introducing a re-boot of the comic with much better artwork and a more complex, mature storyline.

Heh! Betty prepares to go out on the town and gets herself all glammed up over the course of nine silent panels where she struggles mightily with all sorts of beautification processes. I checked the credits and sure enough, the comic has a female artist. I got the feeling she was being a bit autobiographical by depicting Betty's struggles.

Unfortunately, Archie is presented as such a klutz who screws up so badly that he tries to work on the mansion of the Lodges, who have just arrived in Riverdale, and accidentally sends a bulldozer into the wood frame of the mansion, collapsing it entirely. Veronica catches a glimpse of Archie running off and reacts by blushing and going “Tee-hee.” Sorry, I realize that Archie is a silly romantic comedy, but that's stretching “suspension of disbelief” a bit too far. I think Archie is going to remain in the kids corner for awhile yet.  

2015/08/21

Ant-Man


Very happy that I saw Fantastic Four first and then Ant-Man, it was like going from canned tuna fish to broiled sea scallops, Ant-Man was WAY better! Not that the characters were really deep or complex, but both movies contained corporate villains that wanted to steal what the heroes had and make a profit off of it, but the Ant-Man villain was much less a routine, by-the-numbers bad guy and had at least some semblance of human-like motivations.
One of the founders of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, usually makes a small cameo appearance in Marvel films. He didn't appear in the third Fantastic Four, but did appear in Ant-Man.
Special effects in both films were completely credible. The art of doing those has progressed enormously.