Miscellaneous Thoughts

I'm back!  The Georgia coast is beautiful.  Lotsa bugs, though.

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy is powered by Macintoshes.  If it weren't for us liberals, Apple probably would have been in Chapter 11 years ago.

I think the seat pitch in Delta's airplanes is about three inches.  Or so.

John Thain is pissed.  The Wall Street Journal has the story.  I'm looking forward to many more public feuds like this as Wall Street continues to melt down.

Normal blogging will resume Monday.

 

Crybabies of Wall Street

The new issue of New York Magazine features a cover story called “The Wail of the 1%.” The piece describes what a bummer it is for rich Wall Street execs to have to put up with all the populist rage that’s being levied against them–just because they helped bring down the world economy, and got paid seven-figure salaries while doing so. It’s especially difficult for the poor bankers and brokers to endure all these bad vibes while they’re having to tighten their own hand-tooled Italian leather belts due to lost jobs and lost bonuses.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this sort of peevish lament from the rich–I’ve written about it before myself. But the article’s author, Gabriel Sherman, gets some truly shameless quotes out of these guys (most of whom refused to use their names). A few examples:

“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.

“I’m not giving to charity this year!” one hedge-fund analyst shouts into the phone, when I ask about Obama’s planned tax increases. “When people ask me for money, I tell them, ‘If you want me to give you money, send a letter to my senator asking for my taxes to be lowered.’ I feel so much less generous right now. If I have to adopt twenty poor families, I want a thank-you note and an update on their lives. At least Sally Struthers gives you an update.”

Plan B vs. the Knuckle-Draggers

Plan B will soon be available OTC to girls as young as 17. Good. Sad. But good.

Needless to say, the knuckle-draggers are leaving skid marks all over the place. You gotta love this title on "The Other McCain" blog: "What next? Over-the-counter roofies?"

Plan B—the drug that allows guys to breathe a sigh of relief the morning after using some chick for selfish pleasure—will now be available to 17-year-olds without a prescription.
Who cares that she's not even old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes legally? Get her drunk on wine coolers, get what you want, then the next morning, take her to CVS to get Plan B and make sure there's no chance the slut will show up in a few months talking child support payments and DNA tests.
So guys, if you screw a 17-year-old and "forget" to use a condom, remember: Nothing says "thanks a lot, you cheap whore" like the gift of Plan B!

The only thing worse than the politburo seeking to make the rest of us do as we're told is when they pretend to give a damn about women. Luckily, they don't fake it well at all.

Ah, the family values crowd.

One proud stay-at-home mom of three had a rude awakening yesterday when she tried to keep her daughter home with her for Take Your Child To Work Day.

[Sandra] Thompson says she considers hers a professional job and when she planned for bring your child to work day, she thought that as a stay at home mom it would be good for her kids to see what she does all day.
"I approached the teacher and asked her if it would be ok for Adriane to spend a day and see what my job is all about. They came back and said that my job is not considered a professional job."
Sandra took her concerns to the Superintendent of Madison County Schools, Dr. Terry Davis. 
"He told me how much he admires my job, how important my job is, that his own wife stays home with their children."
But still he refused to allow it.

It would have counted as an unexcused absence.

Don't you just hate it when the truth slips out?

Looks like the Thompson kids could write their own book: Everything I Know About Misogyny I Learned On Take Your Child To Work Day. Maybe Mrs. Davis would like to contribute an essay.

The Week in Torture

No, Obama doesn't plan to prosecute the CIA agents who tortured prisoners during the Bush era. But will he taze the policymakers? Note to Obama: Here's a torture chain of command cheat sheet. Looks like you'll need it.

Meanwhile, the right continues to preach moral absolutism on everything except the "We're America, We Don't Fucking Torture" front; a Playboy writer gets waterboarded for kicks; and Dick Cheney still just loooooves the torture talk. Maybe Cheney tapes will make it onto the next torture playlist; in the meantime, does Jonathan Mann have to credit John Yoo after setting his torture memos to music?

Alas, we can't tell you which soldier gave us this secret footage inside the Abu Ghraib cellblocks. But you should watch it anyway for the sheer spooky matter-of-factness. Those cells are wicked small! And narrated!

Hey, did you know our special torture investigation is up for a National Magazine Award? See why: Listen to our exclusive torture playlist and re-read the secrets of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the war on terror.

Scamming (and Spamming) the Geezer

An article in the Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader this week reported on the latest scam directed against older Americans–-this one with a recession-era twist. According to the paper:

State officials are warning senior citizens and those who collect government pensions to be wary of phone calls asking for personal information in order to get one-time stimulus money.

Under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, those who collect Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board will receive a one-time payment of $250 added to their retirement checks. The money — set to be distributed by late May — will be automatically added to a pensioner’s account. No additional information will be needed to get the one-time money.

AARP’s “Scam Alert” was already issuing warnings a month ago about stimulus-related cons against old folks, which it dubbed “stimu-lies.” These include “websites, e-mails and online advertisements promising an inside track to get your piece of that $787 billion pie—via government grants”:

Some touted smiling people holding five-figure U.S. Treasury checks, with compelling testimonials of financial struggles … that ended after “I got my stimulus check in the mail in less than seven days.” Others had prominent photos of President Obama to suggest their legitimacy. Less obvious is their real purpose: to steal your money or grab personal information to conduct identity theft.

How come so many of these grifter schemes seem to target old folks? The FBI devotes a whole section of its web site to the subject, titled ”Fraud Target: Senior Citizens.” It offers a number of explanations, including the following:

Individuals who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Two very important and positive personality traits, except when it comes to dealing with a con-man. The con-man will exploit these traits knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the phone.

As Frank Zappa said: You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.

Round 1: Best Earth Day event of the week? Afghanistan announced the establishment of its first national park. Band-e-Amir—Afghanistan's Grand Canyon—protects 230 square miles of arid landscape punctuated by deep blue lakes. It’s in the heart of a relatively stable part of the country that’s been eyed for protection since the 1960s.

Phil McKenna of New Scientist’s Short Sharp Science blog wondered how you go about getting a park put together in the middle of a war. He asked Peter Zahler of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who’s long been at work in Afghanistan trying to protect snow leopards. WCS helped plan the US government-backed park and will work locally to train park rangers and help villagers benefit from an increase in tourism to the region. Someday. Locals around Band-e-Amir currently farm and graze in unsustainable ways. A local economy tied to protecting the region's natural resources will be better. 

For the skeptics: Arguably the most significant single piece of international environmental lawmaking of the 20th century—the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916—was signed in the bloody midst of World War I. So, cheers, Band-e-Amir. Here’s to the visionaries.

Round 2: No matter how large or sturdy, levees and floodwalls surrounding New Orleans can’t provide absolute protection from extreme hurricanes or storm surges. This according to a new report by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council.  So what should be done? The report suggests voluntary relocation of people and neighborhoods from vulnerable areas. If that fails, raise the first floors of buildings to at least the 100-year flood level. 

The investigators point out that levees and floodwalls only reduce risk from hurricanes and storm surges, they don’t eliminate it. The hurricane defense system in place in New Orleans promoted a false sense of security that people were absolutely safe. Seems metaphorical to me. We're in a world of weak levees.

Round 3: Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant helped eradicate smallpox through his work as head of Google.org. Now he’s leaving that job to lead the Urgent Threats Fund created by Jeffrey Skoll, founder of eBay. Declan Butler of Nature News interviewed Brilliant who described how he and Skoll brainstormed about the five threats facing humanity and the planet: climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and conflict in the Middle East.

Skoll said these problems need fresh money, the community of social entrepreneurs and organizations already working on them, media campaigns “the likes of which nobody has ever seen,” and the expertise of Hollywood. (Huh?) The Urgent Threats Funds is planning to combat, mitigate, and prevent those five threats. They’re starting with $100 million. Maybe an Urgent Threats beer brand—all proceeds go to the fund?
 

Bastards! NYT:

For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.

"The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood," the coalition said in a scientific "backgrounder" provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that "scientists differ" on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

"The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied," the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995...

Environmentalists have long maintained that industry knew early on that the scientific evidence supported a human influence on rising temperatures, but that the evidence was ignored for the sake of companies’ fight against curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists have compared the tactic to that once used by tobacco companies, which for decades insisted that the science linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer was uncertain.

Let's say global warming has widespread health effects, requires massive spending to preempt its worst consequences, and causes damages that require significant expenditures to repair. Can these polluters, who will have brought all of those things upon the public in order to make piles and piles of cash, be sued the way the tobacco companies were sued?

Video: Why Fighting Climate Change Is So God-Dang Hard

I'm watching a House of Representatives hearing on climate change legislation on c-span.org -- it is the most recent in a long string of such hearings that has incorporated the entire week. Former vice president Al Gore and former senator John Warner, a Republican who urges action on climate change, have just delivered extraordinary statements. Gore listed study after study that are already finding real, concrete effects of climate change. He supplied the assembled lawmakers with as much science as they could possibly want. The much older Warner spoke of growing up during the Great Depression and WWII, and the courage and inspiration that were required to meet the challenges of that time. He argued that fighting back climate change requires the same qualities today. Listening to these two men makes it's hard not to think a cultural shift has occurred and we're finally on our way to a real solution.

And then you stumble on something like the video below, and you realize why a solution has been and will continue to be so immensely difficult. Below is a man who does not care about Gore's science or Warner's call to duty. Below is a man who has found text in the Old Testament that says God, not man, will determine the end of the world, and because that text is infallible in his view all this business about global warming is a bunch of hokum.

That's Rep. John Shimkus. And in case it's not clear how he feels about global warming from the video, he said earlier this week, "I think [climate change legislation] is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I've ever experienced. I've lived through some tough times in Congress -- impeachment, two wars, terrorist attacks. I fear this more than all of the above activities that have happened." That's not just kind of nutty. It's dangerous.

Friday Cat Blogging - 24 April 2009

With any luck, I'll be on a plane to Georgia by the time you read this.  I'm attending a conference this weekend with fellow members of the VLWC on — let's see, what does it say here?  Ah, yes: "Attendees will discuss major themes such as the restructuring of the financial industries, the development of regulatory systems, transparency in stimulus contracting, and the impacts of the stimulus on jobs and housing in local communities."  Exciting!

But you didn't think I'd let you all face the weekend without Friday Catblogging, did you?  Of course not.  Today is portrait day, and they're trying to look serious and businesslike.  Did it work?

And hey — as long as I've got a captive audience here, a question: can anyone recommend a cheap and simple keystroke logger for Windows?  I'm tired of losing posts, so I'd like to keep a continuous keystroke logger running so that I have at least a fighting chance of recovering stuff that disappears into the ether.  Any help much appreciated.