Independence Day Cat Blogging

Since I forced everyone to go through Inkblot withdrawal on Friday, here's some bonus catblogging for you. This year Inkblot is decked out in all his patriotic finery (i.e., a stars-and-stripes themed tablecloth that now has to be laundered before we can use it for tonight's festivities) and expressing the sentiment on every cat's mind when they think about the greatness that is America. Happy 4th, everyone!

Quote of the Day: "He's a Rotten Prick"

From New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, after Gov. Chris Christie used his line item veto in an apparent attempt to punish anyone he's ever had a beef with:

This is all about him being a bully and a punk....You know who he reminds me of? Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life, the mean old bastard who screws everybody....He’s just a rotten bastard to do what he did....He’s mean-spirited, he’s angry....I liken it to being spoiled, I’m going to get my way, or else....He’s a rotten prick.

But is Christie a dick? The world wants to know.

One Finger OK, But Only Steve Jobs Can Use Two

From patent blogger Florian Mueller, describing Apple's new patent for multitouch gestures on touchscreen devices:

This patent describes the solution at such a high level that it effectively lays an exclusive claim to the problem itself, and any solutions to it.

Roughly speaking, Apple seems to be claiming that if you use more than one finger to do something on a touchscreen, you're infringing on their intellectual property. In a sense, I guess I don't blame them. So what if Tom Cruise was doing the same thing with arm waving in Minority Report in 2002? If the law lets them get away with this, they'd be fools not to take advantage of it.

Of course, the law is an ass in this regard, but that's our problem, not Apple's. And I'm beginning to wonder if there's any solution at all to this idiocy aside from doing away completely with patents for anything you can't pick up and hold in your hands. One way or another, something really has to give here.

Al Gore and the Referees

Walter Russell Mead, in yet another lengthy critique of liberals who think that facts and empirical evidence ought to be taken seriously, explains to Al Gore the role of the referee in professional wrestling:

Among other things, professional wrestling works as a kind of folk satire — and well meaning progressives and professionals like Mr. Gore are among its targets. The clownish referee represents exactly the well intentioned bumblers who seek to arbitrate and rationalize the endless competition between the good and the bad guys. It is the way much of the working class looks at ivory tower intellectuals, nanny state do-gooders.

....In other words, the referee in a professional wrestling match strikes a chord in popular culture in part because he is a representation of the class which sets itself up in our society as the arbiter and judge: the professional elite, the expert and the chattering classes. The referee at a wrestling match is a populist portrait of the FCC, the NLRB, NPR, the New York Times editorial board and everyone else who does exactly what Al Gore would like to spend his whole life doing: judging mankind impartially and ruling them well. The referee is part of the entertainment who is funny in part because he thinks he is above the fray.

My first instinct was to mock Mead for writing this drivel, but hell, maybe he's right. Thanks to the now total success of movement conservatism and its assimilation of confederates like him, I guess that anyone still naive enough to care about facts and evidence really is about as ineffectual and irrelevant as your typical WWE referee. I only wish that guys like Mead would fess up to their role in this evolution, instead of pretending that it's the inevitable hydraulic consequence of some vague but inexorable tidal wave of modernism and techno-empowerment engulfing us all. It ain't so. This wasn't a global historical imperative, it was a deliberate, considered choice — and a largely American one — driven by all the usual parochial forces of money, power, privilege, and corporate ascendance that have been with us forever. We could still make a different choice if we wanted to.

Quote of the Day: Sunblock and Sexual Abuse

From the Washington Post, in a story about a new Maryland regulation preventing adults from helping kids apply sunscreen at summer camp:

Mitchell said he did not know of any cases of inappropriate touching by counselors that might have led to the new regulations.

Sexual abuse is a serious problem, but it's long past time for America to stop reacting to it literally insanely. In this case, not only is it nuts to discourage the use of sunblock on kids ("the biggest known carcinogen that children are exposed to" the story says), but it's doupleplusnuts to do it in response to no known cases of sunblock application causing any actual problems of inappropriate touching.

Anyway, the rules are now being relaxed. However, parents will still have to sign a form giving permission for camp counselors to apply sunblock. I guess that moving from rules that are pathological to rules that are merely neurotic is a step in the right direction, but only a step. It's time to dial the fear level on this stuff way, way back.

Via Michael O'Hare.

UPDATE: I guess this is old news, and it's not just Maryland. It's not even just America. In comments, Syd Egan provides the grim news: "This has been the case in England for a while now — *no* summer camp will allow their staff to apply sunblock — you have to send your child with it, and sign that you've taught him/ her how to apply it themselves... even when the child is 3!!"

Friday Big Cat Blogging - 1 July 2011

On the left, this is how Inkblot imagines himself when he's snoozing on the lovely, warm patio soaking up the summer heat. He is, in his imagination, King of the Jungle, lord of all he surveys. (Except perhaps for the Queen of the Jungle, biding her time outside the frame of the photo.)

This particular king was photographed in his natural habitat, a savanna in the wilds of southern New York state, aka the Bronx Zoo. On the right is a next-door peacock, because — well, why not? Peacocks are pretty creatures. I wish we had some around here. They couldn't possibly make any more noise than the damn crows, and at least they spruce up the joint a bit while they're screeching.

Inkblot and Domino are fine, just taking the week off from their exhausting catblogging duties. They'll be back next Friday.

Via Time's Adam Sorensen, this is pretty entertaining. It's Ed Miliband, leader of Britain's Labor Party, who's obviously memorized the talking point he wants to make and then proceeds to make it in precisely the same words six times in a row to every question asked. One gets the impression that if the interviewer asked him how his kids were getting on at school, his answer would be, "For the sake of every child getting an education in Britain, I say these strikes are wrong at a time when negotiations are still going on." But at least the British public knows what he thinks of the strikes.

UPDATE: ITV reporter Damon Green tells us how things looked from his side of the camera.

Fixing the Deficit By Doing Nothing

Via Ezra Klein, here's an interesting chart. CRFB's Marc Goldwein shows us graphically the difference between the CBO's "Extended Baseline Scenario" — which assumes current law just goes on forever — and its "Alternative Fiscal Scenario," which is supposed to be a somewhat more realistic look at what Congress is likely to do in the future. Under the AFS, the budget deficit soars to 360% of GDP by 2050. But under the EBS (the bluish chunk at the bottom, modified to assume our wars end eventually) the deficit stays placidly under control forever:

Now, no one actually thinks that the EBS is realistic. Still, this is a fairly dramatic (and colorful!) way of making a point: if Congress just disbanded and let existing law continue forever, there would be no deficit problem. More realistically, if Congress let the bulk of current law continue (i.e., the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, PPACA cost controls are allowed to take effect, etc.), drew down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and simply agreed to pay for any changes that just have to be made (doc fixes, AMT patches, etc.), there would be no deficit problem. This is not quite as intractable a problem as Republicans would have us think. It's only intractable if you refuse to pay for your spending.

There are more details on all this stuff at the link. It's worth a quick read.

National Review's Robert Costa interviews rising right-wing attack dog Marco Rubio:

Rubio tells us that he will respond to Obama’s recent press conference, where the president reveled in class-warfare bluster....“Talking about corporate jets and oil companies,” Rubio says, missed the point. “Everybody here agrees that our tax code is broken,” he says, and he is open to discussing tax reform. “But don’t go around telling people that the reason you are not doing well is because some rich guy is in a corporate jet or some oil company is making too much money.”

Watching Obama brandish such talking points made Rubio wince. “Three years into his presidency, he is a failed president,” he says. “He just has not done a good job. Life in America today, by every measure, is worse than it was when he took over.”

“When does it start to get better?” Rubio asks. “When does the magic of this president start to happen?”

Today is one of those days where I hardly know how to react to things anymore. Part of me shrugs at this stuff: politics is politics. Of course Republicans are going to call a Democratic president a failure. What else would they do?

But then, for about the thousandth time, my mind wanders over the past ten years. Republicans got the tax cuts they wanted. They got the financial deregulation they wanted. They got the wars they wanted. They got the unfunded spending increases they wanted. And the results were completely, unrelentingly disastrous. A decade of sluggish growth and near-zero wage increases. A massive housing bubble. Trillions of dollars in war spending and thousands of American lives lost. A financial collapse. A soaring long-term deficit. Sky-high unemployment. All on their watch and all due to policies they eagerly supported. And worse: ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they've rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us.

But despite the fact that this is all recent history, it's treated like some kind of dreamscape. No one talks about it. Republicans pretend it never happened. Fox News insists that what we need is an even bigger dose of the medicine we got in the aughts, and this is, inexplicably, treated seriously by the rest of the press corps instead of being laughed at. As a result, guys like Marco Rubio have a free hand to insist that Obama — Obama! The guy who rescued the banking system, bailed out GM, and whose worst crime against the rich is a desire to increase their income tax rate 4.6 percentage points! — is a "left-wing strong man" engaged in brutal class warfare against the wealthy. And Rubio does it without blinking. Hell, he probably even believes it.

We are well and truly down the rabbit hole. The party of class warfare for the past 30 years is fighting a war against an empty field and the result has been a rout. I wonder what would happen if the rest of us ever actually started fighting back?

Is DSK Innocent?

The New York Times is reporting that the prosecution's rape case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is "on the verge of collapse" because the hotel housekeeper at the center of the case has lied repeatedly and now has some very serious credibility problems. Serious enough that, if true, this would not be a case of DSK getting off on some kind of technicality. He'd be getting off because it's at least plausible that the housekeeper made up her entire story. Jeralyn Merritt asks:

It sounds like this case will be dismissed. Cyrus Vance will have much deserved egg all over his face. (I'm glad I supported his opponent.) The DA's sex crime unit was apparently in such a hurry to detain DSK they did no homework and took the accuser at her word. All they had to do was conduct a proper investigation, and if her account panned out, get a sealed indictment and arrest him the next time he came to NY. DSK would have been none the wiser. Instead they staged a perp walk, and DSK became the biggest pariah and media sensation since Bernie Madoff. The buck stops with Vance.

....How does DSK get his reputation back? You may not think he deserves it, after all the post-arrest media stories about his womanizing. But he had one until his arrest, and those stories would never have been published but for the arrest. Not only did he lose his IMF job, but his chances of running for President of France were obliterated. All because of an accusation, that according to the New York Times, the prosecution is now willing to dismiss. The DA's office isn't Emily Littela, they shouldn't just get to say, "Never mind." There should be serious consequences for this kind of recklessness.

As with the original charges, I'll wait to see how this pans out. But if everything the NYT reports is true, Vance and his prosecutors do indeed have some explaining to do.