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Posts from — December 2011

Endings 2011

Last year I wrote:

Well, I was unfortunately right and things still suck. Most of the “accomplishments” of the last year were better done without than done so badly. DADT is the only unqualified success, but that is mostly due to Pelosi, Reid, and Gates, rather than the White House.

Nothing effective has been done to address the economy, and the foreclosure crisis still hasn’t ended. I see no hope for any improvement in 2011 because the people with the power to take action still don’t understand the nature of the problem.

I was unfortunately correct – there was no improvement in the economy, because the politicians still refuse to see reality and do what has been proven to be effective.

The Repubs are blocking everything to make Zero look bad, and are managing to make themselves look worse. Zero will probably win because the Republicans won’t allow their few capable candidates to run, and are chasing moderates out of their party.

The few ‘successes’ of the current administration this year were in other countries. Here’s a news flash for the White House – we don’t elect a President to spend his/her time on foreign policy when the economy is in the tank.

I fully expect the 2012 elections to see the lowest turn-out in decades. There is no one and nothing to vote for, only people and things to vote against.

December 31, 2011   Comments Off

Have You Been Nice?

Grandfather Frost

That’s Grandfather Frost [Дед Мороз] and he is the Russian ‘gift giver’. He is assisted by the Snow Maiden [Снегурочка], but ever the jolly, fun-loving people, the ‘gifts’ are a bit different. Threats of coal or sticks would be weird to a people who are trying to stay warm, they would consider them welcome.

Generally there are sweets, maybe salo [salted fatback], and other high energy food.

For the ‘naughty’ list there is the staff. You don’t get beaten, merely touched, which turns you into a popsicle. [I told you they were fun-loving.]

Tonight’s the night – you’ve been nice, right?

December 31, 2011   Comments Off

Not Getting Better

funny pictures - New Computer Mouse

One in five US workers still unemployed or underemployed.

December 31, 2011   Comments Off

SUVs 3 – Utility Poles 0

Yesterday was a tough day to be a light pole locally. Within 4 hours three of them were taken out by locals who couldn’t keep their ‘tanks’ between the lines at 40 MPH with a little rain on the road.

People don’t seem to understand that four-wheel-drive is not an advantage on water or ice – it just means you have 4 wheels spinning instead of two. If there is snow or sand to grip they are great, but slow and straight is the only safe way to drive in the rain or on ice – if you must drive at all.

December 30, 2011   3 Comments

It Should Have Been A Monday

The ABC reports that Samoa skips Friday in a change that puts them to the West of the International Date Line.

Apparently they were tired of being the last country on earth to celebrate holidays, the switch makes them the first. It also aligns them with Australia and New Zealand, who are now their biggest trading partners.

I would have opted to eliminate a Monday, but they wanted to be first for New Years.

December 30, 2011   2 Comments

Friday Cat Blogging

A ‘Mug’ Shot

Friday Cat Blogging

You looking at me?

[Editor: Toes Underhouse - the mouthiest cat in the area. When he senses food, he starts meowing and only stops to eat.

Friday Ark

December 30, 2011   10 Comments

In The Strait And Narrows

So the Iranians said that if there are attempts to stop it from exporting oil, they will block the Strait of Hormuz. The US Navy immediately jumped in saying, they wouldn’t allow it.

I wonder exactly how the Navy thinks they can stop the Iranians. If Iran dumps hundreds of the WWI and WWII type mines that they have into the narrow confines of the strait, the US Navy is SOL because they don’t have the equipment to deal with them. They can sweep up modern sophisticated anti-shipping mines like nobody’s business, but they had damage to the USS Princeton, a guided missile cruiser, from one of these ‘antiques’, and the guided missile frigate, USS Samuel B. Roberts, had its keel broken by another.

The Iranians also have anti-shipping missiles that are readily moveable and don’t need fixed sites.

The owners of the supertankers are not going to risk their vessels if Iran makes a real threat, and if one of them is sunk in the Strait, it is plugged.

The world can’t protect vessels from Somali pirates on the ocean, so what makes them think they can protect vessels in the narrow confines of the Strait of Hormuz from the weapons of Iran?

The US might consider waiting until there is actual, credible evidence that Iran is doing something, rather than the bogus garbage coming from MEK and the Israelis, before they set us on a path to a new war we can’t win, but which will destroy the world’s economy.

December 29, 2011   8 Comments

This Is Really Funny …

If you have ever worked in customer or user support, Ellroon has a video for you. You have to read the subtitles [unless you understand Norwegian], but it is worth the effort. The bit at the end is priceless.

December 29, 2011   4 Comments

Making A List …

And checking it twice is what Sears Holding Company is currently doing, having announced that poor Christmas sales signal the closing of about 100 stores. They own both KMart and Sears stores, so localities around the nation are waiting to find out if they are going to see another jump in unemployment and more vacant commercial real estate.

All of the reporting about ‘Black Friday’ indicated that sales were up signaling a good Christmas season. Apparently it never occurred to the ‘analysts’ that those sales might have constituted the entire season.

There was a brief increase in traffic at the beginning of the month, but that was it. There was no frenzy, no rush of people ready to buy more ‘stuff’.

The problem with the economy is consumer demand, and it isn’t going to increase until people have jobs and the money to buy things.

December 28, 2011   9 Comments

And We Support Israel Because ?

The BBC reports that Shimon Peres urges Israelis to rally against extremism

Israel’s president has urged Israelis to rally against ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremism in what he called a fight for the “soul of the nation”.

Shimon Peres was speaking as hundreds gathered in the town of Beit Shemesh to protest against the way some ultra-Orthodox Jews treat women.

There have been two days of clashes in the town after a girl said she had been harassed on her way to school.

Some ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh are seeking to segregate men and women.

In another article the BBC highlights some of the thinking of the ultra-Orthodox: King’s Torah splits Israel’s religious and secular Jews

Rabbis Dov Lior and Yacob Yousef had endorsed a highly controversial book, the King’s Torah – written by two lesser-known settler rabbis. It attempts to justify killing non-Jews, including those not involved in violence, under certain circumstances.

The fifth chapter, entitled “Murder of non-Jews in a time of war” has been widely quoted in the Israeli media. The summary states that “you can kill those who are not supporting or encouraging murder in order to save the lives of Jews”.

At one point it suggests that babies can justifiably be killed if it is clear they will grow up to pose a threat.

The ultra-Orthodox don’t work, don’t have to serve in the Israeli military, or contribute to society in any meaningful way. Their views of women are every bit as extreme as the Taliban, and they will take to the street and attack people with stones and spit on them. They also oppose Zionism and don’t recognize the current state of Israel as legitimate. Their political party is part of the current ruling coalition.

Do not expect to read about any of this in the American media – it isn’t going to happen, even though the current demonstrations in Beit Shemesh started after a young American school girl was spit at and cursed as she walked to elementary school.

Update: I was surprised and pleased to see I was wrong about the US media, as they have picked up the story about Beit Shemesh at McClatchy, CNN, and CBS. About time.

December 27, 2011   10 Comments

Politics As Usual

Charlie Pierce is calling for a better class of lies from the Clown College that constitutes the Republican Presidential candidates.

Come on, let’s show some preparation. Even the Shrubbery figured out he had to destroy his National Guard records to run for President. These guys aren’t even that prepared, although Willard did ensure that all of the e-mails from his days as the Massachusetts governor went away.

It would appear that the insurance companies are going to have to struggle along with only Joe LIEberman in the Senate, as their second Senator, Ben Nelson has accomplished his goal of serving enough time to qualify for a Congressional pension and will return to denying claims for big bonuses as an insurance company executive. [Note: most insurance companies in the US are either headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska or Hartford, Connecticut.] It is probably too much to hope that Nebraska will elect a real Nebraska farmer to the Senate, rather than another whacko, like Bob Kerrey.

Among many others, Mustang Bobby points out a reason Congress doesn’t ‘feel our pain’: Between 1984 and 2009 the median net worth, excluding home equity, in constant 2009 dollars for a member of the House rose from $280,000 to $725,000. During the same period the median net worth of a family went down from $20,600 to $20,500. Needless to say, Congress hasn’t been experiencing the same problems as the rest of us. [Note that these number exclude home equity, so things are even worse when that is included because so many people are 'under water' on their mortgages.]

December 27, 2011   Comments Off

Picking Your Fights

I’ve seen a lot commentary about the Bradley Manning Article 32 proceedings that obviously is based on a lack of understanding what the hearing is, and how it relates to the civilian system.

I have been under the military system and was part of the civilian system. Given a choice I would take the Article 32 hearing over the Grand Jury for anything I was accused of doing, because it is much fairer to the accused.

An Article 32 hearing is public; the suspect and their counsel are present; they are allowed to cross examine witnesses, and to present their own witnesses. At the end the Investigating Officer writes an opinion and presents it to the officer charged with overseeing the process, usually a commanding general, for a decision as to whether a court martial will be convened on the charges.

In a Grand Jury session, everything is secret; it is controlled by the prosecutor; and after the witnesses have been heard, an indictment is issued based on a majority vote of the jurors. The defense has no access to the proceedings, and sees none of the evidence unless an indictment is returned.

The purpose of the Article 32 hearing is to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect broke the law. The case is tried by the court martial, not at the hearing.

Bmaz at Emptywheel covers this in more detail: On the Manning Art. 32, Court Secrecy & Nat. Sec. Cases.

Nancy Youssef, McClatchy’s Pentagon reporter, echoes my feeling about the charges: Bradley Manning hearing ends with no clear sign of harm done to U.S..

The military has overcharged Manning, and that is always a bad idea, because losing some of your charges at trial, often makes your entire case look bogus to a jury, even a military jury. You charge what you can prove beyond reasonable doubt. They are already going to have problems on appeal because of the length and conditions of the pre-trial detention, so overcharging is just going to make matters worse.

December 26, 2011   4 Comments

Happy Sales and Returns Day

Wren

While December 26th is celebrated by a lot of people in the US in shopping malls returning gifts or taking advantage of inventory clearance sales, there are other celebrations.

It is the first day of the Kwanzaa celebration, which is explained at the link.

It is Boxing Day, a celebration of noblisse oblige when the upper classes bestow gifts on the lower and the contents of the poor boxes are distributed. Under the feudal system this was part of the “contract,” the mutual system of obligations that tied the system together.

As the feast of St. Stephen it honors the first Christian martyr, but Ireland’s Saint Stephen’s Day celebration is a bit different and is the reason for the wren on this post.

However, this post is really my complaint about “Good King Whatshisface.”

[Read more →]

December 26, 2011   2 Comments

Holiday Travel Hazards

funny pictures

Always update to the latest version of maps before setting out on long trips, or you might have to stop and ask for directions.

December 25, 2011   4 Comments