Friday, October 31, 2008

A giant is gone

Bye bye, Studs Terkel.

Curiosity did not kill this cat. Being 96 years old killed him. I can only hope to live that long. Sadly, penguins don't :-(. Especially penguins that spent too many of their formative years inhaling silica and fiberglass dust and toxic fumes from oil refineries and etc.

Studs wrote about our future, our future that is happening now, even though he supposedly was writing "history". Read.

-- Badtux the History Penguin

"I can do anything I want to do."

A cop explains the facts of life to a television reporter before arresting him for, well, reporting:

Freedom. It would be a great idea, hmm?

-- Badtux the Sovok Penguin

A Halloween guest cat

This cat's name is "Bad Luck". He is a working cat. He keeps the rat population in control at the desert watering hole / restaurant where he works, as well as bringing down the starlings (who are *not* native to the desert) to keep their population under control. During meal times he also works by prowling under the tables on the outside porches of this desert watering hole to clean up any food that the meal-eaters drop either accidentally or on purpose (e.g. when they brought me eggs and *bacon* rather than the eggs and *sausage* that I had ordered, a couple of chunks of bacon somehow managed to find their way down Bad Luck's mouth). He seems to be doing quite well for himself, he has a little bit of a pot belly now, but you still find the feathers and fur of his kills in the vicinity from time to time showing that he hasn't forgotten his main duty.

-- Badtux the Cat-blogging Penguin

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why everybody should vote for Obama

The Mccainiacs put out commercials and videos full of lies and hate. The Obama campaign puts out videos like... this.

For what it's worth, I share Mr. Alexander's opinion of young people today. They're a pragmatic bunch, they were born into a collapsing nation where their future was likely to be grimmer than their parents or grandparents' before them and they had no time for all the starry-eyed nonsense of older generations, but they also have a practical idealism about them that's very down to earth and caring. They seem to "get it" instinctively that the Republican bullshit about "everybody for themselves" is a zero-sum game and that we're going to have to pull together and help each other out if we're going to survive the shitstorm that's coming. I just don't like the feeling I get that I have to apologize to them for the shitty situation we older generations are handing them...

-- Badtux the Hopeful Penguin

Why geeks should vote for Obama

I am proud to say that I work at... err... a place down the street from Google :-).

-- Badtux the Geeky Penguin

Obama: Hypnotist

Yessiree, courtesy of rational conservative John Cole, we find that Obama is winning because... his speeches are actually subtle hypnosis that convince people to vote for Obama.

John shakes his head and mutters about Peak Wingnuttia not being here yet and his commentators laugh about clucking like a chicken after the Obama infomercial, but ... really. The wingnut may have actually stumbled onto something. While Obama clearly isn't doing hypnosis, his speeches and his 30 minute infomercial do something else entirely... they present a vision of America as a better nation, one where government works for the people rather than against them, where people don't have to struggle with health care costs and get a helping hand to build their businesses rather than a foot in the face, where folks are nice to each other again instead of all of this nastiness, etc. It's a compelling vision for people who are just sick and tired of the divisiveness, hatreds, selfishness, and petty small-mindedness that have characterized the Rethugs for the past eight years. And it's no wonder that a wingnut might confuse actually having a vision of the future with hypnosis, because the only vision of the future that wingnuts have is them on top, grinding their boot into the face of America forever. And they just can't seem to understand why the majority of Americans don't agree with their vision, so it must be hypnosis, right? Right?

-- Badtux the "Tin foil yet?" Penguin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I am living in a Constitution-free zone

According to official U.S. government policy, I may be stopped and searched for no reason at all simply because, well, I live within 100 miles of the U.S. border. Gotta make sure I'm not smuggling herring through the Port of Oakland, I suppose, even though I've never even visited the Port of Oakland...

-- Badtux the "Freedom is so yesterday" Penguin

Over at Moto-tux...

I get a new windshield for my bike. The windshield was one of the three things that annoyed me in my trip to the desert and back on the V-Strom. The other two things were: Underwear (I really need some of that lycra moto-cross underwear!), and lack of a throttle lock or cruise control (my right wrist got a bit tired). But the windshield is having a bad interaction with two of my other mods to the bike. Go read to see...

-- Badtux the Interactions Penguin

Who should get tax cuts?

"Tax cuts" to the wealthy spur investment only in Treasury bonds. There is no free lunch. The money to operate government has to come from somewhere. It either comes from taxes, or it comes from taxes + treasury bonds. Either way, the same amount of money is taken out of the economy to fund government. The difference is that the upper classes get interest (a redistribution of income from all taxpayers) on the t-bills, which obviously they prefer but which is less than ideal in that it redistributes some money from the lower classes to the upper classes.

The way to spur the economy is to increase consumption, not investment. There is already sufficient investment capital, and if there isn't, we can put the government in the business of providing investment capital the way they've done with the banks. Now, if rich people get more money, they don't consume. They invest. They're already consuming everything they want to consume. But if a poor man gets more money, he'll go out and buy something that he wants or needs, new clothes, a new car, whatever. This will in turn spur more retail and manufacturing jobs.

So as you can see, tax cuts work to spur the economy only when targetted at the lower classes. "Spreading the wealth" as Obama put it is just good economic sense, even for the upper classes, because it increases the demand for products produced by the companies owned by the upper classes and thus increases their incomes and profits. As for whether tax cuts for the lower classes should be funded by increasing taxes on the upper classes or by selling t-bills, both pull money from the upper classes. But selling t-bills means some tax money from the lower classes gets funneled *back* to the upper classes as interest payments on the t-bills. That sort of defeats the whole purpose of the tax cut. So Obama's proposal to allow the tax rate on the upper classes to rise back to its original 39% rate is just plain smart.

Of course, that's also why it is controversial amongst those who decry it as "socialist". Because "smart" and "Republican" in the same sentence? Uhm, no. As for the notion that a tax rate of 39% will stop wealthy people from investing or make them work less hard, uhm, that is what the tax rate was during the Clinton years. Funny, the Clinton years sure seemed more prosperous than now, hmm?

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

...and some people hear voices in their head

Janet Porter, WorldNutDaily, says God wants us to vote for McCain.

Usually when people say they hear voices in their heads, we call for the dudes in white to come haul them away to the crazy farm. But not, apparently, if the person hearing the voices is a Republican and claims the voices are "God".

Sigh. Oh well, at least she didn't propose hanging Obama by the neck from a tree, the way some cracker redneck at the University of Kentucky did.

-- Badtux the Tired Penguin

Dictator of nuclear-armed nation is dying

But you won't hear it on the front pages of any U.S. newspaper. I found it buried deep within the inside pages of the San Jose Murky News. Kim Jong Il, dictator of North Korea, has been hospitalized due to a stroke, according to South Korean and Japanese intelligence agencies. This is likely to be the new President's first foreign crisis, says a veteran military reporter. And from the U.S. media... oh look! The Jonas Brothers are going to star in a movie with a farting dog!

Sigh. Hell. Handbasket. Where we're goin'. Just sayin', y'know?

-- Badtux the buying-fireproof-undies Penguin

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Water is the new gold

California Water District cutting water deliveries by 85% due to global-warming-caused drought. Of course, water woes are not new to California. In the early part of the 20th century, the City of Los Angeles turned the "Switzerland of California" into waterless desert by stealing all their water via underhanded activities. But this is a disaster that is unprecedented in California history, because this basically kills irrigation for agricultural uses. Expect much higher prices for vegetables next spring and summer...

-- Badtux the Watery Penguin

Monday, October 27, 2008

The penguin's ballot

This is four pages of ballot. So here we go, my endorsements:

  • President: Barack Obama/Joe Biden. Duh.
  • U.S. Representative, District 15, California: Mike Honda(D).
  • State Senator, District 13: Elaine Alquist(D).
  • State Assembly, District 22: Paul Fong(D).
  • Judge of the Superior Court, Office Number 8: I dislike the notion of a prosecutor as a judge. We don't need judges who go into office with the preconceived notion that all defendants are guilty. Thus I endorse Diane Ritchie for this office.
The next offices on the ballot are various community college and school district offices. By and large I agree with the direction and policies of these districts, and thus voted for the incumbents. <

Finally: The City of Santa Clara. I detest, destest, DETEST the fact that the current City Council voted to build a stadium for the San Francisco 49'ers. This is a boondoggle of the first order and they ought to all be tossed out on their kiesters. Except... except...

Goddamn it, their opponents this election are all a bunch of fucking *FLAKES*! And I'm judging this by their own candidate statements in the voting pamphlet, not by what the incumbents are saying about them.

Sigh. So for City Council Seat 3, Seat 4, Seat 6, and Seat 7, I recommend voting for the incumbent. Damn I hate having to make that recommendation. But given that their opponents (for those who have opponents) are fucking idiots (and again I'm judging this by their own candidate statements) who haven't a fucking clue, there isn't much choice for me here. So I'll hold my nose and vote for the incumbent, then bend their ear next time they talk about that goddamned stadium again. Sigh!

And that was the end of the local offices. Now for the state measures:

  • 1A High-Speed Passenger Train Bond: I'm voting YES. This would eventually be a substitute for taking a jet from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This is a long-term investment in the state's transportation infrastructure. We're running out of fossil fuels, and when the fossil fuels go, so will jet travel -- jet travel relies on the high energy density of fossil fuels. You simply can't replace JP-1 with electric energy cells, they're too heavy, and of course you can't run wires in mid-air to carry electricity to them in some other way. Trains, on the other hand, are the most energy-efficient means to travel. For the future, I'm voting 1A.
  • 2: The PETA amendment. Voting *NO*. I don't want more expensive eggs and chickens, which is what this initiative will do. If PETA wants them, let PETA buy them.
  • 3: Children's Hospitals: No opinion. The state can't afford this, but it seems damned hard to vote against children's hospitals. Sigh.
  • 4. Waiting period and parental notification for teen pregnancies: Not no, but *HELL* no. We don't need more teenage mothers.
  • 5. Drug offender rehabilitation initiative: Vote *NO*. It'll cost $2.5 billion dollars to implement, and does nothing about the fact that our drug laws are idiotic in the first place.
  • 6. The "Cops are more valuable than any other workers" initiative. Bullshit. Cops should get no more priority for state funding than any other government employee. A cop is more important than a nurse at a county hospital? A cop is more important than a social worker supervising foster homes to make sure that foster kids aren't being abused? Vote *NO*.
  • 7. The "let's punish our government-owned utilities" Initiative. This one was put on the ballot by PG&E and Edison Electric, which are peeved that city-owned utilities like Santa Clara Muncipal Utilities and Los Angeles Water & Power can provide electricity for cheaper than the "more efficient" private utilities. Well fuck PG&E. Vote *NO*. We don't need PG&E telling us how to run our electric utility company here in Santa Clara, and I doubt the Angelites want PG&E telling them how to run *their* utility either.
  • 8. The "Let's enshrine bigotry into the State Constitution" initiative. Not no, but *HELL* no. If it was possible to vote no with exclamation points, I would be doing so on this vile piece of shit initiative.
  • 9. "Victim's Rights" uhm... no. The justice system isn't about victims, and it isn't about rights. It is about enforcement of the law. It is about justice. Putting an alleged victim (and remember, the victim is *alleged*, the jury finds the defendant guilty of breaking a law, the jury makes no judgement about who is a victim or not) into the jury box is inherently prejudicial and turns the so-called "justice" system into a travesty. We already have probably-innocent men being executed by the State. We don't need more of them because of imaginary "victim's rights" enshrined into state law. Vote *NO*.
  • 10. Alternative fuel vehicles: No. This is an area where the free market works better than government. Government should fund R&D, not purchase of vehicles. Vote *NO*.
  • 11. Redistricting: Well. I doubt that this will work better than the current system, but I fail to see how it could be worse. And *maybe* it'll be better. So vote however you want on it, but I'll go ahead and vote Yes.
  • 12. Veteran's Bond Act of 2008: The state issues these bonds, then pays them back with the proceeds of loaning the funds to veterans to buy homes and farms. So this bond issue doesn't actually cost the state anything, this ballot issue is just legal bullshit to keep the Republican law-beasts happy. Vote YES.
There are four Santa Clara County initiatives on my ballot:
  • Issue A: Make the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center seismically safe so poor people don't die when the next earthquake hits: Vote *YES*. Otherwise either poor people will die due to lack of hospital beds when the hospital is forcibly closed, or will die when the hospital collapses during the next earthquake. Really, this shouldn't even be a question that needs asking unless you are some sadistic motherfucker who likes killing poor people for fun, in which case, fuck you.
  • Issue B: BART operation tax: This gets collected only if/when BART is operating within Santa Clara County. Now, mind you, I despise BART. We don't need BART. What we need is a CALTRAIN extension to BART Fremont or Warm Springs, which could be easily done either by upgrading the old Western Pacific heavy rail line (albeit that will be a bit slower than BART due to all the at-grade crossings) or by double or triple-tracking the old Southern Pacific Alviso line (except through the wetlands) and extending a spur to meet up with BART, which would actually be just as fast as BART. But neither of those alternatives are getting support from the stubborn city counsellors of San Jose, who want their subway, goddamn it, even if it will cost billions of dollars to build the goddamned thing, because everybody knows that a city isn't a real city unless it has a goddamned subway. Well. I'd say fuck'em with a spoon, but BART *is* buildable, and *would* finish the ring of high speed transit around the Bay, so... well. BART will get built. Too many people with their hands stuck out here. Vote *YES* on this damned thing so that VTA has the funds to operate BART once it gets built, otherwise VTA will get stuck with funding operating costs out of current transit funds and basically have to shut down the whole damned bus system to fund the operating costs of this white elephant. Remember, it doesn't get collected unless BART gets built. Sigh. I *HATE* these "lesser of two evils" bullshit items...
  • Measures C, D: Just vote NO. These don't do a damned thing that's useful. I detest the fact that they even exist on the ballot. They're a complete waste of time.
And that's this mega-big ballot. Remember, folks: Penguins are smart. So listen to your penguin overlord and vote smart too!

-- Badtux the Voting Penguin

The bottom of the pit

Having scraped the bottom of the pit for anything and everything to throw at Obama, John McCain finally arrives at the "S" word: He accuses Obama of being a socialist.

OMG! Socialism! Why, if those nasty Obamacrats have their way, we'll be just like that horrible cesspool of misery and depravity called "Sweden"! The horror! Oh the horror! Swedish meatballs! World-class health care for all! IKEA! ABBA! Kick-ass SAAB fighter jets! A diversified economy providing living wages for pretty much everybody, and a first-class educational system, and everybody being healthy and happy about their life and about their government? The horror, oh my eyes just shudder in their sockets from the sheer horror of it all! No, clearly I must now change my vote to vote for John McCain, because most certainly I would not want my nation to become such a cesspool of evil as Sweden!

Okay, back to reality, folks. The reality is that all this talk of "isms" simply is a distraction. If there's things about the Swedish model that work, we should implement them here. If there's things about the Swedish model that don't work, we shouldn't implement them here. Same deal applies to any other nation and any other model of governance. Automatically filtering ideas into categories like "socialist" or "capitalist" is just nonsense. The only filtering we should do is "works" and "doesn't work".

The fact of the matter is that over these past 28 years, we've run the nation into the ground with all this "ism" this and "ism" that and listening to politicians tell us we can have all the benefits of good government (safe food and water, clean air, good roads and schools, etc.) without paying for it. We've mortgaged our future for a house full of cheap Chinese crap that will just break within a few years, all because we'd rather believe in invisible hands and other such imaginary things rather than practical pragmatic reality as can be seen with our own two eyes if we only open them up and look around and see. It's time to put all this fucking bullshit to rest and look at the dire straits in which we've placed our nation and then roll up our sleeves and get to work -- doing what works, regardless of whatever ideological tag the bullshit artists want to place on it. We've had too much goddamned bullshit and not enough plain practical pragmatic good sense. We're living in the post-ideological world today, where in most of the 1st world governments and peoples are more concerned with adopting best practices than in attaching ideological tags to anything and everything. The United States is being out-competed now by the Euro-weenies and the Chinese, and in large part it is because we're still stuck on stupid -- still stuck on ideology. The Chinese have moved past ideology and are busy building an economic superpower. The Europeans have their ideologies, but have a sense of proportion about them and don't let ideology keep them from doing what's right for their people for the most part. But the United States? It's all about what tag we can attach to things, not about what's right for our people and for our nation. It's killing us as a nation, and until we throw that bullshit under the bridge and adopt a policy of clear-eyed realism and pragmatism we're just going to keep going down, down, down until this whole ball of wax collapses into disaster.

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

OMG! Twitter!

Our brave spooks discover Twitter, speculate that our right of free speech might cause a terrorist attack.

Remember: Unless you're cowering in fear, the terrierists win!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Mo back

Attended a gathering of desert folk. Here's my campsite: And here's my motorcycle before I unpacked the camping gear: And finally a long shot of a bunch of us gathered around a bbq pit (faces blurred to protect privacy of various people). Note that there's a lot of people hidden in the shadows back there too:

And here is what we do for fun:

I'll probably post more of a motorcycle-oriented trip report over on Moto-Tux this evening. I'm still pretty tired from the trip, that's a long ride on a motorcycle then I did a lot of hiking going up that canyon (what, you don't think I was going to stay *in* that Jeep when it had a wheel off the ground half the time, huh?!).

-- Badtux the Tired Penguin

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm back (sort of)

Just very tired. My camera is still in the topbox of my motorcycle, I'll try to update this tomorrow with a photo or two...

-- Badtux the Traveling Penguin

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gone riding

I'll be back in a day or two. Maybe with pictures. I've turned off anonymous comments to keep the spammers away in the meantime.

-- Badtux the Motorcycling Penguin.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Orson Scott Card is one sick dude

Sci-fi author Orson Scott Card opens his mouth and proves he's a right-wing troll:

… This housing crisis didn’t come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.

Err, no. As I've previously pointed out:
  1. Fannie/Freddie were authorized to approve sub-prime loans that met their lending requirements, specifically, the ability to pay. These loans were "sub-prime" only in that the people obtaining them had no credit history, not because they defaulted at any significantly greater rate than any other loan in Fannie/Freddie's portfolio.
  2. The main sub-prime problems were a) liar loans, and b) option ARMs. Fannie/Freddie was not authorized to purchase these and indeed did not do so.
  3. Less than 5% of the loans in Fannie/Freddie's portfolio were sub-prime loans. Sub-prime loans were not the main cause of Fannie/Freddie's problems.
  4. At the peak of the sub-prime lending bubble, Fannie/Freddie accounted for only 30% of mortgage-backed securities issued by U.S. lenders.
  5. The law cited by the tighty righties doesn't even apply to 19 out of the top 20 sub-prime lenders in 2006. Only one of them was a bank that was regulated by the anti-redlining law cited by the tighty righties.
  6. The main cause of Fannie/Freddie's problems were a severe drop in housing prices, which depleted their cash reserves when suddenly they could no longer sell foreclosed houses for enough to pay off the loans. Fannie/Freddie's foreclosure rate was not unusual at the time they ran into cash problems, only the housing market was unusual.
  7. The severe drop in housing prices were caused by people who had nothing to do with Fannie/Freddie -- specifically, the drop in housing prices was caused by the sub-prime lenders, who flooded the market with foreclosed houses once the liar loans went sour and the option ARM's reset and people could no longer pay.
As for Orson Scott Card, he wrote one book that was barely disguised pedophilia that everybody went gaga over, one book that was basically an apologia for Hitler that everybody went gaga over, then a bunch of drivel. It is widely known that he is a closeted pedophile. That is why so many of his novels are about children, this gives him an opportunity to undress children in his imagination while he writes. If you read Ender’s Game as an exercise in pedophilia — especially the ways in which the children are abused (in a way similar to sado-masochistic sex, you can almost imagine OSC wanking off while writing those scenes) — you start getting a really sick feeling and start wanting to track OSC down and tie him to the ground and let a dozen or so nasty 12 year old brats beat the sh*t out of him. OSC is one sick mofo, and it's no surprise that this vile nastiness inside of him has bubbled and boiled to the point where his last novel was so bad as to be nigh unreadable (George Soros as an evil genius sending giant robots to take over the United States? WTF?).

-- Badtux the Sci-fi Penguin

Generation's end

42 talks about his Uncle Ernie, last of the WWII generation in his family. The last of that generation in my family also died recently. Coincidentally, his name was Ernest too. He was my great-uncle on my mother's side, and was one of my grandmother's brothers.

Those guys are pretty much all gone now. A lot of history going with them, because they never did talk much about what they did, and what they did was something amazing that had never been done before and never will be done again because we just are not the nation that we were in 1941, for better or for worse. We may be more tolerant now, but for lack of a better word, we lack grit. Those dudes storming ashore at Normandy weren't wimps. Most folks today... crap, they shit their britches on command whenever Dear Leader says "Boo!".

Those old farts weren't perfect by any means. They were all too willing to believe anything that anybody in authority told them to believe, they were racist as all get-out (though at least fair-minded enough to pass civil rights laws -- they might not have wanted to send their child to the same school as nigras, but laws giving blacks fewer civil rights stuck in their craw), and they did a terrible job of raising their children, the Baby Boomers. Still, the nation and the world are poorer for their departure.

-- Badtux the Memorial Penguin

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


to Advertising Age's Marketer of the Year.

The first part of Obama's success is branding: Obama ran his campaign using modern commercial marketing techniques and personnel, not the political consultancy that resulted in the last two failed Democratic attempts at the Presidency. Thus the Obama campaign logo takes its place alongside other iconic brand logos:

Obama has also made brilliant use of other modern marketing methods, from viral marketing (Yes We Can, to a cool Web 2.0 website, to message discipline. Obama is almost always on-message, and when he gets off-message, he gets back on-message quickly. And if his message doesn't seem to be working, he doesn't dump it if he believes it's a smart, compelling message -- he keeps at it, like his message about McCain representing the politics of the past, not of the future. That message didn't attract a lot of moderate to conservative voters in the summer, when everything seemed peachy-keen. But when the economy went into the crapper, suddenly his message was on-point indeed.

Perhaps one reason for this attention to modern branding and marketing is simply generational. Obama is the first Presidential candidate who actually grew up with modern marketing, which is as much about branding as it is about product. The Nike swoosh, the Apple bitten apple, the BMW roundel, and now... the Obama sunrise. By going outside of the political consultancy to commercial branding and marketing experts, Obama not only saved a ton of money compared to his competitors, but he also brought the 21st century to a profession, political marketing, still stuck in the mid-20th. Regardless of what you think about Obama, one thing you have to admit -- the youngster does know his marketing.

-- Badtux the Unmarketed Penguin


85 years ago, Evansville, Indiana, was home of the Grand Wizard of the Indiana KKK, and the governor of Indiana was a KKK member. Today, early voting in Evansville, Indiana happened. And:

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president.
The KKK ruled Indiana when this old woman was a child. Now she is voting for a black man for President. There are still racists and violent bigots of all sorts in America. But that's change, and it's change to be proud of, even if there is so much more left to do.

-- Badtux the Sombre Penguin

The next stage in the banking crisis: Credit card defaults

Credit card defaults skyrocketing, says Izvestia On The Potomac. So banks are reluctant to lend still, because they're worried about covering their credit card defaults.

Furthermore, the banks are doing another stupid thing: increasing interest rates on credit cards that *aren't* bad, in hopes of increasing their cash flow. Of course, this also makes those credit cards harder to pay off, which in turn increases the default rate. I had one credit card go from 8.9% to 19.9% within six months despite no change in my underlying credit score and no lates or defaults on any payments. I paid it off, but how many people are living paycheck to paycheck and would not be able to do so?

Folks, it's going to get worse before it gets better. And by the end, we're all going to have to divest ourselves of some very cherished illusions. No more free lunches, no more something for nothing, we're all going to pay, and pay hard, before this is all over. H.L. Mencken said, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." Well, folks, for 28 years we pretended we could avoid this day, but now we're gonna get it good and hard, deservedly or not. So bend over, folks, here it comes!

-- Badtux the Finance Penguin

Real Americans

We already know who Sarah Palin and John McCain believe are real Americans. Sarah Palin says, "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation." "Real Americans," according to Sarah Palin's warped version of reality, live exclusively in small towns and have good Anglo-Saxon surnames and attend evangelical churches and vote Republican. "Real Americans" don't carry passports or speak French or consort with foreigners. "Real Americans" know that nothing worthwhile ever came from a book unless it was the Good Book. "Real Americans" get their news from Fox.

And according to McCain/Palin, the following two people are not real Americans:

Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan

If Sarah Palin was in front of me right now, I'd slap her bigoted racist lying fucking face.

UPDATEe: Chairwoman of Otero County Republican Party weighs in that Muslims are not real Americans. Ms. Marcia Stirman apparently believes that Cpl. Khan was an enemy of America. She is lucky that she is in New Mexico and I am not.
UPDATE2: Apparently Sarah Palin thinks real Americans spend $150,000 for clothes. As someone who buys most of his clothes from Wal-Mart, I assure you that it's damned hard to spend $150,000 for clothes from Wal-Mart, unless you bring a dump truck with you. Does that mean Sarah Palin isn't a real American? Hmm...

-- Badtux the Rude Penguin

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2,000 reasons why John McCain is losing

Median family income declined almost $2,000 under Bush. Yeah, those Republican policies sure did great compared to that nightmare of peace and prosperity under Bill Clinton, huh?

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


Hot on the heels of the classy McCain supporters in Ohio, we come to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the liberal Washington Times notes McCain supporters harassing black voters who are trying to vote early.

All they need is the pointy hats and bedsheets and the picture is complete...

UPDATE: Republicans in Ohio show their class too...
UPDATE2: Republicans in NC further display their moral fibre..
UPDATE3: Republicans in Chicago further demonstrate Republican values...
UPDATE4: Republicans in Virginia terrorize elderly black preacher, oh joy.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Note: The snark about the "liberal" Washington Times is snark, of course. Wingnut heads undoubtedly exploded reading this in the pages of one of their favorite papers. Guess they'll need to go to Clownhall to get their news now!

Hey, it worked for Iceland

McCain solicits campaign money from Russian envoy to United Nations.


-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Voter fraud!

The RNC claimed that 26 people voted fraudulently in New Mexico. After ACORN produced documentation that the people in question were real actual voters, the RNC said Never mind!, and tried to change the subject. Though some right-wing pundits never got the message, apparently, and were floored to discover that Duran Duran is an actual New Mexico voter who is listed in the Albuquereque white pages. Oops!

But never fear, we have real voter registration fraud -- by a *Republican*. Oops indeed!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Right to vote under attack in America

For every voter that Obama's team has added to voter registration rolls, two have been removed. For example, in Colorado, which has seen tremendous growth these past four years, there's actually 200,000 FEWER voters on the rolls today than there were four years ago. As usual, you don't hear anything about this from the U.S. media, which is terrified of the whole subject of vote suppression and fraud.

I'm thinking that we need to re-think this whole voter registration system that was voted into law in 2002. It seems too fragile and too easily subject to the whims of bureaucrats. I have a right to vote, and that right to vote should not be subject to the whims of some bureaucrat who decides whether I'm allowed to exercise that right or not. If I show up at the voting place with proof of citizenship and proof of address, I should be allowed to vote, regardless of whether some bureaucrat has me on a list or not (dip my thumb in purple ink if I'm not on the list to make sure I don't show up elsewhere and double-vote, but no big deal there). I don't need permission from a bureaucrat to exercise my right to free speech. I don't need permission from a bureaucrat to exercise my right to freely practice my religion. Why do I need permission from a bureaucrat to exercise my right to vote?

But wait, I forget, we need to build this big bureaucracy around voting because, uhm, why? Were we less free in the 1800's, when there was no such thing as voter registration? Somehow I doubt it... but this big bureaucracy built up around voting appears to be one Big Government program that Republicans love, so... (shrug).

-- Badtux the Voting Penguin

Monday, October 20, 2008

You can't do that with an acoustic guitar and a cello

The original:

With only an acoustic guitar and a cello she does the impossible (yeah the recording is bad, it's done with a handi-cam, so it goes):

If she wasn't a lesbian, I'd have a crush on Brandi Carlile. Instead I'll just say "you go, girl!".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

PS - came across this somehow while looking for CCR's Fortunate Son for a future send-off for Dear Leader. Odd how you can go strange places on YouTube sometimes!

The smoking ruins

I am staring at the smoking ruins that were my modest 401(k), which lost 1/3rd of its value in the past two months. This points to the problem with the notion that "defined contribution" pension plans like the 401(k) can ever substitute for a "defined benefit" pension plan like the corporate pensions of old -- none of us are professional fund managers, none of us have access to all of the wide range of investments that professional fund managers have access to, and thus to a certain extent we're reduced to just throwing darts at our 401(k) plan's list of funds and allocating money accordingly while hoping that they don't all go down in value at the same time. Which is what has happened to my own 401(k) -- every fund available to me has collapsed in value.

But what's true of my 401(k) is also true of this entire country. We've all lost a significant part of our value over the past 28 years of Reaganism. The industrial infrastructure has hollowed out and been replaced by one asset bubble after another, each popping more violently until we reach this last one, the real estate bubble, which has popped more violently than everything that preceded it. And so now Obama is going to take office shortly, and... then what?

The problem is that Obama can't create a new illusionary world where everything is okay, because everything is not okay. Bill Clinton might have been able to preach bullshit about how there was full employment and the sky was the limit and yada yada yada, but he had the benefit of an asset bubble in dot-com stocks to pump up his Presidency. When people are making money buying and selling stocks and using that to buy seemingly endless amounts of cheap Chinese goodies, it's easy to believe that despite the collapsing infrastructure, despite the disintegrating industrial base, everything is okay. But we don't have that luxury now, and Obama is not going to be able to recreate that same illusionary feeling of everything-is-great that Clinton was so adept at doing.

The American people are in for a rude awakening. The USA is not #1 in anything anymore except high-tech military weaponry, and that's only because Europe prefers to invest in its people rather than in military weapons not needed to counter any existing threat anywhere. The USA is no longer the world's #1 economy, ranks somewhere between South Korea and China on the list of industrial nations, has a health care system ranked somewhere between Croatia and Bulgaria despite spending more money than any other country on the planet, and has a decaying transportation infrastructure plagued by 28 years of underinvestment under the Reaganism theory of tax cuts for the wealthy (thereby reducing money available for infrastructure) and privatize everything (meaning that spending on public infrastructure fell to bottom basement on the priorities list). The U.S. has a serious energy shortage that is currently being funded by the Federal Reserve printing dollars with all the abandon of a Weimar Republic finance minister, and when the current crisis is over, we're going to all be standing in the rubble of our economy without much to show for it - no jobs, no industrial base, no fuel, and seas of foreclosed McMansions too far away from what few jobs and shopping venues remain to be habitable.

At that point we're going to have to all work together to pick up the pieces, but my biggest worry is that we won't be able to do that. American exceptionalism is firmly engrained in the American psyche. From the first day of school our children are taught that America is the best and greatest and most free country on the planet, and anyone that might contradict that is automatically considered "un-American". But soon there will be a day of reckoning because reality is simply not going to cooperate with that illusion any longer, and then what? Well, we know what happened when the German Empire collapsed. The German people were not willing to believe that their failure in 1918 had anything to do with a failed geopolitical strategy, and were eager for some scapegoat to blame for their failure in WWI. Adolph Hitler gave them one. It took another war, and the complete and utter destruction of the German nation until its population were reduced to cold and shivering and starving remnants huddled in the ruins before the German people realized there was no easy answer, that they themselves were responsible for the destruction of their nation. Only then could the German people come together and re-build their nation into the current prosperous and democratic Germany.

So November 4 is only the beginning. If Obama is elected, as seems likely, there is little he can do to stop this long hard slide to the bottom. It was created by our own choices over these past twenty-eight years, and most Americans aren't willing yet to admit they chose wrong. Only complete and utter national disaster will manage to do that, and the first casualty of any utter national disaster is always the President who presided over it. My prediction: Like Jimmy Carter, Obama will similarly be a one-term President. And then another follower of Reaganism will take power after Obama. And if, ten years from now, I am not squatting one of those abandoned McMansions growing food in the vast back yard and going hunting for the deer and rabbits that have moved into the neighborhood, I will be very surprised, because I'm not seeing much other than disaster ahead. Obama might delay the day of reckoning, while McCain would make it faster... but the collapse is coming, and it's coming hard, and there's not a whole lot we can do about it other than wait for the bottom and hopefully a return to sanity on the part of the American people.

-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And wingnut heads exploded...

General Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for President.

Waiting for the Swiftboaters to come out....

  • "He's just endorsing Obama because he's black!"
  • "He cut-and-run from the Bush Administration so he hates Republicans!"
  • "My Lai!"
  • "Slam dunk WMD presentation at UN!"
Just wait and see. By Monday morning, at the latest.

Meanwhile, I need to watch this again because General Powell gave the best endorsement I've seen for Barack Obama since, well, ever. He both explained the positive reasons why he is voting for Obama, and the negative reasons as to why he is not voting for McCain. And he showed that he understands exactly what Obama is saying -- unlike the tighty-righties who are too busy shouting about how a nigra president would be socialism and so forth to do anything of the sort.

-- Badtux the Easily-impressed Penguin

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A lazy sunny Saturday

It was a beautiful day here in the South San Francisco Bay area. The doors and windows were open all day and the cats took turns dreaming the day away on the patio then snoozing on my lap for a while. I went out and ate some pho at the local pho place for lunch. Then I got my KLR out of storage and drained the old gas out of the carb, put fresh gas in, and took it riding to test out the new seat I got for it, a second-hand seat from a 2008 KLR-650 to replace the old one that had a couple of holes on it. They apparently redesigned the seat in 2008, because it's much firmer than my 2002 seat, and a bit flatter -- it doesn't try to jam me into the gas tank so much. The downside is that it's also taller than the earlier seat. If I hadn't lowered my KLR by 1 inch, I'd have trouble with it. Still, it seems to work better than the old seat, and it's not so freakin' *wide* as the Corbin seat is, which makes the Corbin seat a pain offroad because it interferes with standing on the pegs.

So anyhow, I went down to Road Rider and got a new shield for my old Arai Astral, which I have decided is a much better helmet than the Arai Vector that Arai replaced it with. Typical, someone comes out with a great product, then they have to fuck it up with the next revision. Compared to the V-Strom the KLR feels much lighter and much more flickable in tight parking lots and such, the V-Strom is a long load, the KLR has a short dirtbike wheelbase. That makes it a great city bike, but also is why it gets tiring on the highway. After getting the new shield I headed over to the public library and checked out a couple of Carl Hiassen's novels and headed home. I just finished one of them -- Nature Girl -- and it was a hoot.

At this point you may be wondering, what is the point of this message? But of course there is no point. Which is the point. Soon enough I'm going to be dead, either from someone smacking into me as I ride one of my motorcycles, or from old age 40 years from now, it's all just an eyeblink in the lifetime of the universe and a hundred years from now no one will remember my name. But like most people I've gotten into the habit of living, and will continue doing so, one day at a time, point or no point. That's what people do, even people who are penguins.

-- Badtux the Pointless Penguin

Friday, October 17, 2008

Good thing penguins don't care about bein' stylish

Maybe because we're already hauling around our own built-in tuxedo. But if I cared about bein' stylish, I wouldn't be buying what appears to be the world's ugliest windshield for my V-Strom 650...

-- Badtux the Motorcyclin' Penguin

Some call them racists...

but McCain/Palin call them "our base":

This penguin is very sad :-(.

-- Badtux the Saddened Penguin

Only the Shadow Knows

This is one of my mother's many cats. Shadow was abused before my mother got her. The vet says that Shadow's insides are all scrambled up from being kicked, and that it's a wonder that Shadow is still alive. But alive she is, my mother carefully monitors little Miss Shadow's diet, makes sure she gets her nutritional supplements, and Shadow is as sleek and happy as a former feral can be. She has problems breathing, but doesn't let that stop her from getting around. At some point she's likely to catch pneumonia and die, but thus far she's lived for at least eight years longer than the vet expected, so my mother may end keeling over before Shadow does.

She's a pretty little kitty, isn't she? And friendly too, as long as you only pet her head, no other part of her. She has a big purr.

-- Badtux the Cat-admiring Penguin

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A politics of pragmatism

Some folks ask me, from time to time, whether I'm a conservative or a liberal. After all, I have some "conservative" opinions such as respect for the 2nd Amendment and a liking for the least government we can get away with. But then there's my opinions on things like health care, where I suggest we simply extend Medicare to cover all Americans, not just prune-Americans. "That's socialist!" they shout. "Communist!", they yell. Which of course is as idiotic as calling me a conservative.

So what is my own personal ideology? What I am is a pragmatist. I believe that we should do what works. Our government should be the minimum government needed to protect Americans from those who would harm us and to provide those services that experience has shown government is better at providing, and no more. Government should not, for example, build automobiles. Experience has shown that government building automobiles simply does not work, and furthermore, experience has shown that private enterprise is very efficient and effective at building automobiles. Thus as a pragmatist, I oppose the government building automobiles.

However, when it comes to providing health insurance, experience has shown that government-provided health insurance does work, and works more efficiently and effectively than private insurance. We've had government-provided health insurance in this country for forty years now. It's called MediCare. Your grandpa gets it. You might even qualify for it some day, if your current private health insurer doesn't kill you first because it's cheaper to let you die than to provide the contracted-for medical treatment. It's not "free" -- you have to pay your MediCare fees, and you paid MediCare taxes into the MediCare fund for many decades before you retired -- but it's government-provided, it is much more efficient than private insurance (only 4% of Medicare costs go to administration, as vs. roughly 15% of private insurance fees), and most of the elderly are quite happy with it, though there's always those who will grumble about anything. But despite the occasional grumble, dare suggest that we eliminate Medicare at an AARP convention and you better start running, otherwise a buncha old prunes are gonna whip your stupid a$$ with their walking sticks and walkers.

So: Should I ignore reality simply because it does not comport with right-wing ideology? No. Only stupid people do that. Pragmatic people look at what works and does not work. The private insurance system is in free fall collapse, killing people left and right whenever it sees killing someone as cheaper than providing the contracted care. It no longer works. On the other hand Medicare, from all data we have available to us, works. Looking at other country's medical systems, extending the equivalent of Medicare to all citizens appears to work too. Does this mean that I believe government should provide all medical services? Of course not. While there are places, like in Sweden, where all doctors are government employees and all hospitals are owned by the government, those places don't seem to have any better results than places like Canada where doctors work for themselves and hospitals are either community-owned non-profits or are privately owned. So on the small government vs. pragmatic necessity bit, since there's no pragmatic necessity calling for doctors' offices and hospitals to be government-owned, government should not be involved in those areas.

In short: My ideology is pragmatism -- what works. Because in the long run, that's the only ideology that leads to national survival and national greatness. Ideology which leads to solutions that do not work, such as Bolshevikism and Bushevikism, inevitably lead to national disaster. Experience has shown that we should keep government as small as practical -- but that there are some services that government must provide because the free market does not or is not capable of providing them. From a pragmatic point of view, that contradicts both Bolshevikism and Bushevikism. Bolsheviks do not want small government. Busheviks do not admit that there are some services that government must provide. Bolshevikism has been condemned to the trashcan of history as a failure. Bushevikism is on the way to the same fate. Good riddance to both, I say, as a pragmatic centrist.

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

From a tiny ACORN many nuts grow

The above is John McCain's speech at a rally co-sponsored by ACORN. Note all the folks with red shirts in the audience. He calls them, as well as the other groups involved in the rally, "what makes America special". He doesn't say "All of you except ACORN are what makes America special". Heh.

The tighty righties are now whining about "vote fraud" in connection with ACORN. But the crime they keep talking about is not "vote fraud". Rather, it is voter registration fraud -- attempts to register non-existent people or otherwise filing fraudulent voter registrations. Note that ACORN has never been convicted of any crime. Some of their contract employees have been convicted of voter registration fraud for turning in fraudulent voter registration applications, but note that this prosecution was done with the help of ACORN itself, which turned over the fraudulent applications as evidence to the voter registrar with a cover letter explaining who did it so that the voter registrar could forward the evidence to the D.A. for prosecution. These applications defraud ACORN as much as anything, because ACORN is paying these workers to go out and canvass neighborhoods for potential voters to sign up, and instead these workers are sitting at home making up names to put on applications.

Note that the fraudulent registrations never result in people voting. As a new voter you need your registration card (sent via U.S. Postal Service to the mailing address on your application, and delivered only if you live at the address in question) or a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. If someone shows up with a registration card saying "Mickey Mouse", his name is Mickey Mouse, otherwise the card would have never been delivered to his house by the U.S. Postal Service. So what is all this tighty righty shouting and furor about?

Well, two things. First of all, they want to use this to convince state governments to pass photo ID laws. 10% of Americans lack photo ID, generally the poor and the elderly, and 25% of African-Americans lack photo ID, so this will immediately remove the right to vote from significant populations that typically vote Democrat. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states that require photo ID must provide free ID's for voting purposes or it's an illegal poll tax, but that brings up another problem -- getting this free ID requires having a certified copy of your birth certificate plus a utility bill or etc. at your home address that proves you live there. For people who live in government-sponsored housing where their utilities are part of their rent, obviously they won't be able to show a utility bill, and getting a certified copy of your birth certificate generally requires... uhm... the photo ID that you need the birth certificate in order to obtain it? See the chicken and egg problem here? Can't get the ID without the birth certificate, can't get the birth certificate without the ID!

So anyhow, kicking Democrats off the voter rolls is one reason they're doing this, but not the main reason why it has suddenly interjected itself into the Presidential race. The deal is this: The Republicans know they're going to lose.

Yes, they've already given up. They know they've lost. They know they can't win, that the Republican brand is too discredited by the Bush Administration for them to win. So they're looking at four years of Obama at the least. So what to do about it? Well, that's simple. This is all just a cynical ploy by John McCain and the right-wingers to repeat their 1960 tactic where they tried to illegitimatise John F. Kennedy's victory by spreading the smear that Kennedy got it via "voter fraud", despite the fact that not a single person was ever convicted or even charged with such. They know they're going to lose. So what they're doing is trying to conduct a scorched earth campaign to try to remove Obama's ability to govern. That despite the fact that the country is in dire straits and we need our next President to be spending his time getting us out of the mess that the Republicans have gotten us into, rather than spending his time dealing with right-wing whack jobs. But that's just the olde right-wing standard... they'd rather throw a screaming whining kicking tantrum than do something helpful. Thus all the right-wing nuts throwing screaming whining kicking tantrums, and my portrait of a typical right-winger:

Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Welcome to my world, Senator McCain

The McCain campaign has a long history of misappropriating other people's music, even occasionally being sued for it. The McCain campaign has been freely misappropriating other people's music for their rallies without the permission of the author. But as long as the venue pays its ASCAP (or other PRO - Performance Rights Organization) fee, there's nothing the author can do about it, because the venue has licensed the music from ASCAP.

But the hitch there is that the music is licensed only for within the venue as part of a performance. Once the music leaves the venue, say, on a videotape of the rally, then the McCain campaign must negotiate a separate publication license with the author of the music before they can do anything with it such as, say, publish it on YouTube. And the McCain campaign isn't doing that (indeed, can't do that with many of the songs they use, because the author will not license them to the McCain campaign). The McCain campaign has gone ahead and published videos containing this music to YouTube and other forums -- where they have promptly received "takedown notices" from the authors of these songs under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), which mandates that the service provider (e.g. YouTube) remove the video from their site until the McCain campaign responds via certified mail that they have indeed procured the proper licenses.

Note that YouTube is required by law to do this -- law that Senator McCain voted for, BTW. But the McCain campaign is still whining that YouTube shouldn't take down these videos because they're covered by "fair use".

Welcome to my world, John McCain. In my world, the Internet world, bullshit DMCA takedown notices happen all the time. Someone puts up a web page, someone else files a bogus DMCA notice, and the law requires that the ISP takes down the web page immediately -- even if it is immediately obvious just looking at the web page that there is no copyright violation. Since in McCain's case there is a copyright violation, it's even more laughable that Senator McCain is demanding that YouTube violate a law that he himself voted for.

But hey, I forget, in Senator McCain's world, there's two kinds of people. There's the ruling elite -- people like him, with more houses than I have cats and more cars than I have computers -- who don't need to obey the law because, well, because. Then there's the rest of us. Well, welcome to the world the rest of us live in, Senator McCain. Have a nice day!

-- Badtux the Copyright Penguin

Incomplete list of people whose music the McCain campaign has illegally published on YouTube: John Mellencamp. Jackson Browne. Survivor. Foo Fighters. Heart. Bon Jovi.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thought for the day

Isn't it amazing how so many religious arguments boil down to, "my invisible friend can beat up your invisible friend"? It's like a buncha friggin' kindergarteners arguing about whose invisible friend is toughest!

Sigh. Maturity. It'd be great, doncha think?

- Badtux the Mature Penguin


Apple released a new Macbook today with nVidia graphics that are up to 5x faster than my old-skool Macbook's graphics (which are so slow that I can't play many games). And I can't have it :-(. (I'm tapped out until April for a number of reasons).

But then I read the specs and I can't use it anyhow, because Apple removed the Firewire port. Way to go, Apple. Guess I'll have to keep using my old-skool Macbook until Apple comes out with a new Macbook that has a Firewire port again, no matter how many years that takes. So nyah, take that, Apple!

-- Badtux the Geeky Penguin

McCain's Hidden Tax Increase on the Middle Class

The majority of people who have health insurance in the US today get it through their employer. It's cheaper that way, because of economies of scale -- overhead for employer-provided health insurance is less than 15% of the premium costs, as vs. over 30% of premium costs for individual health insurance, because the insurance company has to send only one bill and process only one payment for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of employees, rather than having to bill and process payments for each of those employees individually. In addition, employers are allowed to take your health insurance premium out of pre-tax money, rather than post-tax money. So I buy my Kaiser Permanente socialized medicine health insurance through my employer even though my employer doesn't directly kick in money because this gets taken out of my pre-tax income and never counts towards my gross income for the year.

John McCain, however, proposes eliminating this tax break for health insurance (note: this link is to John McCain's web site, so the tinfoil hat brigade can't yell "liberal media bias!"). He proposes that if I want to buy health insurance through my employer then I should be taxed on anything over $2500. The problem is that as a late-middle-aged man, my KP premiums are well over $2500 per year. Indeed, the average employer-sponsored family policy costs $12,680 per year.

The net result is that John McCain's health care proposal comprises a gigantic tax increase on the middle class. The average middle-class family's taxes would go up by over $2,000 per year. Meanwhile, the average middle class family will get a tax break of only $1,444 per year according to a non-partisan Tax Policy Center report. John McCain wants to play a shell game, where he pretends to give you a tax break at one end, then takes it away at the other, unless you're Paris Hilton in which case you get hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks for, uhm, being Paris Hilton I guess. John McCain's tax cut for the middle class averages only $319 per year in the first year, yet he will hike taxes by over $2,000 per year on those same families. Contrast that to Obama's real tax breaks for the middle class, which average 2.4%. Under Obama, my taxes (I am in the 4th quintile) would decline by an average of 1.8%. Under McCain, my taxes would be a wash -- McCain would give me a bigger tax cut up front, but take it right back out with this new health care tax.

Paris Hilton may benefit from John McCain's tax cuts. But you and I and any other ordinary middle-class citizen buying health insurance through our employer will pay more taxes under John McCain's plan. So if you're Paris Hilton, be sure to vote for John McCain. For the rest of us... hah!

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

H/T to: Just An Earth-Bound Misfit: McCain's Hidden Tax Increase on the Middle Class

Britain declares a new terrorist state

Well, now that North Korea has been struck from the list of official terrorist states, there's room on the list for a new one. There's plenty of nasty states out there, so I'm sure that there was no shortage of candidates. Finally, after much thought, a new terrorist state was found to take its rightful place on this list of awful terrorist states. And the name of this terrorist state is... Iceland.

Yes, Iceland. Land of peaceful Nords and Celts with no military, land of Björk and Magnús Scheving (Lazytown, in case you don't have toddlers). And while I think Björk is over-rated and Lazytown is just demented, terrorists? Really?

What this points out is the problem with anti-terrorism legislation. When you have over-broad legislation that basically can define anything and anybody as a terrorist, everybody is a terrorist. The British law being used to seize Iceland's assets in Britain is not much different from the equivalent U.S. law. Sad to say, these laws are also very popular both in the United States and in Britain because people want to be "safe". But when we are all terrorists under these over-broad laws, how can any of us be safe?

-- Badtux the As-terrorist-as-Björk Penguin

H/T to Earthbound Misfit

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wingnuttery in action

That sound you're hearing is the sound of wingnut heads exploding at the news of Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize in Economics. Here is real live wingnut "thinking" in action:

  1. Obama is a Marxist/Socialist
  2. The Nobel committee gives its prizes to Marxist/Socialists like Al Gore
  3. So it's no surprise that they gave a prize to a Marxist/Socialsit like Paul Krugman.
Now, nonwithstanding the problem that the Nobel Peace Prize committee is not the same one that grants the Economics prize:

"Krugman" and "Socialist" in the same message... bwahahaha! The man made his bones touting free trade and conservative government. Indeed, his biggest beef with the Busheviks has been their budget deficits within good economic times, which had the effect of pouring gasoline onto the fire of the housing bubble.

Calling a centrist Democrat whose web site is full of free market solutions to various problems a "Socialist/Marxist": Priceless. What next, a Wingnut conspiracy theory that tells me that Obama is a tentacle monster from the planet Arcturus come to earth to peform tentacle rape upon all our nubile young virgins, and his external visage is just a mask he's wearing?

I await my multi-tentacled alien overlord. Heh.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Congrats to Dr. Krugman

As already reported by a number of blogs that I frequent, Dr. Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

If you do not read his blog or his column in the New York Times, you should.

Gotta go, need to catch up on my reading. Maybe he will tell us how he will invest his $1.2 million dollar prize. That'd be nice :-).

-- Badtux the Studyin' Penguin

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Please steal these pictures

Republicans respond to the fact that Obama is ahead in the polls:

Republicans respond to the fact that the economic meltdown happened on their watch:

In response to the dire news that their candidate is behind in the polls, right-wingers fire up their email clients and start circulating yet another round of absurd conspiracy theories claiming that Obama is a Marxist, wants to exterminate the white race, is best friends and buddies with Osama bin Laden, and eats babies for lunch:

Much hilarity ensues.

-- Badtux the Graphical Penguin

Wow, they're not even trying to hide it anymore

This following graphic was taken from a web site called Political Byline, which is a right-wing pro-McCain website that John McCain's campaign advertises on. I personally verified its existence on the web site in question as of 9:23PM PDT on Sunday, October 12, 2008. The next image was taken from a web site and Smithsonian exhibit collecting photographs of a dismal part of our nation's heritage and history. It is one of approximately one hundred photographs on that web site. I chose this one primarily because its size is small enough to fit well on this web page and it is blurry enough that you cannot see the graphic details (which on some of the other photos are stomach-turning): Draw your own conclusions. The first: A pro-McCain web site. The second: A web site on lynchings that happened here in the United States of America in the early part of the 20th century. There are some crazy people out there, folks. Crazy people. And none of us should be proud of this regardless of our political affiliation.

-- Badtux the Saddened Penguin

Are John McCain and Sarah Palin inciting a riot?

The answer, of course, is no. The case law here is Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), which concerned a KKK leader inciting hatred against blacks and those who would give equal rights to blacks. The so-called Brandenburg test would require that McCain or Palin urge that their audience perform a specific and imminent illegal action. Thus far they have stayed well away from urging their audiences to perform a specific and imminent illegal action (or any illegal act at all), and thus while their conduct in inciting hatred is reprehensible, as with the KKK leader above, their conduct is not illegal.

Brandenburg v. Ohio is what allowed McCain buddy G. Gordon Liddy to discuss the best way of killing BATF agents on his radio show (he suggests a head shot in order to bypass the body armor), allows Ann Coulter to discuss exterminating liberals except for a few to be kept in zoos, and other such reprehensible speech. But it also protects those who talk about demonstrating against the government or taking political action against the government too. I.e. you and me. So I guess this is one of those things we have to live with and can expect to be self-correcting over time. As, apparently, it already is -- the rowdy nature of the Palin/McCain speeches has become a national disgrace to the point where John McCain is getting alarmed and trying to put a stop to the worst of it, getting booed in the process. I guess his polling has told him that running a scorched earth Two Minute Hate at every campaign rally is scaring away voters he wants. Or maybe he simply dredged up what little honor he has left after what has been, this past month and a half, an unhonorable campaign, and has decided that if he is going to lose he might as well lose with more grace than a squalling toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a grocery store. We shall see...

-- Badtux the Free Speech Penguin

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The face of hatred

It is a deceptively mild and soft-spoken face, this face of hate that knocks on my door. He is accompanied by a hatchet-faced woman with a dour look, and they have an agenda to sell. Their agenda is Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to amend the California Constitution with a constitutional amendment to eliminate the right for gays to marry. After ascertaining that they do in fact live in this apartment complex so I can't simply call the cops and have them hauled off for trespassing, I politely tell them that I do not talk to bigots and that the guy ought to get counseling to deal with his suppressed homosexuality, and close the door on them.

It is all too common to believe that the face of evil is one that is foam-flecked with gleaming eyes and a scowling expression. But that is not it at all. I grew up in the American South as the walls of segregation were tumbling down. I grew up in an environment where a great-uncle was a KKK member and where the Klan still regularly held cross-burnings in clearings way back in the woods (they were illegal in our state -- cross-burnings, that is, there was a law outlawing the desecration of religious symbols that was used to prosecute people who participated in cross-burnings -- but the law was rarely enforced, especially when several of the people under the hoods were Sheriff's deputies). I grew up in an environment where cops joked in my father's barber shop about going "nigger-knocking" down in "nigger-town", where the word "nigger" was as common as the word "Coke" (used for any carbonated soda drink, this was long before cocaine came to town), where people talked in all seriousness about "those goddamned niggers don't know their place anymore, they want to take away all our jobs."

What I'm saying is that I know what hatred and bigotry looks like, and it looks like... well, my neighbor. Just another person. The phrase "the banality of evil" first applied to Eichmann applies equally to those who today would exterminate gays the same way their forefathers would have exterminated Jews, if only they could get away with it. Because they cannot, because they are on the losing side of a culture war that has decided that hate is, like, a bummer, man, they instead dress their evil in code words and cloak it in normality. But whether you hate "kikes" or "niggers" or "faggots", it's all the same. It's all hatred, it's all bigotry, and it's all evil. And the fact that this evil comes with the face of a mild-mannered man who looks about as dangerous as a puppy dog lessens that evil not one bit.

-- Badtux the not-Evil Penguin

The toxic legacy of Ronald Reagan

Twenty-eight years. That is how long ago it was when Ronald Reagan burst upon the scene and changed American politics forever. Twenty-eight years. Reagan, like FDR, was a giant who changed politics for long after he departed from the political scene. His influence over the nation for these past twenty-eight years has been almost incalculable. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, you must admit that the shadow of Ronald Reagan has loomed over every man who has held office from the smallest town to the Presidency ever since then.

And what has happened in those twenty-eight years?

Well, a lot of things. Okay. Manufacturing employment: Down from 24% of the population to under 14% of the population. Ship construction: Down by 83% since 1980. There are now only six shipyards in the entire United States capable of building large vessels and all of them are naval shipyards. Personal debt: The size of the total consumer debt grew from $355 billion in 1980 to $2.6 trillion in 2008. Gross federal debt: In 1980, the federal debt was 33.3% of GDP. In 2007, the federal debt was 65.5% of GDP, or twice as much debt. Trade deficit: In 1980, the trade deficit was $19,407 and in 2007 $700,258. Debtor/creditor nation status: In 1980, the United States was a net creditor nation, owning 7% of the world GDP abroad. In 2007 the United States was a net debtor nation, with more than 21% of US GDP in hock to overseas.

Note that none of this has to do with how much cheap Chinese cr*p you can buy, the size of your television screen, or anything like that. I am talking about the fundamental underpinnings of a modern economy. These past 28 years have ripped the guts out of our economy until we're a nation of real estate salesmen selling each other the same overpriced homes over and over again. Well, at least that was the case until this year. BOOM. The whole house is falling down. Well, that's what happens when you rip the guts out of an economy. A hollow economy simply can't continue standing forever, it's like when they go back into a mine and pull out the pillars to get the last of the gold or silver or etc. out of it, pretty soon the whole mountain comes crunching down kaboom!

The problem is that the whole point of Reaganism was something for nothing. Reagan told us that we could have tax cuts *AND* a bigger military. The result was gigantic deficits -- bigger as a percentage of GDP than the Bush deficits (until this year). But Reagan had no problem with spending money he didn't have on fancy toys for the military. He just ran up the government's credit card bill! And no matter what Reagan might have said, that was the role model he set for the entire country. Reagan said, via his actions, "hey, don't worry about tomorrow, borrow, borrow, borrow, and live it up today!". And we did. Until now we're the world's biggest debtor nation. And the bill is coming due...

In 1980, we didn't know any of this. After the dismal Carter years, Reaganism seemed like a good idea. And maybe it was a good idea if Reagan himself had lived by the conservative values that he espoused. He didn't. He was like a middle class couple who run up a gigantic debt buying a house and junk to put in it that they don't need. He proved to America that "hey, you don't need to live within your means, you can always just borrow, borrow, borrow!" to the point where Dick Cheney said about the Bush deficits, "Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." But here's a secret Reagan did not tell you: there is no free lunch. He lied to you. He told you that we could have the greatest nation on the planet, and not have to pay for it.

A smaller less intrusive government would be nice. But Reaganism, by saying "hey, you don't have to live within your means!" inherently makes government bloat up because hey, if you don't have to pay for it, why not have big government? And Reaganism, by saying "hey, you don't have to work hard and wait for the good stuff in life, you can just charge it to your credit card!" inherently urges people to not do the constructive stuff that makes an economy strong but, rather, to spend their money on cheap Chinese crap from Wal-Mart and big-screen TV's and other junk like that which adds nothing to the economy, it's just like FDR paying one group of people to dig holes and paying another group of people to fill the holes back in all over again. Except with a Republican twist.

In short, Reagan sold us a bill of goods, and we thought it was golden. Until the hollowed-out shell left by decades of borrow, borrow, spend, spend started collapsing. The only good thing about this -- the only good thing -- is that perhaps Reaganism as a political philosophy is going to finally fall out of favor. Everybody over the past 25+ years has had that five thousand pound wrecking ball hanging over their heads. Now that it's fallen to earth, maybe folks will notice that hey, maybe Reaganism (the philosophy as practiced, not the soothing words) wasn't such a great idea after all.

Or maybe not. After all, few people want to admit it when they've been conned. And it was a con -- Reagan told us that everything had a simple answer that we wanted to believe, Reagan told us we could get something for nothing, and that's the hallmark of any good con, it's so good that you want it to be true. Yet even after twenty-eight years have shown that Reaganism is a hollow fraud that has destroyed our nation, people still want to believe. There is none so blind as the man who refuses to see. And there are an awful lot of blind men out there today...

-- Badtux the Politics Penguin

Friday, October 10, 2008

Is Barack Obama a secret XYZZY?

Uhm, if after more than a decade in public office, more than 20 months on the campaign trail, dozens of debates, two books written by him and dozens more about him that have pretty much hauled out everything the man has ever said and done into the public view and *none* of that indicates he's an XYZZY, that people can still believe that Obama is an XYZZY (fill in the blank for XYZZY)... cretins. Sorry. That's all I can call'em. Morons. It's a wonder they can manage to walk and chew gum at the same time. Oh wait, maybe they can't...

- Badtux the "Hello? Any intelligent life on Earth?" Penguin

Oh dear

That's a funny lookin' kitty...

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

Down in the mud

McCain pounding away on the Ayers thing. A guy that Obama has met maybe two dozen times in the course of ten years of living in the same neighborhood, who is at best a casual acquaintance that Obama hasn't talked to in over three years... but I guess when you're 11 points down in the polls and people don't believe you are the one to fix the economy, there's not a whole lot to do but go down into the mud and start squealing like a pig. Or worse. McCain/Palin campaign rallies are taking on the eery semblance to a Nazi hate rally, about the only thing that hasn't happened there is McCain howling "Kill the nigger! Kill the nigger!".

Oh yeah, about that economy. Stock markets worldwide collapse. So much for my diversifying by holding international stocks as well as domestic stocks, they're all down. One of Japan's life insurers collapses due to the assets in its investment portfolio turning into pumpkins. Auto dealer floorplan lending drying up meaning that auto dealerships, no longer able to roll over their floorplan lending from month to month as they wait for the cars on their lots to sell, will end up going under instead. Giant international companies forced to sell off major assets at fire sale prices because the locked-up credit markets mean they can no longer roll over their short-term bonds. And the thing we should be worried about is... some guy Obama barely knows?! Alrighty, then!

And oh yeah, that evil supervillain The Gay Agenda has shot another victim with his gay ray of gayness -- The Connecticut Supreme Court, which rules that gays have the right to marry in Connecticut. Oh the horror! Why, if gays can get married in Connecticut, why, why... Connecticutians might have exquisitely coifed hair and fine furnishings within their lovingly decorated homes! And the live theatre. OMG, the live theatre. Horror, oh horror!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My blogrolls was hacked. So they're all offline for now. No idea if they'll ever be back.

I'll toss up something that works "good enough" shortly, using the Technorati links and etc. to find out who's linked to me and reverse-link'em back...

Sigh. I just can't understand why anybody would want to hack a free service like that. There's just some nasty people out there, I guess...

-- Badtux the Saddened Penguin

And the mud continues...

Today, from World Nut Daily, I found out that OMG Ayers forced a girl into his college dorm room forty years ago and forced her to have sex with a NEGRO!

Now, mind you, all this happened (if it really happened -- this reads like one of those tall tales where 40 years after the fact someone comes forth to make some claim after being paid to do so) 40 years before Obama first met Ayers as a casual acquaintance who served on some of the same boards and such. But I guess the intent is "Obama is an oversexed NEGRO who wants to RAPE your little girls!" or somethin' like that.

Wow. Can these guys be any more transparent? They remind me of the townfolk in the New Sheriff scene from Blazing Saddles. Wow.

At least McCain didn't try to pull this nonsense at the debate. But his surrogates sure are pouring it on today. And meantime Helicopter Ben is having to airdrop money from heaven (or his printing presses, okay) because Paulson is moving too slow and cautiously to deal with the current crisis...

-- Badtux the "Racism, anyone?" Penguin

Oh fire up the Waaahmbulance!

Jihad Watch (no link, I don't link to hate groups) is apparently upset that they've been classified as a "hate site" by various web filtering services. We only post real news stories, they say.

Let's for the moment ignore the fact that Jihad Watch also posts editorial material depicting Muslims as shifty, shady ignorant savages who want to kill us all. By their logic, if I linked to a site called “JewWatch” that details the crimes of Jews, posting any news story anywhere that shows a Jew committing a crime, I guess according to their logic I’m not linking to a racist site. Heil! And I suppose a site called NegroWatch wouldn’t be racist either, because after all, those darkies did commit all those crimes, all NegroWatch is doing is collecting the news reports all in one place. Nosiree, no racism there, no sir . And a site that posts only news stories that show Muslims committing a crime is somehow different than linking to a site that details the crimes of Jews or blacks because, well, just because. Alrighty, then!

Let's face it: a web site called "JihadWatch" is as disgusting as a web site called "JewWatch", and for the same reason. Yes, some members of those two respective religions have committed crimes. But there's one and only one reason to focus on only one religion's crimes, and that's if you're trying to whip up a good ole' fashioned Kristallnacht, presumably to be followed by the gas chambers.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Warm up the helicopters!

"Helicopter Ben" warming up his helicopter fleet, preparing to drop $1.2 TRILLION in freshly minted dollars out the windows.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the Federal Reserve would start buying both short term AND long term corporate bonds, both secured and unsecured. The proposal to buy long term bonds appears to be new. How will the Federal Reserve pay for this? Well... ""...the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes..." -- Professor Ben Bernanke, November 21, 2002

Does that answer your question?

Ramifications: Unknown. We are in uncharted territory here. The Fed has never bought up commercial debt before. *Never*. But everybody is scared of everything and is instead putting their money into Treasuries (the freshly-printed Treasuries that were printed up to pay for the "bailout", in case you're keeping score). Without the ability to roll over their bonds into new bonds as they expire, major corporations would run into a liquidity crunch and be unable to meet payroll, pay suppliers, and otherwise be in boatload of hurt. The people who got thrown out of work would have to go to the bank and get their money at the same time that they're unable to pay their debts. That in turn causes more banks to not have enough money to make loans, which in turn causes more people to be unable to meet payroll and pay suppliers. Wash, rinse, repeat, classic liquidity trap. Bernanke has a pretty good description in that paper above of what happens once you enter into that deflationary spiral. Read it. For an academic and professional economist, Bernanke's prose is surprisingly accessible.

So anyhow, "Helicopter Ben" is putting into effect the policies that he discussed in that paper linked above in order to create what Milton Friedman called a "helicopter drop" of money into the economy in order to prevent a classic liquidity trap like the one that sent the Great Depression spiralling out of control. Will it work? Nobody knows. It's never been done before. Indeed, people laughed at Bernanke when he proposed even the theoretical possibility of doing so six years ago and derided him as "Helicopter Ben". But this is what central bankers do when the political leadership is frozen and unable and/or unwilling to take effective action. The Fed has a printing press, and it's going to use it for all it's worth, even though throwing money out of a helicopter has to be the most ineffective way on the planet of getting money to where it's needed in the economy. But when you have a printing press and that's the only tool in your toolbox... so Bernanke is doing what he can do. Now, that hack Paulson, on the other hand...

So the question is, should I buy a wheelbarrow so I can carry a pile of $20 bills to my grocery store to buy a loaf of bread? I don't know. I'm just waiting for the next brick to fall. I think I can figure out the next thing that "Helicopter Ben" will do by reading the above-linked paper. I just don't know what the real economic impact of what he's doing is going to be. He thinks he knows. But this is unknown territory we're in here.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin