Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The situation in Gaza

Israel is pounding a lot of terrorists like the one on the left. I would discuss this further, but any discussion of genocide or ethnic cleansing when a Jew is doing it means you're anti-Semitic. It is only allowable to talk about genocide or ethnic cleansing when non-Jews are doing it.

-- Badtux the "Rules are rules" Penguin

Sprint sucks

While I was gone on a trip they removed my bluetooth tethering, making it impossible for me to check my email via Sprint's EVDO network. Going to their web site, they don't even offer tethering anymore.

So fuck'em. I just did the dirty deed of switching to an iPhone on AT&T Wireless. Same cost as Sprint, and much better browser and mail client. If I can't tether, I at least want a phone that has the best mobile browser and email client in the business. Given how rarely I used the Bluetooth tethering on Sprint (roughly once per month, generally while travelling or during service outages on my main Internet connection), they just cut off their nose to spite a pimple. No wonder they're going down, down, down and bleeding customers. Doing things like this to a customer in the middle of a trip is customer service in the same way a stallion services a mare -- i.e., up the rear, long and hard.

-- Badtux the F*cked Penguin

Reinventing history, part 1532

Wow, you find out the coolest things on the Internet. Such as the fact that the failures of communism are due to the fact that communism has never been tried. And the failures of capitalism are due to the fact that pure capitalism has never been tried.

Now, as we all know, pure capitalism works only if everybody is honest. If you have loan brokers misrepresenting the properties that secure loans and misrepresenting the borrowers to the mortgage companies who are providing the funding, if you have mortgage companies misrepresenting the quality of the loans they're selling to mortgage-backed-security pools, if you have bonding agencies misrepresenting the quality of those mortgage backed securities, if everybody is lying in other words, things go to hell in a handbasket as a housing spiral starts up then inevitably collapses once the loans start foreclosing. The only losers are honest people -- the folks who bought those mortgage-backed securities for their retirement funds thinking they were prime grade debt.

So we don't have -- and can't have -- pure capitalism because it simply does not work. It ignores a central fact of human beings: that human beings lie, either deliberately or due to irrational exuberance. Pure capitalism could only work in a perfect world where all human beings tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

So now let's look at communism. For the sake of discussion, I'm going to break out the system of government used in, e.g., the old USSR (which was authoritarian dictatorship) from the method of economic organization (communism). Okay, first thing we find out is that the kulaks won't voluntarily join into communes. They're not living the best of lives, life is still hard for them, but they still don't want to join their meagre properties and possessions with that of others into a commune. So what you end up with is either a) a very small minority join into communes, which tend to be short-lived due to leadership and "deadbeat" issues except for the religious-oriented ones like the kibutzen or Amish/Mennonite communities (see James Eliot's notes below), or b) someone has to exert power to force the kulaks to join together into communes, which tends to result in both dictatorship and economic disaster since the kulaks would rather destroy their possessions rather than contribute them to the commune.

Okay, so let's do some hand-waving and imagine a society where there are no kulaks. There have been some of those, after all. For example, most Native American societies basically had no concept of "private property" prior to the intervention of Europeans. They basically were already organized into communes of a sort. The problem here is that economic activity is very low in such societies. The inevitable end result is that other societies end up competing for the same economic assets as populations rise and the collectivist societies get out-competed by more capitalist societies.

But, objects the modern communist, that's not what modern communism is about. Modern communism is about industrial societies. Like the United States used to be. In Karl Marx's time, a textile factory got some raw cotton cloth from a cloth factory, and created clothes out of it. The cloth factory got raw cotton fiber from a cotton plantation and created cloth out of it. So you had three sets of people involved -- the plantation, the cloth factory, and the clothing factory. It is fairly easy to collectivize each one of these and handle the movement of goods between them.

Well, thing is, we don't live in Karl Marx's time. I am a software engineer. I am in Sunnyvale, California. My engineering team is in Shanghai, China. The appliance that we sell is made in Taiwan. The CPU is made in Chandler, Arizona and the chipset is made in Leixlip, Ireland, with Ethernet chips made in Hudson, New York. The hard drive is made in Thailand, using media substrate made in Malaysia and with firmware designed in Orange County, CA. The actual main microchip on that circuit board is made in Taiwan, while the ancillary circuitry such as amplifiers and such are made in Costa Rica, Malaysia, Thailand, and China. The case that the appliance is installed into is made in South Korea. The power supply within that case is made in Taiwan from parts from multiple nations all over the world, including Japan, El Salvador, China, Malaysia, Costa Rica, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan.

In short, for one of our appliances, there are thousands of parts from a dozen different nations. And we sell a dozen different types of appliances, each of which has a different mix of parts. Making sure all these parts all make it together requires some intermediary to govern the production and flow of parts. We call this intermediary "currency". And no, you can't do this all with computerized JIT (Just In Time) manufacturing and avoid all the intermediary stuff. Not yet, anyhow. At my last employer, where I set up the manufacturing system, our orders to the outsourced assembly facility were *faxed*. You'd be amazed at how uncomputerized actual manufacturing facilities are even today.

So this, then, explains why communism as an economic system has failed every time it has been tried. It assumes Karl Marx's world, where manufacturing had few inputs. This is why the Soviet Union was spending 60% of its GDP on its military as it approached collapse... as military weapons became more and more complex, mediating the inputs to those weapons became more and more inefficient. Similarly, this explains why every attempt at communism has been a dismal failure at providing things like medicines, medical equipment, and consumer goods to its people. As these items became more complicated to manufacture, the lack of effective mediation resulted in inefficient and slow manufacturing and distribution of these items. But it also explains why the things communism *has* succeeded in are those things which have few intermediaries. For example, communist nations have typically been very good at education and have produced large numbers of scientists, doctors, and engineers. Education is an example of an industry where there are few intermediaries.

Now: Please note that I am differentiating between communism as an economic system, and communism as a political system. The political system practiced in the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, etc. was authoritarian dictatorship. When communists say that "real communism has not been tried", what they're talking about is the political system called anarchic socialism (or "anarcho-socialism")s, where people are self-organized into worker communes or syndics that provide goods and services to other worker communes or syndics according to the others' needs and are provided goods and services according to their own needs, and governance takes place via consensus of the commune. That, then, is when we run into two problems:

  1. No society is a hermetic bubble. There are other societies that compete for the same resources. This requires an organization (we might call it "government") to provide for national defense (at the very least) and which has the ability to requisition resources from everybody else in order to provide that service. I.e., has priority over civilian use of resources -- but only up to the amount needed for national defense. How to make this happen without capitalism (where taxes to support the military make it clear that it's the military sucking up too many resources) is thus far a problem that has not been solved -- in every large-scale attempt at communism, the military ended up sucking down the entire economy after a period of time.
  2. Governance of syndics or communes is a serious problem. Thus far every attempt we've made to do this kind of thing has fallen apart within a matter of years due to infighting and schism -- the problem of power that I talk about below -- and eventually devolved to a leader-follower model where a charismatic leader is in charge and uses his subjects for his own enrichment. The main exception is in religious communities which are governed by a "higher power" (i.e., which push the problem of power to a "higher power").
And I had a point, but I think I lost it sometime ago. But the deal is: We've tried capitalism. It didn't work. We've tried communism (anarcho-socialism) on a small scale, and run into problems. Apologists for either form of economic organization who claim that these failures are just because our attempts weren't "pure" or "perfect" enough are ignoring the fact that human beings are incapable of perfection. They just are. If your system of economic organization depends upon being "pure" or "perfect" in order to work properly, then it is a failure by definition.

So what is the "perfect" way to organize an economy? Well... we'll have to discuss that some more, eh?

-- Badtux the Socioeconomics Penguin

Paranoid Kitty is being followed

Paranoid Kitty tries his best, but can't catch that pesky "tail" thing that's following him...

-- Badtux the Cat-admiring Penguin

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday sad music blogging

John Prine and Nanci Griffith, Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

I'm back!

I've been out of pocket for the past week, in case you haven't noticed all the cat photos and videos taking the place of most of the usual content (such that it is). Now I'm back home after 5,000 miles in an aluminum tube (oh joy!). Hope you guys haven't trashed the place too bad while I was gone :-).

-- Badtux the Flying Penguin

Christmas cat blogging, Day 6

The curmudgeonly Mencken looks down on my messy computer desk with disgust in his expression. Of course, that's his usual expression, so... (shrug).

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas cat blogging, Day 5

The Mighty Fang has never been scared of the kitty carrier, even when he was just a teenage hooligan kitty.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Sad Music Blogging

Emmylou Harris sings a beautiful song by a great songwriter.

-- Badtux the Happy Holidays Penguin

Busheviks, Bolsheviks, what's the difference?

In my previous post, you saw a Bushevik's hand waving about the reason for unemployment, basically saying "people are unemployed because they don't feel like working," i.e., making excuses for the failures of pure market capitalism. The Bolsheviks have the same problem. For example, I started talking about the problem of power on a blog run by a Communist. He started waving his hands in the air about how that wouldn't be a problem in the perfect Communist state because everybody would be equal and thus have equal power.

Except people aren't born equal. Some people are born smarter than others. Some people are born bigger than others. Short of a Harrison Bergeron style Ministry of Equality that goes around chopping extraordinary people down to size, you will have extraordinary people. That is just how genetics works -- it mixes and matches and generates outliers at both top and bottom of the scale all the time.

So there will always be inequality in people from a biological point of view. So what does that have to do with the fundamental problem of anarchism theory, the problem of power? Well: the problem is that human beings are apes. Apes with delusions of grandeur. With millions of years of ape instincts, which are only lightly overlaid with a veneer of civilization. And one of those ape instincts is the instinct to follow an "alpha male" (or maybe we should call it an "alpha adult" nowdays), i.e., those peope who are, by accident of genetics or birth, extraordinary in some way. This instinct gives that person power, more power than those who are biologically followers rather than leaders. And where there is power, there is the potential for abuse of power. For every FDR, there is a Stalin. For every Abraham Lincoln, there is an Adolph Hitler. For every neighborhood watch organizer lady, there is a pimped up thug drug lord. That is just how it works in reality, as vs. hand waving time.

So now we arrive at the central problem with anarchism, libertarianism, Bushevikism, and Communism: The problem of how to deal with the fact of inequality of power. Anarchism points out the problem of power and proposes eliminating all organized structures of power such as government, property, etc. but has no idea how to accomplish this. But at least anarchism realizes the problem of power rather than burying its head under the ground. Libertarianism claims that giving everybody a gun and eliminating governent will make everybody equal. That is of course not true -- everywhere that the people have eliminated government, what ends up happening is that inequality and the problem of power rise their heads again. Those who are violent migrate to following those who are most violent and the end result is that violent thug lords rule at gunpoint over those who are not violent. Bushevikism claims that power is good because, to quote the Bushevik in Chief, "it would be better if this were a dictatorship, as long as I was a dictator." I.e., they claim to have good intentions, and thus accumulating and using power is a good thing. Communism... ah yes. Once again, like the libertarians, they claim that *removing* everybody's guns will make everybody equal. Which any skinny kid who got beat up by muscular bullies at school knows is utter bullshit.

So what's a Communist's reply when you keep asking, "how are you going to deal with this situation in your Communist utopia"? Pretty similar to a Libertarian's reply when you keep asking, "how are you going to deal with this situation in your Libertarian utopia" -- i.e., ban you from their blog.

So it goes. It just proves that ideologues of all stripes are unwilling to deal with pragmatic observable reality, and instead prefer to live in delusional dreamlands where little things like "facts" simply don't exist. As for me, I don't have any solution to the problem of power, but looking around the world, it seems to me that there are some nations which seem to be handling it better than others. For example, in Scandinavia they have what might be called a "democratic capitalist socialism" which seems to be doing quite well for their people, with little of the suffering, injustice and inequality that has characterized most human societies but with high relative affluence for the typical individual compared to peers in most of the world. From a pragmatic point of view you'd then say, "we don't know what the ideal society is, but they seem to be doing things right, so we're going to take what seems to be working from them and apply it to our own society." But that's us pragmatists. We're not ideologues, so we don't care what "-ism" is attached to a concept or idea. For those folks who are ideologues, well. Ideology comes first for them, and people second. So it was in 1917, and so it is today. Sigh.

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

Republicans tell us the real reason...

So why is unemployment at 7%? The Party of Hoover has the answer: people are being lazy and don't feel like working.

This penguin is speechless.

-- Badtux the Depression Penguin

Christmas cats, Day 4

In this early photo taken in Phoenix, you can see how TMF is smaller than Mencken at the time. That is no longer true.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday sad music blogging

Lucinda Williams sings about her friend Blaze.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Christmas cats, day 3

A young TMF and Mencken atop some shipping boxes, shortly before I moved from Scottsdale AZ to Mountain View CA.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas happy music blogging

For all the gifts that the American people have given to the peoples of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Iraq:

Merry Christmas.

-- Badtux the Sombre Penguin

Ho ho ho

Beware the cute:

-- Badtux the Christmas Penguin

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa is a creepy perv

Sneaking into people's houses and giving "gifts" to the children? And he's also a stingy perv. He only stops by the houses with money and gives things like golf clubs to country club members and stuff.

A cute kid with threadbare jammies needs to shove those golf clubs right down Santa's throats, this grinchy penguin thinks...

-- Badtux the Bah Humbug Penguin

Wednesday night sad music blogging

Steve Earle sings about his friend Townes.

-- Badtux the Merry Christmas Penguin

Christmas cats

I am travelling.

This is a photo of The Mighty Fang and Mencken shortly after I brought TMF home from the Humane Society shelter. This is as close to a baby picture as I have of the two kitties, Mencken was already fully grown (and already saying "bah humbug!" to everything except tummy rubs) when I brought him home from the shelter, and TMF was a teenager. Mencken got his job in my household based on tummy rubs. TMF got his job in my household based on being sleek and shiny and black and friendly. At least, I think that's how it went. I distinctly seem to remember that they chose me, rather than vice-versa, but I'm not quite sure how that worked.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cats have staff

This could never work:

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Darth Cheney

EBM posted her photo of Darth Cheney at work. So now I post mine (well, not *exactly* mine -- see the signature on it -- but you get the point).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Yay! Boarding passes with seat assignments!

So now I'm 99% certain to be on that jet airliner tomorrow, especially since I'm going through Houston, not someplace cold...

Meanwhile, this is a cat. This is a cat on catnip. Remember, folks, don't do drugs, or this zonked-out photo could be you.

-- Badtux the Soon-to-not-be-flightless Penguin

Monday, December 22, 2008


I booked my flight out on December 24 on November 8, almost two months in advance. I could not assign seats then because it was already overbooked. It's still overbooked.

So now I'm having to turn into a friggin' airline lawyer. Here's the deal. Their contract of carriage holds. Specifically, Rule 25. Now, I'm not particularly in a hurry, as long as I get there sometime between now and December 31. So first thing, they ask for volunteers. If they're going to give me a voucher for future air travel, nope, no volunteering for me, thank you very much. I want cold, hard cash and a seat on a later flight. Preferably a first class seat, thank you very much. Otherwise I wait until involuntary bumping, and request they put me on the next flight to my destination, whether it is Continental, American, or Delta. Or at least, that's what I *think* this Rule 25 is telling me.

Sigh. Airlines. Now you know why it's been three years since I was in a jet plane...

-- Badtux the Flightless Penguin
Hopefully not still flightless on the 24th, sigh!

The California budget

So why is California's budget now $130B when it was $65B in 1998?

Here are the reasons:

  1. Population growth. California's population has grown from 33 million in 1998 to 38 million in 2008, or a 13% increase in number of Californians needing state services such as driver's licenses and etc.
  2. Spiralling prison costs due to the "Three Strikes" law and the War on Drugs. The prisons budget this year is roughly $10B, or five times the $2B prison budget of 1998. Roughly $5B could be cut out of the budget by releasing all prisoners who a) were convicted of non-violent crimes, and b) have served at least 1 year in prison.
  3. MEDICAL COSTS. Medi-Cal and associated medical services (Healthy Families, care of the mentally retarded and mentally ill, etc.) was $51 BILLION dollars in 2007, and adjusted for inflation and for the increased number of eligible people (due to the recession and the melt-down of the private insurance system), that would account for $55 BILLION dollars in 2008 -- or roughly half the state budget. In particular, Medi-Cal enrollment has been skyrocketing for the past ten years (from 2.4 million in 1998 to 6.6 million today) which will triple Medi-Cal costs even *without* factoring inflation. By contrast, the state health care budget in 2000 was $13.6 billion -- considerably smaller.
  4. Inflation. The "core" inflation rate means that $65B in 1998 would be $84B today. Then increase by 13% for the population growth and that's $95B, which seems considerably less than $130B. *BUT*: Health care inflation has been even higher especially considering the huge increase in the number of people receiving Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. If you take $13.6 billion in 2000 and scale up for medical costs inflation to 2007 (last year I have numbers for), you're talking $18.24 billion. But then realize we have three times the number of people receiving Medi-Cal today. So simple inflation would say that in 2007, Medi-Cal would cost $55 billion. The actual cost was $44 billion -- i.e., the actual per-recipient cost of Medi-Cal is *less* today than it was in 1998.
So a short summary: The root cause of California's budget crisis is health care. Medi-Cal costs have exploded due to a) medical costs inflation and b) increasing numbers of people losing their health insurance and therefore becoming impoverished and eligible for Medi-Cal. The solution? Well, that's simple. A single-payer insurance system, either state-wide or nation-wide, which took all these health care related costs off the state budget would immediately give the state an enormous surplus.

BTW, for those who now will start whining about California's "high taxes": California ranks 20th on the list as far as taxes per $100 income are concerned. Californians pay more taxes than folks in Arkansas and less than folks in North Carolina. According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, Californians pay $10.50 out of every $100 income in state and local taxes of all types (sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, etc.). So calling California a "high tax" state is a gross mis-reading of the statistics. California's budget problems have nothing to do with "high taxes", and everything to do with population growth and health care. In fact, you look at the numbers, and California's budget problem becomes stark -- if adjusted for health care inflation and population growth, you're looking at a $136B budget -- meaning that a $130M budget proposal already has a lot of cuts over what population growth and health care inflation would predict.

But hey, this is math. And math is hard. So let's just bash "extravagant spending" as the problem, because that doesn't require, like, math (ick!). And thus ignorance reigns... sigh!

-- Badtux the Math Penguin

Sources of information:
* The Tax Foundation
* Tom's Inflation Calculator, w/medical costs inflation numbers
* California State Budget Summary, 2008
* California State Budget Summary, 2000 (earliest I could find)
* Medi-Cal Summary, California Healthcare Foundation, 2001
* Medi-Cal Summary, California Healthcare Foundation, 2007
* U.S. Census Bureau

The Chinese are watching

Advice from one of China's top bankers.

Some prime quotes:

  • "People, especially Americans, started believing that they can live on other people’s money. And more and more so. First other people’s money in your own country. And then the savings rate comes down, and you start living on other people’s money from outside. At first it was the Japanese. Now the Chinese and the Middle Easterners. We—the Chinese, the Middle Easterners, the Japanese—we can see this too. Okay, we’d love to support you guys—if it’s sustainable. But if it’s not, why should we be doing this? After we are gone, you cannot just go to the moon to get more money. So, forget it. Let’s change the way of living. [By which he meant: less debt, lower rewards for financial wizardry, more attention to the “real economy,” etc.]"
  • "How do I explain derivatives?, and I used the model of mirrors. When I told the State Council about the mirrors, they all started laughing. “How can you sell a mirror image! Won’t there be distortion?” But this is what happened with the American economy, and it will be a long and painful process to come down."
  • "And then tell your people that you need to save, and come out with a long-term, sustainable financial policy. "
  • "Be nice to the people that lend you money."
  • "The current conditions can’t go on. It is time for the new government, under Obama or even McCain, to really tell people: “Look, this is wartime, this is about the survival of our nation. It’s not about our supremacy in the world. Let’s not even talk about that any more. Let’s get down to the very basics of our livelihood.” "I have great admiration of American people. Creative, hard-working, trusting, and freedom-loving. But you have to have someone to tell you the truth. And then, start realizing it. And if you do it, just like what you did in the Second World War, then you’ll be great again! If that happens, then of course—American power would still be there for at least as long as I am living. But many people are betting on the other side. "
The Chinese are watching. What they see is a country that survives on borrowed money with a decaying infrastructure, decaying educational system, decaying health care system, collapsing industrial base, a nation whose economy for the past couple of decades has been a giant Ponzi scheme epitomized by Bernie Madoff. They watch as they see the same sort of arrogance that sunk the Japanese starting in 1941, the arrogance of a people who believe they are superior to everybody else in the world, who treat everybody else in the world like cr*p, and who refuse to admit reality even as the nation slides to ruin. The Chinese have been there a long time, and have a long memory. They've been studying hard from the sidelines and have distilled down the recipe that made America great -- hard-working frugality, industrial power, etc. -- and have a long-term plan to put themselves in that place. And now they're pretty much laughing because just as with the Japanese in 1941, who were warned by the Americans that their plans for a "Greater East Asian Prosperity Sphere" under Japanese rule would result in disaster, they know they can warn Americans all they want and Americans will no more change the direction they're going than the Japanese did in 1941. But warn they will, just for the sheer pleasure of being able to say "I told you so" when the lemmings follow their leaders right off the cliff.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Maybe this isn't so bad after all?

Anything that gets the tighty righties pants into a wad can't be all bad. Which is why I giggled to find in my inbox this morning that World Nut Daily, in an editorial by its editor, "Foamie" Farrah, is blasting Rick Warren for "embracing" the "evil" Obama by agreeing to give to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration. You can practically see the spittle flinging off of Farrah's face as he hurls the vitriol!

Heh. Wingnuts. The gift that keeps on giving.

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who's to blame for bad government?

Congressmen today actually spend most of their time soliciting bribes -- oops, "campaign contributions" -- for their next election run. One of my friends knows a congressman back home (no, not the congressman currently in the doghouse for soliciting prostitutes, nor the congressman recently defeated after stuffing bribe money into the freezer!), and said congressman complains he doesn't get to spend hardly any time back home nowdays talking to his constituents because he has to spend so much time rustling up the re-election cash or else risk a well-funded opponent taking up those bribes -- oops, "campaign contributions" -- and buying the office off of him.

Of course, this isn't the Congressman's fault. If we the people voted for the best man for the job, rather than for the guy who had the most campaign ads and spread the most money around for "get-out-the-vote" campaigns and etc., all the campaign spending in the world wouldn't matter. We'd research the candidates, check out their web sites (a very cheap source of both providing and receiving information), call their campaign office and find out their positions on the issues, etc., and we'd vote for the best man. But we the people don't do that. We vote for the guy with the most money for glitzy ads and the best content-free sound bites that sound good but when you look beneath are just empty nonsense, whether his or her initials are GWB, BHO, or DGBF. So we get the government we want -- and deserve. Then blame the politicians for the fact that, err, we voted for them. Sigh.

So now you know who is to blame for bad government. Just look in the mirror. Democracy. The theory that we the people know what we want, and deserve to get it good and hard. And if what we want is sparkle ponies and lies... well.

-- Badtux the Democracy Penguin

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lies within lies

Suddenly I don't know who killed who in the novel In the Deserts of the Heart. Nobody is what they seem to be. The bad guy might be pure evil, or he might be someone who loves his daughter very much and is crazy with worry about her. The victim might be a mother trying to protect her daughter from evil, or may be a crazy woman whose delusions are dangerous to her daughter. We don't even know our main protagonist's real name, and actually never will, and further on in the novel we get two different back-stories on her, both of which check out upon further checking but which are mutually incompatible and thus one of them is a well-set-up lie. About the only person who is exactly what she appears to be is the sheriff's favorite dispatcher and ex-Marine, Marlena. As our mystery woman comments, "you're like the desert. Nothing is hidden. Everything is there in front of you, the bones of the land out in plain view."

Whether I can pull this off... who knows. I'm just curious to see what happens next. Like I said, I had sketched out a general idea and plot and ending, but the characters seem to be wanting more morally ambiguous roles for themselves (i.e. in the last scene that I just wrote, our main character and "good guy" slaps a woman and says "You seem to be operating under the delusion that I'm a nice person. I'm not. Get in the car.") That's going to affect the plot, but I'm not sure how yet.

-- Badtux the Writer Penguin

To serve and protect

I, for one, am glad that our brave men in blue are protecting us from 12 year old honor students who are walking across their own lawn. Because if we allow 12 year old honor students to walk across their own lawn without someone jumping out of a van and grabbing them and shouting "You're a prostitute, you're coming with me!" and then beat them with a flashlight when they scream and shout for daddy, well, uhm, ah. Bad things will happen. Yessiree. Bad things. Like... like. Uhm. Help?

-- Badtux the Snarkless Penguin

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lizard people are real

Yes, lizard people.

At least, that's what the Minnesota ballot canvassing board said when looking at a challenged ballot. BTW, looks like Al Franken wins once all the challenged ballots are looked at and properly allocated to "Lizard People", Franken, or Coleman...

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

What did our Founding Fathers have against bears?

Look at that American Black Bear above. Notice his arms. He needs his arms. Bears use their arms to roll over logs to look for good things to eat underneath, and use their arms to scoop up those good things to eat and bring them closer to where their muzzle can snarf them down. They use their arms for climbing and for lots of other things. So why did our founding fathers write into our Constitution that we the people have the right to bear arms?

A more serious post on the same general topic later today ;-).

-- Badtux the Silly Penguin


Ear hygiene is very important to The Mighty Fang. Though he has not yet tried to clean my own ears with his Mighty Pink Tongue of Mass Grooming, he tries to do so with anything else feline or canine that he comes across, including some poor deranged old blind miniature poodle that he chased all around my apartment flicking his tongue at the poor old dear's ears, which, I must admit, were in dire need of grooming...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How do you want to die?

Death is inevitable. All of us die, in the end. The question is, what kind of death do you want? A death in a warm bed at home, surrounded by family and friends? A death in a cold, impersonal hospital bed? Burial in the family plot next to your father and mother and grandmother? Or dead of exposure on the streets with no known relatives or friends, to be later cremated and buried in an anonymous grave?

They were single and married, young and old, from San Jose and parts unknown. What tied them together is how they died: cold and alone on the streets of Silicon Valley, their lives now statistics, their stories never told. There were 55 of them, men and women as young as 18, as old as 76, all homeless people who died this year — more than ever before in Santa Clara County, according to the coroner's office. Forty-one people died on county streets — in a park, on a bench or tucked beneath a freeway overpass — last year.

And I notice that, once again, these human beings are as nameless in death as they were in life. I pointed this out last year that the Mercury News is not willing to give these poor souls even the minimal recognition that EHC Lifebuilders gives them by naming their names. Once again the Mercury News shows that the shame of the Silicon Valley is the shame of the Mercury News too -- rather than show us these people, they would prefer to hide them and pretend they don't exist except as a meaningless statistic, paper cutouts, not real people with names, people like you and me.

And why anybody should die shivering on the streets when we have literally thousands of empty office buildings and warehouse buildings all over this county any one of which could sleep literally thousands of people... well, nobody asks that question. We are the richest city in the richest state in the richest planet of this nation. We have the capability to make sure these people don't have to shiver in the dark and die alone under an overpass. What we lack is the will. Shame on us all.

-- Badtux the Housed Penguin

So what's the endgame?

That's a question asked below. What's the endgame of the current plan of our most evil oligarchs to turn America into Mexico North, with a small handful of filthy rich people (them) and the rest of Americans being impoverished peasants in the mud? And why don't our oligarchs realize that they'll be poorer if they impoverish the rest of America?

Well, my answer there is threefold: a) Some oligarchs don't care, because impoverished peasants will give them a servant class to relieve them of the burdens of child care, dressing themselves, cooking for themselves, etc. and the fact that they'll have only 1/10th the money after the Mexico North plan succeeds... well. They already have 100 times the money that they really need to live a good life, so why should they care? b) Some oligarchs (the majority) are simply stupid. They got their money the old fashioned way -- they inherited it. Paris Hilton is the smart one there, she at least figured out a way to make a few bucks of her own by being famous for being famous, but most of her compatriots haven't a clue. And c) Some oligarchs simply enjoy cruelty and feeling superior to other people, and don't care whether they're poorer under the Mexico North plan than they currently are.

The problem with Mexico North is that it's not a stable situation. People do not willingly starve to death. And with most arable farmland controlled by megacorporations today, it's impossible to send them off to be subsistence farmers. If you look at the real Mexico, you will see the instability. The only reason Mexico has not completely collapsed is that so many Mexicans fled to the U.S. and sent remittances home to keep their relatives from starving to death. But now that the U.S. economy is slowing, Mexico is disintegrating -- the drug gangs are taking over and executing judges and police officers and buying army brigades and threatening school children and even kidnapping kidnapping experts. And if you think Americans are too fat and lazy and complacent... well. When they're starving on the streets and desperate for their families' survival, when they have nothing to lose, they'll do the same things. And like the Roman aristocracy once the supply of grain to feed the masses of Rome was cut off, the aristocrats will be the ones who end up hanging from the neck amongst the ruins of American civilization.

So anyhow, that is why the goal of economic policy has to be close-to-full employment. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. And that's why the U.S. must have a thriving middle class rather than the Mexico North situation of a few super-rich and tons of impoverished people -- as I've pointed out previously, that's the only way to get sufficient consumption to keep everybody employed. Mexico North simply does not work if your goal is to create a stable wealth-creating society. You can prop it up with petrodollars for a while, as Saddam did, as Mexico did for many years, but the U.S. doesn't have petrodollars anymore... meaning that the Mexico North plan is not only bad for the majority of Americans. It's bad for the people who are trying to put into place. But will they see that? Probably not. They've never had to work for a living, they've never been hungry a day in their lives, they simply have no clue. So it goes...

-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

Do you understand what your pet is telling you?

According to an AP poll, Sixty-seven percent of pet owners say they understand their animals' barks, purrs and other sounds.

But that is not true of all people. The AP found Jane Starring, 48, of Barrington, R.I., who says she and her family are confounded by their 8-year-old cat, Flannel, who often chases people about the house meowing. "We're not sure we're making much progress understanding him," said Starring. "I don't know what his point is."

Which is the cat's point, I think. I.e., to annoy his servants with meaningless nonsense. Mencken is the same way, and I finally decided Mencken simply wanted someone to annoy. So I brought The Mighty Fang home to annoy him. Didn't work. Mencken mostly just ignores TMF, even when TMF whips out the mighty Pink Tongue of Mass Grooming and starts whipping Mencken's ears into shape, and Mencken still sometimes decides to just follow me around the house and meow at me meaninglessly when he has fresh food, fresh water, fresh kitty litter, and refuses to jump on my lap to be petted when I sit down. (He only jumps on my lap to be petted when I don't want him to).

Cats. Heh.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Talking with the Taliban

Folks talk about whether we ought to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban. Well, we're past that. Not because of idiotic neo-con screeds about how we can "win" in Afghanistan by cleaning up the Afghan "government". But, rather, because we're in the same position to negotiate with the Taliban today that Adolph Hitler was in to negotiate with the Soviet Union on April 29, 1945: I.e., a position of abject defeat. We've lost. We can't supply enough fuel and ammunition by air via the rough airstrips of Afghanistan to keep our troops fueled and moving, no more than the French could at Dien Bien Phu, and the Taliban have cut off the land logistics routes. This isn't Khe Sahn where we're bumping supplies a hundred miles over the jungle at low altitudes. Kirachi, the port in Pakistan where all our stuff gets unloaded off ships, is 700 miles and 5900 feet altitude from Kabul.

Any negotiation with the Taliban today will be similar to any attempt by Hitler on April 29 1945 to negotiate with the Soviets: a disdainful laugh, followed by the demand to unconditionally surrender. That's the reality of the situation. Unless we can get that land logistics route re-opened, there simply is no "there" there, and nothing to negotiate.

-- Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

Could wind and wave energy generation hurt the planet?

The problem with all technologies that harness wind, waves, currents is that they disrupt the normal flow of air or water. You are transferring energy from the air or water into electrical generators. What effect will that have on the weather, if there are wind farms all over slowing down the winds (for that is what wind farms do)? What effect will tidal generators have on ocean currents? Will these river current generators slow down the river so much that it increases salt intrusion into the oh-so-vital wetlands at the mouth of the river, thus causing environmental damage? I don't think people have thought this through enough, or even understand one of the fundamental laws of physics involved, the Law of Conservation of Energy (which applies to all non-nuclear energy transactions). Sure, the current small-scale experiments haven't done much bad other than kill a bunch of birds (eep!), but they're *small*...

One of the things I like about direct photovoltaics is that the only side effect they have during operation, assuming they're placed on rooftops and such rather than in giant farms out in the middle of usable land, is to reduce solar heating of the Earth's surface. This is is a Good Thing(tm) given that so many of man's modifications to the Earth increase solar heating of the Earth, such as all that black pavement in cities and all the CO2 we've belched into the atmosphere. The energy density is low, but the current energy usage of the average American is unsustainable anyhow so we're just going to have to learn to live with a lower energy usage. But some of these other technologies, my suspicion is that we'd have fewer effects on the environment from building nuclear power plants (eep!). Things that are "green" on the micro level aren't necessarily "green" on the macro level, and vice-versa...

-- Badtux the Energy Penguin

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Do all cats look annoyed?

That is the theory of Why Now commenter Kryten. However: The Mighty Fang would beg to disagree.

-- Badtux the Happy Cat Owned Penguin

Why do we need a middle class?

I mean, what's the problem with the Party of Hoover's "Mexico North" plan, where the top 1% of U.S. taxpayers are filthy rich and everybody else is really, really poor?

Well, the problem there is that the whole country is poorer at that point. The problem is that the investor class -- those who make more than is needed for a reasonable lifestyle -- don't consume all of their income. Instead, they stick it into bank accounts and stocks and such. So if you have an economy dominated by the investor class, what you have is an economy where consumption is a distant second to asset bubbles caused by a surplus of investment money. Indeed, this could be said to be a perfect depiction of what has happened to the U.S. economy after Ronald Reagan massively cut taxes on the investor class. We've seen one asset bubble after another happen as too much investment money chased too few assets, and no significant increase in consumption amongst the investor class.

If you're going to pump up consumption and thus demand, the best way to do it is to give the money to people who will spend it, rather than invest it. More money in the pockets of people who will not spend it adds nothing to demand. We're finding that out the hard way right now with $300B in TARP money to banks and $3T in Federal Reserve loans to all sorts of folks who, err, aren't spending it. We're back to Keynesian Economics 101 here -- unless you are putting money into the hands of people who will spend it, you might as well just shove it into an open pit and cover it up with topsoil, because it ain't doin' nothin' to foster consumption and thus generate economic activity.

A working economy requires a balance of investment and consumption, investors and consumers. If you have too much investment and not enough consumption, you end up poorer. If you have too much consumption and not enough investment, you end up poorer. Since Reagan, the U.S. has given special breaks to the investor class (e.g. the capital gains tax cuts, and the cuts in the top tax rates) and nothing to the consumer class, average hourly wages have declined for The result is the imbalanced economy we're currently enduring, which cannot continue because a poorer population simply cannot consume enough to keep everybody employed.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

The Harbour Report

Very interesting data here.

On average, including retiree benefits (which Honda, Toyota, etc. don't have to pay yet because they haven't been here 30 years yet and thus have no retirees), U.S. automakers pay $606 more per car in labor costs than Toyota/etc.'s , but this number will be reduced to $97/car once the UAW takes over the retiree health plan in 2011. GM's UAW plants appear to be more efficient than Toyota's non-UAW plants, thus giving the lie to the notion that "the UAW makes GM pump up their employment numbers" -- GM, for example, put 22.19 man-hours of assembly labor into each car last year, while Toyota put 22.36 man-hours of assembly labor into each car. See the graph on page 8 of the above-named report.

In short, saying that unions "bloat up the workforce" does not appear to be true for GM at least. The UAW is well aware that they must be competitive with the US-made "imports" and no longer does that kind of nonsense.

-- Badtux the Car Penguin

It must be noon

Pat Buchanan is right about how the "Toyota Republicans" seem to hate America and Americans. The Party of Herbert Hoover has sunk to new lows...

-- Badtux the "Even a stopped clock..." Penguin

How much does an average GM worker make?

Is it "$78 per hour"? Is it "$52 per hour"? Hmm?

Well, here's the truth: Toyota assembly line workers earn about $31 per hour on average, and GM assembly line workers earn about $29 per hour on average.

Reality is that right now Toyota's Georgetown KY plant has a labor cost advantage over GM of about $606 per car. By 2011, with already-negotiated agreements with the UAW that will take retiree health costs off of GM's books, that goes down to $96. In other words, the UAW and labor costs are not GM's problem. Neither is a lack of small cars to sell -- GM's small car lineup is pretty comparable to Toyota's with the exception that their smallest car is somewhere between the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Yaris in size, and of course they don't have a Prius competitor but the Prius is a pretty aweful car that sells only because Toyota has somehow sold folks that this rolling toxic waste dump is somehow "green" (the toxic heavy metals in a Toyota Prius are sufficient to make every pregnant woman in America bear children with two heads).

So what's the problem? Well, first, a dealer network incapable of selling those small cars (GM's dealers are "good ole' boys" more comfortable selling pickup trucks to folks with shit on their boots than small cars to urbanites), and, more importantly, the utter collapse of GMAC (which cannot finance cars because of their losses on sub-prime mortgages) meaning that they can no longer give those 0% financing deals that the Japanese makes can still give, have a far bigger share of blame here than product mix. GM's product mix certainly isn't compelling, there's nothing to make you buy a Chevy over a Toyota, but it is good enough to keep them in business for many years to come assuming they can continue to develop new cars and, most importantly, can stay in business for the next year (!).

As for all those morons continuing to claim that GM's problems are labor costs, all I got for you:

I got nothin' but that for dishonest liars. Got it? And blaming GM's line workers for its problems is just class warfare by the "entitled" class, who are upset that some folks are able to make a good living putting cars together. That upsets their stomach because their vision of America is Mexico North -- a small horrifically wealthy upper class, with everybody else being horrifically poor. That way they can have cheap servants again. Which is all they care about. If that's your vision of America, fine, watch GM go down the drain and we're another step there. If you think America needs a functioning middle class to be a nation worth existing, though, dumping GM down the drain is the wrong step to take.

-- Badtux the Numbers Penguin

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The final death of Milton Friedman

Zero percent interest for the Federal Reserve funds rate.

We have now reached the limits of Milton Friedmanesque conservative monetarism. You can't go below zero percent interest unless you actually *pay* people to take your money, and for some reason folks aren't willing to do that. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explained in one of his papers from the early 1980's, at zero percent in a deflationary environment, people will simply stuff greenbacks under their mattresses.

So we've done everything possible on the supply side, and arrived at liquidity trap, where we're pushing on a string but the string is going nowhere because there's no demand pulling on its other end. Beyond this point, all that is left is Keynesian demand-side stimulus spending. Paul Krugman points that out in his papers and his latest book. The question is whether our politicians, in the pay of wealthy oligarchs who stand to benefit greatly by snapping up the remaining assets of the nation for cheap when deflation makes it impossible for us to pay our debts, will have the guts to implement such bold policy proposals or will allow themselves to be cowed by the failed Friedman disciples of the "Chicago School", whose ideas have reached the limits of applicability once we enter the reign of zero percent interest and deflation.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Oh yeah, about TARP...

Yay, cops with machine guns

Given how lousy cops perform with handguns (on average, 75% of shots fired by police officers at suspects miss their intended target), is this a good idea?

Cops with machine guns. [shudder]. Just like every other third-world nation, I suppose... sigh.

-- Badtux the Ducking Penguin
Erm, given that machine guns tend to ride *up* when firing, the safest place to be when one of these legends in their own mind start firing off bursts is on the ground.

Mortgage market news

Housing prices here have finally fallen to the point where I could afford to buy something worth buying. Only problem: Nobody will lend money with less than 10% down and a 740 credit score. And I can only managed 5% down at the moment.

Sigh. Six more months of scrimping and saving before I can afford to buy...

-- Badtux the Unhoused Penguin
(who is sick of apartment living).

Rain, rain, rain

It's been drizzling rain for pretty much four days straight here in Babylon By The Bay, but at least we don't have this weather:

-- Badtux the Soggy Penguin

In the deserts of the heart

Finally got back to work on it. Marlena just went at it with her mom (she always goes and mooches the washer and dryer at her mom's house rather than use the washateria, ostensibly to save money, in reality it's more complicated than that the way things can be between daughter and mother sometimes), Sheriff Ray talked to Jerry Rawlings (who, remember, had a red pickup truck smash through his gate) and got the description of the pickup truck and the guy driving it, and talked to Bendigo Bob out at the old ghost town and found that the guy, who ole' Bob describes as "looked a bit like Charlie Manson, sorta runty guy with long hair and crazy eyes" (and Bob should know because Charlie used to stop by his place from time to time back in the day) got sent Jerry's way because the guy told Bob that he was looking for a place a woman might be staying and Bob decided that maybe Jerry might teach him a lesson about respecting the privacy of folks out in the desert. Then the Sheriff mentioned the woman and child who had been at the Hobbit mine and asked if he'd seen them, and Bob allowed as how he might have, and gave the Sheriff a bit of a description although he's in his 70's and his eyesight isn't so good so he isn't even quite sure whether the kid is a girl or a boy. Not much help, but a little. So anyhow, the Sheriff has now gone and checked out a number of prime camping spots to see if the guy in the red pickup truck is still lurking around the valley, and come up empty, so he's heading back to the office. BTW, shift change has of course happened at dispatch, and there's a dispatch that the Sheriff should have gotten, but the new dispatcher hasn't bothered reading the log book to find out she's supposed to tell the Sheriff about it. But the Sheriff will of course get it once he gets back to the office and picks a copy of it off his desk.

Meanwhile, our mystery woman, back at her cabin, has put on a backpack, pulled out a camouflage net, and had a flashback. A short one luckily. So now she's discovered the old mining trail that the *other* mystery woman, the one at the mine, used to get across the ridge separating her cabin from the next canyon over, and she's gone over that mining trail and set herself up camouflaged on the other side. I'll be interested to see what happens with that one... but I think we're about to find out who our second mystery woman (the one with the kid) is, and what she's doing out there.

And yeah, I know how the story ends. And it's not a happy ending, both a good guy and a bad guy get killed. And there's a mystery still unsolved at the end that drives the Sheriff and Marlena both halfway crazy that they can't solve it, and hopefully the reader too, but that's how life works sometimes. So eventually they just have to accept it, and move on as best they can.

As for whether I write another novel that solves that unsolved mystery, or even divulge the answer to the unsolved mystery... nope :-). Not that I'm exactly sure of the answer anyhow. It's complicated. There's wheels within wheels and every time the Sheriff and Marlena think they've arrived at the answer, it turns out they're wrong, or maybe not wrong, they just can't tell what is true and what is not by the time they get to the end because there's all these things they think they know but they contradict each other. Hmm...

-- Badtux the Summary Penguin

Monday, December 15, 2008

Can't add anything to that

Fuck you, Congress. Just fuck you.

-- Badtux the Out-ranted Penguin

The insurgency is in its last throws

Watch an Iraqi journalist say "shoo!" to George W. Bush. Watch George W. Bush duck with as much agility as he ducked service in Vietnam.

Yep, ole' Georgie still has his duckin' moves...

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Obama calendar

So Obama wants me to send a donation to get an official Obama calendar. One question: WHY? I mean, puh-LEEZE. He's a politician, not the goddamned messiah, for cryin' out loud.

Sorry, Obamarama, I'm putting a calendar with cats up on my wall. As soon as I find a good one, one with feral or stray cats on it rather than cute kittens (sorry, this penguin does not do "cute").

- Badtux the Calendar-less Penguin

Yelp rocks

It's not just for restaurants anymore: airport parking in San Jose.

Yeah, I might be getting scarce here in a bit... going to get myself groped and anally probed by the Department of Vaterland Security, oh joy, just for the privilege of traveling from point A to point B at faster speeds than Nike sneakers can get me. Get to show my internal passport a.k.a. "driver's license" four times for the privilege of traveling in a narrow vibrating tube, get to have all my goods searched without a warrant (and anything expensive stolen) for this privilege, etc. Just like travelling in the good ole' USSR, when you needed your internal passport to go anywhere and always had people in bad uniforms grumping to see your papers anytime you tried to do anything more adventurous than walk from your apartment block to the grocer's. Let's see, who won the Cold War again? Oh yeah, that's right, there's no longer a need for the Soviet Union when Soviet America is up and going, yessiree!

-- Badtux the Sovok Penguin

Sunday, December 14, 2008


It is cold outside, and raining. So what is my idiot black cat doing? He's huddling on the patio, looking quite contented to just stare back at me (on the warm side of the patio door) rather than come back in.

I swear, sometimes that cat is as stubborn as a teenager who declares "I don't need a coat!" right before heading out into a blizzard...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Be back later...

... just got a couple of new (to me) Carl Hiaasen novels and am laughing too hard to be my normal snarkily nasty self. Bye!

-- Badtux the Literate Penguin

Sun, sand, and SS

This sounds like a creepy place to go on vacation... a former Nazi resort / hospital / East German military base? Nevermind how fine the sand is... that's just creepy.

View Larger Map

-- Badtux the Creeped-out Penguin

Caturday action photos

My kittehs were out on the patio sunning themselves, so I decided to go outside and take some photos. The Mighty Fang disagrees, stating quite bluntly that my job is to be inside available in case he wishes to sit on my lap: So of course I rush back upstairs and sit in my chair near the patio door with lap available and say "here, kitty kitty!". At which point...

I guess he showed me who's boss, eh?

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

And for some more pleasant Caturday bloggin'...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Friday, December 12, 2008

The party of Hoover strikes again

Hundreds of billions of dollars given to banks and finance companies with no strings attached. But when it comes to working people... not a dime.

Even Ford, Toyota, and Honda want GM and Chrysler bailed out. Ford, Toyota, and Honda don't need bailing out -- they have dough, they have cars that are selling, they have government support in their home country (for Toyota and Honda) or they're family-owned and thus have been taking the long view for a while now (for Ford) -- but if GM and Chrysler go, that takes out the entire supplier network needed by Ford, Toyota, and Honda. If they can't buy seats, seat belts, airbags, and other such necessities for their cars because the suppliers have liquidated (few suppliers are big enough for Chapter 11 to make sense), they can't make cars.

But hey, let's bash working men and women. Like those UAW workers who make $14 an hour (for new hires) to $34 an hour (for people with 20 years) or roughly the same as at the Honda and Toyota plants. Because the Party of Hoover knows what the real problem is. The real problem isn't a credit crunch and economic problems that has led to people not being able to buy cars regardless of who makes them (Toyota and Honda's sales are down even more than Ford's). No, the problem is people earning an honest day's wage.

And so the Party of Hoover once again sends four million people to the breadlines and leads us into a new Great Depression... and of course Harry Reid didn't have the balls to make them actually filibuster. Nosiree. Why, that might have been RUDE or somethin'...

-- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

More evidence the economy is heading down the tubes...

My landlord put an envelope on my door today offering to extend my lease by 18 months at the current terms. My lease expires on May 15 of next year. I.e., basically, my landlord is saying he expects rents to go down for the next two years... which is only going to happen if the economy goes *splat*!

As for whether I should do it or not... well. I'll have to calculate some pros and cons to figure that one out...

-- Badtux the Economy Penguin

Some interesting economics geekery

Economics professor Brad Delong: On Not Making The Same Mistakes We Made In The Great Depression.

Paul Krugman Nobel Prize Presentation

Paul Krugman Nobel Prize Lecture

Paul Krugman Nobel Prize Interview

Another Paul Krugman Nobel Prize Interview (telephone)

That ought to keep your head explodin' for a while... better than sitting there thinking gloomily about the fact that jobless claims are at a 26 year high. In December, no less, when everybody is supposed to be staffing up for the Christmas shopping season!

And oh yeah, the tighty righty's favorite answer to every economics issue (economy good? Tax cuts! Economy bad? tax cuts!) did not work. And cannot work in a deflationary environment, because they just go to pay off creditors. A deflationary environment is a mechanism for transferring wealth from the working class (you and me) to the creditor class (the oligarchs who rule us). That's how it worked in the Great Depression -- the oligarchs got filthy rich by repossessing the homes of people and then buying them at auction for pennies on the dollar -- and that's how it still works today. The answer is a) return the monetary policy to being an *inflationary* policy, which allows merchants to sell goods for more than what they paid for them, and b) jobs, jobs, jobs, so that people can consume and thus stimulate economic activity. Anything else is just repeating the mistakes of the Great Depression.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Boston Pee Party II

For some reason I missed the outcome of the cops threatening to kill a young girl for the crime of possessing batteries, some LED's, and a clay star. But Boing Boing didn't. The story.

American "justice". Yessiree.

-- Badtux the "American 'justice' = Velveeta 'cheese' " Penguin

Friday Guest Cat Prey Blogging

Somehow I suspect that The Mighty Fang and Mencken would not bother stalking this guy... he looks like he might be mean.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Friday Comedy Video Blogging

Robin Williams is da man here:

-- Badtux the Laughing Penguin

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And on the previous thought...

The Fort Dix Trial is wrapping up. This is where four goofballs are accused of threatening to blow up Fort Dix, despite having no explosives, no weapons (unless you call a paintball gun a weapon -- ooh, beware the Paint of Mass Destruction!), no weapons training, nothing, nada. Just a lot of machismo no different from what you see from ghetto punks boasting about they're gonna pop a cap in some copper's back. There'd be a whole helluva lot of dead cops if boasting was deadly, and a whole lot of folks in jail if boasting was jail-worthy... but oh, I forget. Those boasting gangsta rappas ain't MUSLIM, so that means it's okay. Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Thought for today

American justice is to justice what Velveeta is to cheese.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Velveeta is a "processed cheese product" which contains less than 51% cheese -- the rest is stuff like whey and such.

Web Sites That Suck

Intel. Every year their web site seems to get more ramshackle, more disorganized, more difficult to find anything on it.

All I wanted to do was look up some information on the latest Atom low-power ultra-mobile processors, and, specifically, to compare the features of the various Atom families to see which ones would be best for my application. Instead, I got trapped in a maze of obscure plugins and even more obscure product-family names. I just want my data, I don't want to have to look up obscure Intel code names for processor that everybody just calls "Atom"! Is that too much to ask? Apparently so... sigh.

-- Badtux the Engineer Penguin

A real scientist in the White House!

Well, at the White House briefing table, anyhow. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steve Chu is Obama's pick for Department of Energy, the first scientist ever to be appointed to a Cabinet position. His pet project these past few years has been ARPA-E, a federal program to develop new alternative-energy technologies. He got it passed through Congress, but Bush never appointed a head for the new program nor spent the money allocated on it for energy research. Next month, though...

For more, see Eli Kintisch over at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's science blog...

-- Badtux the Science-lovin' Penguin

Once again into the breach...

Saw the idiotic "hackers can shut the power grid down" nonsense elsewhere to justify putting the National Guard in charge of "cyber-security" (as if a M-16 can stop a computer virus!). GAH!

Okay, first of all, the power grid predates the Internet by, like, a whole fucking century, and secondly, most of the important power lines in the power grid are nowhere near any kind of Internet access. And thirdly, our power grid is so fucking backward here in the United States that half the time when someone needs to switch power from one trunk line to another, someone has to actually go into the field with a goddamned pole and bang some big-ass blade switch (up on the tower) manually to do the dirty deed.

My brother works in the industrial controls field and reports that his customers use dedicated cell phones and dedicated phone lines (with modems) to communicate back to the central office for those things that are computerized. Because nobody is gonna run a goddamned DSL line to a goddamned power substation when a fucking POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) line with a modem will work just as well for what they need to do. You know those movies where you got white-lab-coated scientists in front of gleaming consoles controlling the power grid while sitting in front of video monitors showing video of major power substations? Those are fucking movies, dudes. Reality is a lot less interesting.

Reality is that the main threat to our power grid is thunderstorms, closely followed by squirrels, not hackers. Well, that and the whole ramshackle run-down state of the whole goddamned power grid, which has gotten only sporadic updates over the past forty years and has a tendency to collapse if you fucking yell "Boo!" in the direction of a power substation...

-- Badtux the Rude Penguin

Holy culturally inappropriate names, Batman!

Ah yes, we all know about the bummer sales of the Chevy Nova in Latin America ("no va" means, literally, "It doesn't go" in Spanish), and the whole Engrish phenomenon. But driving to work today, I saw a new example.

Ahead of me was a typical food service truck with a giant goofily grinning white teddy bear head painted on the back roll-up tailgate. The goofily grinning white teddy bear had a white chef's hat on his head (clue that it was a food service truck, heh!). And under this teddy bear was a single word:


WTF? What does a vacant-headed female have to do with anything?! So I zoomed alongside the truck while exiting and saw the full-sized teddy bear on the side, dancing with his white chef's hat and still with that goofy grin on his face, and the big word 'Bimbo' beside him (or her). And then on the front door of the truck, the words: Tía Rosa.

Mystery solved. This truck is owned by Mexico's Grupo Bimbo, which bought several U.S. brands a few years ago. Bimbollo in Spanish means "bun" in English. Thus the chef's hat. Still, hillarious as hell to watch a bimbo bear toodle down the 101 freeway, heh!

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

Updated: Found a picture of the goofy bear!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday night shoegazer time

Chill, folks.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

I can haz WMD?

The slobbering morons at the Hoover Institute, established by the worst President evah (though George W. Bush may have displaced him), now inform us that... spam and viruses are as deadly as nuclear weapons.

Really? I haven't noticed spam making me glow in the dark. I've never seen spam kill anybody. Spam is like the common goddamned cold, for cryin' out loud -- it's always out there, and it can make you miserable, but you simply don't die from the shit.

But none of that matters to the drooling cretins at the Hoover Institute, cretins so moronic that they propose that KIDS with M-16's be deployed to fight spam. WTF? What goddamned good is siccing the National Guard on spammers going to do? What we need to do is sic law enforcement on them -- and if any ISP's don't cooperate, shut them down. If they're overseas ISP's, cut them off -- no (zero) access to the civilized world from their IP address ranges. I mean, this isn't rocket science, folks. We know how to take down spammers. It's just that they've been hiding behind foreign ISP's. Well, there's an easy way to handle that -- simply cut off any ISP which refuses to cooperate in taking down spammers -- but our backbone providers here in the United States won't do it, and thus far there's no law to make'em do it. But we can fix that. We don't need the goddamned National Guard to handle this thing. I mean, we got tens of thousands of paramilitary policemen on SWAT teams all around the country who can slam through ISP doors with their jackboots to force them to comply with court orders perfectly well, thank you.

So what are the dunce boys from the Hoover Institute up to? Hell if I know. I suppose they needed to write something to get their next quarter's Wingnut Welfare, and this is the drool they dribbled to justify their Wingnut Welfare. But the fact that there's people who might actually take this bullshit seriously -- who think a virus or spam can actually, well, kill people, just like atomic bombs -- sorta rankles this here penguin who grew up under the runway of a major SAC airbase knowin' he was gonna fuckin' die if the Soviets ever decided to actually launch their missiles (we didn't practice duck-and-cover in our city, there was no fuckin' point, we were all deader than Richard Nixon and Zombie Ronald Reagan if the big one lit off and we damn well knew it). Morons. Cretins. Idiots. GAH! THE STUPID! IT BURNS, IT BURNS!

-- Badtux the "Virus=nuke?!" Penguin

Below: A typical Hoover Institute resident scholar performs a study of adding seafood to one's diet, and finds it a bit more difficult than expected...

funny pictures of cats with captions

Rev. Jesse Jackson tried to buy a Senate seat for his son?

Seems to be the case. $1.5 million to Governor Blagojevich in exchange for a Senate seat? Huh.

Note that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. says he knows nothing about any $1.5 million for a Senate seat. He wouldn't, of course. Just as Obama wouldn't know anything about Blagojevich trying to shake down the Obama team for dough in exchange for appointing Obama's preferred successor. Successful machine politicians (as vs. morons like Blagojevich) have people for that sort of thing, people whose entire job is to make sure that things of this sort don't touch their principal. If Rahm Emmanuel got a solicitation for a bribe from Blagojevich and swiftly narc'ed on Blagojevich in retaliation for Blago's presumption in trying to shake down the Boss, you can bet that Obama knew nothing about this. That's how machine politicians operate, they make sure their people know exactly what to do when anything happens that might tarnish the principal, and one of the things NOT to do is to disclose to the principal is that the knife in the back of the presumptuous turd has Rahm Emmanuel's fingerprints all over it...

-- Badtux the Mildly Amused Penguin

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Somehow I missed this...

Forest J. Ackerman passed away December 4.

If you don't know who Forrie was, don't bother. At one time he had the largest collection of science fiction items in the world. Then he got bankrupted by winning a lawsuit and had to liquidate it. Yes, that's the U.S. legal system... the person he won the lawsuit against declared bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court wiped out the judgement and voila, suddenly Forrie had to pay $400K worth of legal expenses out of his own pocket. Some "justice".

So that was Forrie, and that was his later years, pretty much forgotten, his prized collection sold off at garage sales to make ends meet, eventually dying in a small rental home after he had to sell his "Ackermansion" because of winning the lawsuit. Yeppers, the American Dream at work, eh?

-- Badtux the Obituary Penguin

But he isn't gay...

The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejects Larry Craig's appeal of his restroom stall toe tappin' finger wavin' disorderly conduct conviction. Seems they're unconvinced that Larry's intention were anything other than soliciting gay sex from the guy in the next stall.

But Larry's not gay. Nosirree! He's just, uhm... got a wide stance! Yeah!

Updated with video:

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Politics, Chicago style

Traditionally, an outgoing senator who has been elected or appointed to a higher office is granted great deference by the governor who appoints his successor. If the outgoing senator wants candidate X to be appointed for the remainder of his term of office, the governor usually appoints candidate X.

Not Governor Blagojevich of Illinois though. Obama recommended his successor to Blagojevich -- then Blagojevich tried to shake him down for bribes. Obama refused to be bribed. Blagojevich called Obama a motherfucker for refusing to give Blagojevich a bribe.

Now, here's the thing about Chicago-style politics. You don 't ever, *ever* try to stick up someone who has the goods on you. And you are damned tootin' right that Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had the goods on Blagojevich. Speculation is that Blagojevich got narced on by Rahm The Knife because the shakedown attempt pissed Rahm off, thus the arrest of Blagojevich.

Ah yes, Chicago politics. The gift that keeps on giving.

-- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

Monday, December 08, 2008

Obama is not a natural born American

Well, at least that's what the lunatic fringe of the right wing is saying. That birth certificate that is posted on Obama's web site and has been held by actual reporters? Lies. All lies. The fact that the State of Hawaii says that it's the real birth certificate and that they have the original on file? More lies. And so on and so forth. Whatever inconvenient facts you bring up, they always have some way to "discredit" it.

So, let's have a little contest:

  1. Obama has a U.S. passport and has travelled extensively for decades using that passport. U.S. passports are only issued once the State Department verifies with your state of birth that the birth certificate that you presented with your application for a U.S. passport is in fact legitimate. Your job: Come up with a conspiracy theory explaining why the State Department issued Obama a passport even though he was actually born in Kenya or Indonesia or on Mars.
  2. Hillary Clinton and John McCain both ran dirty ugly campaigns against Obama, accusing him of everything under the sun, of being a closet Communist, a terrorist sympathizer, whatever. Your job: Come up with a conspiracy theory explaining why neither Hillary Clinton nor John McCain accused Obama of not being a natural born American and thus not Constitutionally qualified to be President.
It's an ugly job, I know, coming up with bizarro conspiracy theories for the benefit of right wing lunatics. But it's a necessary job, since they're dense as a stone and would never come up with these lunatic conspiracy theories on their own. We must make sure that the right wing morons thoroughly discredit their cause by spouting the most insane crap possible. I know it's a hard task, my friends and neighbors, but your country is depending on you! Conspire away!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Monday shoegazer music blogging

Slowdive, Ballad of Sister Sue:

Mazzy Star, Fade into You:

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Some days you just can't make this shit up

If I'd written this into one of my novels, critics would have jumped all over me for lack of realism:

Immigration & Customs Enforcement official arrested for hiring illegal aliens to clean her house.

Wow. So this lady, Lorraine Henderson, was in charge of keeping illegal aliens out of America. Except the ones she wanted in America because she needed a cheap housekeeper, apparently. And don't say that she didn't know that her housecleaner was an illegal alien, because she's on tape threatening her housekeeper with deportation if she doesn't do a good job of cleaning the house... color me suprised. Well, not so much. Corrupt Bush Administration official? Dude! That's like saying "macaroni and cheese"... you'd be surprised if you didn't find the word "corrupt" near the words "Bush Administration official"!

-- Badtux the Not-surprised Penguin

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My day

I went hiking today, sort of. I spent four hours hiking the dikes at the SF Bay wildlife refuge, trying out my new camera and GPS. Oh yeah, the GPS. Delorme PN-40 GPS, which allows downloading color (or black-and-white) aerial photos plus 1:24000 scale USGS topo maps and layering them on the display. It's like having Google Earth in your palm. Works damned brilliant. This is basically their PN-20 grown up, with better speed and more reliable hardware and software. Their PN-20 was brilliant but the technology didn't exist back then to do it right. The PN-40 solves that problem and worked brilliantly for hiking those dikes, which don't show up on any maps but show up just fine on the color aerial photography.

Hmm.... oh yeah, the photographs... I took lots of photos of aquatic waterfowl. But this photo of a groundhog (?) is one of the most interesting I took because of the clarity of the photo and the interesting colors. Shows what the new camera is capable of doing...


After that, I ordered a pizza, and re-read Carol O'Connell's novel Crime School. Just as brilliant the second time around. I'm a sucker for O'Connell's New York Gothic and her sociopathic detective with the blond hair and bright green eyes, and can admire O'Connell's techniques too when I'm not cribbing them, e.g. the way she never tells all of the story and always leaves something hanging to drive you mad and make you want to buy the next novel in the series. Real life is like that, full of mysteries you never know the answers to. The Mallory novels are not "real life" by any means -- maybe Kathy really could fly (the swingset video and the exploding video seem to point that way, as unlikely as it seems to all the characters in the story) -- but O'Connell pulls it off anyhow. And now you know who I crib from for trying to make my own unlikely heroines work, heh.

-- Badtux the Nature Penguin