Monday, February 28, 2011

Newt the Lizard's conversion to Catholicism

I'd think that Newt Gingritch was sincere about his purported "conversion to Catholicism" if he actually embraced Catholic social teaching.

Note that Catholic social teaching holds that citizens have a fundamental right to life and to the necessities of life. In addition, according to Catholic social teaching, every human has the right to what is required to live a full and decent life, things such as employment, health care, and education. Waiting for New the Lizard to agree with the Pope’s teachings on this… 3… 2…. 1…. err. No? Alrighty, then!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Talkin' about guns

This is one of those conversations that is a no-win. Some folks like their guns. They like stroking their guns. They like waving their guns around and feeling the breeze on their guns. They don't feel like a man unless they have their gun close at hand. And that's their right as an American, to love their guns. So what. I really don't care as long as they don't wave their gun in my direction -- I don't bend that way, if ya know what I mean.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Paisly dream

This one is almost impossible to find, because it's David Roback's second band, Opal, with Kendra Smith doing the singing duties on "Here the wind blows". Nothing of theirs is still in print, mostly because Kendra Smith has basically disappeared into the woods of Northern California, where my suspicion is that she's doing things of a pharmaceutical nature (heh) while playing Earth Mother.

You might better remember David Roback's third band, Mazzy Star. Kendra Smith was about halfway through Opal's first tour when she suddenly decided she didn't want to be in a band anymore, and went home. Robacks then asked one of Kendra's acquaintances, Hope Sandoval, to finish the tour as singer with them, and the band renamed themselves to Mazzy Star after the end of the tour.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Homeless man starves to death in front of Wal-Mart

And nobody notices for days that he's dead, until, likely, a tow truck driver is sent to remove the van, and the smell of dead rotting human causes them to call the police.

This is America. This is what America is like today. Forget all the bullshit about community and charity and compassion and helping hands, if you're poor you have the cooties, the only hand you'll get is the grudging one you get from pestering people until they give you money to go away, if not the back of a hand across your face. And heavens help you if you have too much pride to pester people asking for assistance...

-- Badtux the American Penguin

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why does California have a net outflow of people?

It's been the case since about 2003 that more people leave California than come to California from other states. The crash of the dot-com bubble explains 2003, but what about since then?

Demographers say that the primary problem is high cost of living, the most important of which is the high cost of housing. It's not taxes, because if the problem was taxes, the wealthy (who stand to gain more by moving to lower-tax states) would exit the state at a higher rate than the poor. The opposite is true -- 1.73% of California's poor outmigrate, while only 1.09% of California's wealthy outmigrate. Furthermore a smaller percentage of the wealthy who do outmigrate go to low-tax states as compared to the poor. In short, the data simply does not support the supposition that taxes cause the majority of the outmigration, because if the problem was taxes, the rich (who do pay more money as taxes) would outmigrate to low-tax states in higher numbers than the poor do.

So why does California have higher housing prices? Part of that is the market distortions caused by Proposition 13, which provides a disincentive to buy and sell when your family's needs change (due to a new kid, or the kids leaving home), since you'll pay higher taxes on your new (smaller or larger) home than you paid on your old (grandfathered) home. This results in fewer homes on the market, and thus higher housing prices than would otherwise exist.

Still, that cannot explain the full reason for high housing prices, because the Central Valley of California has significantly lower housing prices than the coastal job centers, and has traditionally been perhaps 10% more expensive than the rest of the country. Yet housing prices in the San Francisco Bay area are often as much as three times more expensive than the rest of the country. The 2010 median home price in the U.S. was $168,000, while the 2010 median for the California Bay Area was $375,000 (Source: U.S. Association of Realtors) -- 2.23 times the national average. What gives?

Well, it's like this: The wealthy individuals who create new companies in California prefer to live in the milder climate and nicer scenery of the coastal areas rather than in the blazingly hot desert that is summer weather in the Central Valley. The core problem we run into then is geography. There are only three large areas of coast in California that can be developed -- the San Francisco Bay area, the Los Angeles / Orange County area, and the San Diego area -- the rest of the coast is mountains with only small flat areas such as around Monterrey Bay that cannot support a large population. And all three of these areas are largely built out -- in Contra Costa County, for example, every flat area of land with the exception of some salt ponds along the coast are built out. The salt ponds are below sea level, which means that homes cannot be built there without being built upon expensive landfill with expensive foundations that have stilts down to firmer soil, which basically restricts these salt ponds to commercial development or to parkland. As for the notion that "most of Contra Costa is zoned for greenbelts", well, yes -- but the greenbelt areas are the coastal mountains which are largely unbuildable due to the San Andreas Fault, landslides caused by all the faulting (since the underlying rock has been fractured by centuries of earthquakes and will slide if you breathe hard on it), and simple steepness of the geography, which makes it extremely expensive to build anything in these areas. Thus as landowners moved away from ranching, they've sold or donated their property to the state or county for preservation as natural areas.

In other words, supply and demand says that housing in the three coastal metropolitan areas will always be more expensive than in most of the nation because a) that's where the jobs are due to the decision makers preferring to live in those areas, and b) thus there will typically be more people who want to live there than there are houses for them. What that means is that during times of a growing economy when these three areas are adding jobs, there will be net inmigration. When the economy is stagnant or declining, there will be net outmigration as people lose their jobs and are forced to return back home to their low-living-expense states. And in fact the data appears to support that. The San Francisco Bay area has experienced net job loss in the lower income job categories over the past ten years. And it's primarily the lower income people who've left for lower-expense areas.

And at this point I'm drowning in data, so I'll let you go. But the salient point is this: High taxes are *not* a cause of people leaving California. Rather, high living expenses -- primarily driven by the cost of housing -- is the major cause of outmigration from California. Anybody who tells you high taxes are causing the loss is saying that based on ideology, because the facts simply do not support such a statement. But then, I keep forgetting, the facts have a liberal bias :).

-- Badtux the Reality-based Penguin


Danish band Our Broken Garden's song "Seven Wild Horses", off their album In the Woods. Almost the definition of Nordic euro-pop -- eccentric female singer with pipes, electronica, dance beat, the works. Not exactly my usual cup of indie tea, but hey, even a penguin needs a change of pace from time to time :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

My apologies...

...for the poor editing of the prior two posts. I have a massive headache, the kind that makes even your vision blur. It's hard to effectively edit your posts when you can barely see them :(.

-- Badtux the Pained Penguin

More libertard zombie lies

And now here go the libertards again, claiming that "businesses are fleeing California due to high taxes". Err.... no. We have two separate studies on this over the past ten years. Businesses aren't fleeing California for *any* reason, taxes or no. The the vast majority of businesses closing shop in California are doing so due to bankruptcy, not taxes. Furthermore, 40% of new venture-funded companies are in California -- California is still by far the preferred state to start a new company in. F

Furthermore, California's tax rates for corporations and the wealthy aren't even that onerous, due to California's generally non-progressive tax scheme. From a standpoint of the wealthy, the top 1% pay only 7.4% of their income as state and local taxes (the bottom pays 20% pays 10.2% of their income as taxes), which is pretty much middle of the pack (look through the data in that paper and you'll see that the top 1% pays on average around 7% of their income as state and local taxes of all sorts). California's statutory corporate income tax rate of 8.84% also isn't out of the ordinary, being somewhat in the middle of the pack (still looking for effective tax rate, but given that California gives billions in tax breaks to corporations (whether it's the bogus "enterprise zones" or "pay taxes only on sales within California" break), it'll be somewhat lower. As I previously pointed out, corporate property taxes have been shifted to individuals due to various tax shelters available with Proposition 13 (the "partnership" shelter being the big one -- by leasing your building from a "partnership" which has held ownership of it since initial construction, you lock in your property taxes at its initial construction rate). The end result of all this is that California does have high taxes -- if you're in the bottom 20% of taxpayers. For everything else, California's in the middle of the pack.

So there's the facts. There's no evidence that a) California has high taxes on corporations or the rich, or that b) high taxes are causing corporations or the rich to flee California. Indeed, the evidence explicitly contradicts both assertions. Yet the zombie lies still get repeated time after time by zombie liars.... it is to laugh, if it wasn't for the fact that they're so effective at catapaulting their propaganda lies via repitition after repetition, until the majority think their lies are true.

-- Badtux the Fact-based Penguin

Corporate Smaugs

Guess what. If you paid $5 in income tax last year, you paid more income tax than CitiBank, JPMorganChase, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Boeing, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and probably a shitload of other big corporations--combined!

As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, corporations paid 30% of income taxes paid in 1950, and 7% of income taxes paid today. Who pays the 23% that corporations no longer pay? Look in the mirror!

At this point the libertarian fucktards say, "Corporations don't pay taxes. The taxes are passed along to the purchaser of their goods and/or services or a reduction is made in the dividend payout to the stockholders. Either way, people pay. Lower the corporate tax rate to zero and see how may jobs are created." At which point, I say... wha the fuck? First of all, corporations don't set prices. The *MARKET* sets prices. Secondly, you stupid ass libertard motherfucker, CORPORATIONS do not create jobs. *DEMAND* creates jobs. Corporations are sitting on TRILLIONS of dollars of money right now (at least $1.7T according to the Federal Reserve) and NOT CREATING A SINGLE GODDAMNED JOB WITH IT because, look. Libertards seem to be ignorant of the most rudimentary and FUNDAMENTAL law of business, which is that YOU DON'T HIRE UNLESS YOU GOT DEMAND TO JUSTIFY HIRING because the whole POINT of a business is to maximize profits. Corporations are not welfare agencies. They don't hire people just out of the goodness of their hearts. They hire people because they HAVE to hire people, otherwise they have no product to sell. And if demand for their product is low, it doesn't matter HOW many trillions in tax breaks you give them -- they will hire NO workers. None. Zero. Nada. ZILCH.

You don't have to believe me. In fact, please DON'T believe me. Believe the actual DATA. Because the DATA says that anybody who says that corporations will hire just because they have money is a LYING COCKSUCKER WHO PROBABLY LICKS HIS CORPORATE MASTER'S ASS EVERY MORNING and then takes it up the rear while cheerfully saying "Thank you sire, give me more!" Because the data says that corporations are already sitting on trillions of dollars and doing nothing -- nada -- zero -- hiring with it. What, you think giving them two MORE trillions will make them suddenly start hiring out of the goodness of their heart? If you believe in such a deranged notion, you're either the dumbest motherfucker on this whole goddamned planet, or you're stuck so far up your corporate master's ass that you probably can't even remember what your own dick looks like.

And that's my response to the libertards on this issue. The data simply refutes their notion that giving corporations more money or reducing their tax liability to zero will cause them to hire more people. The data is the data, and doesn't give a shit what moronic ideology you have. But oh I forget, in THEIR universe, where unicorns are pink and cotton candy grows on trees, poor beleaguered corporations hire people just out of the goodness of their stockholder's hearts. What a strange, strange universe libertards must live in! Too bad it's not ours... I just wish they'd keep their nonsense in their novels, where it's okay to have that kind of nonsense alongside the unicorns and cotton candy trees, and quit spouting that nonsense in *this* universe where it just plain is not true

-- Badtux the Rude Penguin

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Kathleen Edwards with "Independent Thief" off of her 2005 album, Back to Me. Just some good alt-country from Canada, y'all. And Colin Cripps is really makin' that thare gee-tar cry'n'sing...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, February 25, 2011

Politically incorrect

So a roaring fire is bad for the environment, and doesn't really warm up your house much if any. So what. On a cold and rainy day, tossing on some scrap wood (pieces of wooden pallet from work) and then sitting in front of it just feels right.

-- Badtux the Warm Penguin

Messy bed

My well-known problems with making up my bed continue. The weather's been cold, so my owners have been occupying strategic portions of the bed before I can tidy it up...

Note that The Mighty Fang and Mencken usually are *not* this cozy with each other. But they make an exception for cold mornings.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Why is this such a hard concept?

Various Americans are irate that gas prices are up even though all current supplies were purchased at lower prices.

To which I reply: If I sell gas I bought at $3 for $3.50, then I have $3.50 to buy its replacement gallon of gas, which is $4.00. $3.50 won't buy $4.00 worth of new inventory. So I have to raise my price to above $4.00 *now* so I can afford to buy my next truckload of gas, otherwise I won't have enough to buy that next truckload of gas and I won't have gas to sell and I'll be out of business. Why is this concept -- that I have to price my inventory at its REPLACEMENT cost, not at its PURCHASE cost, or I'll have no inventory -- so difficult? Are there really that many people ignorant of the basics of how to run a business?

The real culprits here are the speculators. If we raised taxes on millionaires, they'd no longer have money to speculate with, but oh no we can't do that because speculation creates jobs. In the fertile imaginations of morons, anyhow.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Closets the size of fuckin' MANSIONS

Rep. Chris Lee, the "Craigslist Congressman" who abruptly resigned when it was discovered that he was soliciting sex over Craigslist, apparently liked dark meat with wiener schnitzel.

Now, we had wondered why Rep. Lee had resigned so quickly. I mean, a right-wing bible-thumpin' Christian Republican who turns out to prong prostitutes is no big deal, just ask Diaper Dave Vitter (R-La.) or Jimmy Swaggart (R-Loonytoons), both of whom survived their prostitution scandals. But I guess now we know the rest of the story -- Rep. Lee is so far deep in the closet that he can't come out even to himself, thus his attraction to trans-men, who at least look like women even if they're genetically male.

Now, some of you might wonder why I'm chortling so gleefully here. What's the matter with getting some wiener schnitzel action from trans hookers, you ask? Well, nothing, actually. But folks who use the "Christian moral values" schtick to interfere with gay American's rights then turn out to themselves be gayer than the gay mayor of gaytown simply make my snarky glee explode in a flurry of penguin feathers, that's all, yo.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

More credible than Faux News

One of the things that is always amusing, when talking to wingnuts, is that they're always referring to things they saw on Faux News or read on World Nut Daily. It is to laugh. "Give me a URL to somewhere credible", I tell them. And they say, "So who's more credible than Fox News?"

Uhm. Dude. Talk about low-hanging fruit. Even pro wrestling and the Weekly World News have more credibility than Fox News. Not that it really matters, for reasons explained in this very credible and well documented news story.

I, for one, eagerly await being eaten by our gorgeous tall blond alien overlords.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Heart-filled river

The Walkabouts with "Drag this river", off their album New West Motel. Nobody has ever heard of these people, even though they've been making music for over twenty years now...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We don't need no edumacashun

Providence, RI, sends layoff notice to EVERY SINGLE ONE of their school teachers. I guess they figure the custodians and school secretaries are all they need to edumacate them thare little brown chilluns.

State of Michigan orders the Detroit Public schools to raise class sizes to 60 students. That's about the same size as seminar classes in college. You can't fit 60 kids into a regular-sized classroom. But again, I guess they figure them thare brown chilluns don't need no edumacashun anyhow, 'cause they's all criminals or athuhleets anyhow, right? Right?!

Remember, this here is AMERICA. Ain't no damn NEGRO got a right to an edumacashion in this here nashion, it's time them darkies picked themselves up by their bootstraps and got right on out of our white Christian nashion, God bless America, Glory Halleleujah, AH-men! If them darkies want an edumacashon, they should just move into our lily-white gated community (where the gate keeper won't let'em past the door 'cause they're all criminals, but hey, ain't no racism here, nosiree!), and go to our segregated all-white suburban school in our segregated all-white suburban school district. It's conservative family values at work, it's the American Way! USA! USA! USA! Whoot yeah!

-- Badtux the Disgusted Former Teacher Penguin

Lonely dreams

Los Angeles dream pop duo Devics with their song "Alone with You", off their album My Beautiful Sinking Ship. An album title that could sum up the majority of the Devics' work... beautiful, and depressing, torchy dream pop.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An excuse to eat more pizza

It can save your life. Just ask Jean Wilson, whose life was saved by an alert pizza delivery driver who noticed that her regular order hadn't come in, and got worried.

Of course, the fact that Ms. Wilson ate a large pizza per day might also have something to do with why she fell and couldn't get back up, too...

-- Badtux the Pizza-lovin' Penguin

Our lords and masters and tools

At the moment it appears that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin(R-Teabag)has pretty much stepped into the hornet's nest. He's been governor of the state for less than two months now and the whole place is at a standstill -- statehouse circuses galore, and so forth. Further, he was caught sucking his master's Koch, not even recognizing his master's voice (to be fair, it's easy to fake having a cold or something as your excuse for not sounding the same as "your" last call). He has, in short, done a lot of very stupid things that have backfired badly on him and... why?

I'll tell you a secret, one that is well known amongst certain circles but not widely known outside them: The majority of our lords and masters, and the tools they accumulate to do their dirty work, are, to put it bluntly, not the sharpest tools in the toolshed. They've never had to be. They've never had to figure out how they were going to get their next meal -- they had their every need catered to from early on. They've never had to figure out how they were going to pay the rent because they spent the rent money fixing the car so they could go to work to pay the rent, because they've always had more money than they need for their every need or want.

In short, they're DUMB. There's exceptions, certainly -- generally the ones who came up from humble beginnings and did it all on their own -- but when you see people like David and Charles Koch who've never had to work a day in their lives because they inherited millions, you can pretty much bet that they're dumb. Not because they're genetically stupid -- but, rather, because they've never had any reason to exercise that gray matter, given that anything they could ever want is at their fingertips anytime they want it.

So what are they doing with this exercise in venality that is the Koch-funded Teabagger conquest of Wisconsin and other governor's offices? Well, simple. Being dumb doesn't make you good. They have lots. They want more. They want more just because. Because they can. Because they like it. Sometimes they might profess belief in some Libertarian philosophy that excuses their behavior, and claim "greed is good". But it's all an excuse, in the end -- an excuse for them to do what they would do anyhow, Libertarian philosophy or not, simply because that's their nature.

And let's not underestimate just how crafty they can be in this project. They aren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, but neither is a coyote, and a coyote can still manage to evade most traps that human beings put out for them. You don't have to be smart to be vicious -- just mean and crafty.

So if you want to hold out any hope for our country, it's the fact that our lords and masters and tools aren't very sharp. But then you realize that neither are most Americans, and...

-- Badtux the Too-smart Penguin

Unlucky angel

The world's unluckiest band, Mojave 3, with their song "Some kinda angel". As for why I call them the world's unluckiest band, well, you'll have to look at my past coverage of this band for why I say that -- the band members have an uncanny knack for choosing a genre of music just as that genre becomes unpopular. What can I say -- unlucky.

I notice from their web site that they're on tour again for the first time in years. The furthest afield they get from their London home is Glasgow though.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why do we have public employee pensions, anyhow?

State and local public employees are unique in that they don't pay into Social Security, instead they pay into their state pension plan. The deal is simple: You put in your 30 years, you get to retire with a pension. This has three goals.

  1. First is to reduce employee churn -- employees will stick around for the 30 years to get their pension. Employee churn is expensive, because employees aren't fully fungible -- new employees lack the skills of experienced employees, and it takes a lot of money to hire and train new employees. Furthermore, employee churn leads to revolving-door corruption -- where employees regularly rotate between government service and the industries they regulate, and make government decisions based upon which company will give them the best job upon next job switch.
  2. Another goal, perhaps the most important, is to reduce corruption. There is the revolving door corruption that I mentioned previously, but more importantly, employees won't take bribes or otherwise do corrupt things that might get them fired because if they do, they lose all the taxpayer-funded portion of their pension and get only their contributions back, which typically amount to only 1/3rd of the amount that they'll finally get.
  3. And finally, it's a way to get government employees without having to pay them what they could get in private industry. You don't get pensions in private industry anymore, just the pathetic 401(k) plans that lost 1/3rd of their value over the past five years. Crap, I woulda been better off with my money in a sock under a mattress. But if I knew that I could put in 30 years and retire at 60% of my salary, I'd willingly accept a 25% lower salary to work for government. Indeed, that was one of the few things I regretted about leaving teaching -- that it meant that I'd have to give up on the whole put in 30 years and retire thing. And the figures are in, and show it does work -- state and local employees do accept less money than they could make in private industry in exchange for that promise of a pension after thirty years.(*)
So why are the tighty righties trying so mightily to undermine government pensions? Simple. They look at the Federal experiment with eliminating public pensions, and rub their hands with glee. You wonder why Wall Street banksters can get away with stealing billions today? Simple -- the same people who are supposed to be regulating them, are them, thanks to the revolving door between the banks and the "regulators". A revolving door allowed because Reagan eliminated the Federal pension program in 1984 and put the Federal employees into Social Security instead.

So the end game of attacking local and state pension funds is corruption. The more the grifter class can corrupt state and local governments, the more they can steal from us with scams and frauds that go unpunished. That's why state and local pension plans are square in their headlights right now... it's not about saving money, because eliminating these plans won't save money (because state and local governments will have to pay more for employees then -- just as the Federal government now has to pay more for employees than back in the 1970's, when many Federal workers made so little money that they qualified for food stamps). It's about enabling corruption. It's about allowing the grifters to ply their trade of scamming and defrauding people out of their money without having to worry about being indicted for their crimes.

And the grifter campaign seems to be working -- they've managed to convince large numbers of Americans that state and local pensions are "unsustainable". To quote JzB: WASF.

-- Badtux the Non-grifting Penguin

(*) Right-wing nutjobs are fond of saying that government workers are "overpaid" because the average government worker gets paid more than the average American. But the average government worker is college-educated and has years of experience in his or her job, and studies consistently show that at the state and local level, government workers generally make far less than they could make in private industry. Case in point: If I'd stayed in teaching, I would have 20 years experience now and be making $52,000 on the local teacher payscale. My current salary in private industry is, err, more than twice that. 'Nuff said.

A blast from the past

From October 2008: 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.

Since then, things have gotten even crazier, with teabaggers, crazies proposing "nullification" of federal laws they don't agree with, the works. As I predicted, the long hard slide to the bottom continues, and the majority of the American people *still* aren't willing to admit that they chose wrong when they chose to believe all that Reaganist crap about something for nothing, low regulation, you know, all that Republican bullshit that says that tax cuts are good and government is evil. (And BTW, if you haven't been over to Jazzbumpa's place, go there, he has pretty pictures and shit showing just how the economy has hollowed out and wealth has been redistributed since Reagan took office).

To repeat JzB's favorite phrase: WASF.

-- Badtux the Archive-diggin' Penguin

Reformed drunk

One of my favorite Austin singer-songwriters, Slaid Cleaves, singing "Drinking Days". Just some alt-country, y'all.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mournful Dove

Bill ("Smog") Callahan live, "The Wind And The Dove".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Live-blogging the American Civil War

A historian is live-blogging the American Civil War, 150 years ago day by day as it happened.

My favorite thus far: February 9, 1861. Two important things on that page:

  1. Jefferson Davis appointed as President of the Confederate States of America. Note that Jefferson Davis was never elected President, he was appointed by the secession convention. Funny how the Confederacy loved democracy so much that they were afraid to let it choose their president. Kinda like in 2000 when another Southern President was appointed. Just sayin' :).
  2. Federal reinforcements arrive at Ft. Pickens, which controlled Pensacola Harbor. The reason this is important is because the only naval shipyard in the South was the Pensacola Navy Yard in Pensacola, built in 1826 and at the time the best-equipped naval yard in the nation. Ft. Pickens stayed in Union hands for the duration of the war, forcing the Confederacy to jury-rig makeshift shipyards in various other places for their failed attempt to build a navy rather than having proper facilities for doing so.

-- Badtux the History Penguin

Ah, to be a Sovok in America...

Heard about that CIA spy who killed a couple of ISI agents in Pakistan? No? Well, there's good reason for that -- the U.S. news media, at the request of the CIA, are not printing that he's a CIA agent, just that the CIA agent, Raymond Davis, is an "embassy employee". Luckily newspapers in free countries aren't so constrained. But remember, it's okay that everybody else in the world knows that the U.S. hires clumsy CIA agents who shoot people dead in the middle of a busy street... it's just not okay for *Americans* to know. Sort of like when the Soviets were buying American wheat, it was a classified state secret *inside* the Soviet Union that they were buying wheat from outside, because official ideology held that Communism was increasing the yield of wheat every year compared to the decadent and decaying capitalist system... it was okay that everybody *outside* the Soviet Union knew that they couldn't feed themselves, as long as their own citizens didn't know.

And that's how things work here in Soviet America too. America's supposed to be a force for good, so CIA agents killing our allies and acting like total goons simply don't exist, the only CIA agents that exist are the GOOD ones, that only kill BAD guys. Welcome to America, citizen, where you, too, must be shielded from facts that contradict official ideology. But that's okay, you didn't want to know those facts anyhow, right, comrade?

-- Badtux the Sovok Penguin

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If the poor didn't exist, we'd have to invent them

The primary use of poverty in America is as a means of social control. That is why the poor here in America must be kept in a situation of abject misery with inadequate housing, education, transportation, and nutrition, and treated like trash, even though our society is clearly wealthy enough to provide enough for the poor that they could live a decent life. But living a decent life would be missing the point of having the poor around. If we didn’t have the poor, we’d have to invent them as a warning to our children, “see, behave in school and study hard or you’ll end up like *them*!” It’s all about social control. The harder we can make it for the poor, the more we can use the threat of being poor as a lever to control our children and our employees. Don’t report corruption to the Feds, ’cause they’ll leak it to us and we’ll black-ball you in this industry and then you’ll be one of them.

The middle class hasn’t forgotten this lesson, that keeping the poor around miserable and downtrodden is both a threat over their own heads (“spout the official ideology, pretend that the bullshit we’re spewing actually means something, or else”) and an opportunity for themselves when it comes to their own children and subordinates. But our oligarchs seem to have forgotten. That’s the only thing I can think, given that they appear intent upon creating far more poor people than are useful or necessary for that object lesson / threat to hang over people’s head. Perhaps they’ve decided that they have sufficient armed thugs in their employ (many wearing badges) that they no longer need more subtle ways of control. Hosni Mubarak thought that too. Just sayin’.

- Badtux the Orwellian Penguin

Right-wing assholes and the DMV

Every time I go in to the DMV, the workers are professional, they're polite, they do their jobs competently, they get me fixed up and out of there without undue fuss and muss. The place is clearly understaffed for the job they do, but everybody I see is making do and getting the job done in a workmanlike manner.

Yet you listen to the right-wing assholes and DMV workers are lazy, rude, spend most of their time standing around gossiping, and treat the customers like crap. But I'll tell ya a secret about why there's such a difference between my experience at the DMV and the experience of right-wing assholes at the DMV. It's real simple. The right-wing assholes are ASSHOLES. And if you treat a DMV employee like shit, like these right-wing assholes do, they'll treat *you* like shit too -- they'll lose your paperwork, require you to leave and go get stuff certified, or simply disappear into a backroom somewhere and leave you standing there while they take a long-overdue coffee break. That's why right-wing assholes are always complaining about the DMV... because DMV workers deal with hundreds of people every day, they're doing a thankless job that has to be done, and they just don't have the time of day for assholes. You go in there with an attitude, you get one back. It's that simple.

But right-wing assholes never get the point that the problem is *them*, not the DMV. You'd think that they'd get a clue, but such a sense of unwarranted entitlement seems to preclude such a clue...

One of the things that I like best about working in private industry now rather than government, aside from the pay (which is five times more than I ever made as a government employee) is that I don't have to deal with assholes. If an asshole starts demanding things of me, I tell him to go fuck himself and get his ass out of my business. A government employee doesn't have that luxury, the whole point of being a public employee is that you gotta serve all the public, unlike a private business where you can refuse service to anybody who's an asshole. But that don't make public employees robots, yo. You treat them like shit, well. What the fuck do you expect anyhow, that they'll just bend over for ya and say "thank you sir, give me more"?!

-- Badtux the Former Government Worker Penguin

Another love song

Back to the theme of love songs, this is Townes van Zandt's love song for his daughter Katie Belle, formally titled "Katie Belle Blues".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Everything's fucked up, and no one goes to jail."

A depressing story about how the banksters are ripping us off -- and have paid off the government regulators who could send them to jail so that they can do it with impunity.

Sigh. WASF.

-- Badtux the Sorely-waddling Penguin

Curvy Girls

Going all the way to the early 90's with this one, Curve, "Ten Little Girls" off of Pubic Fruit. Toni Halliday and Curve created this sound, then Shirley Manson Butch Vig made millions off of it a mere four years later with their band Garbage. You know how you can tell pioneers, right? They're the ones with the arrows in their back...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

What he said

About Wisconsin and the behavior of the Republicans, who are trying to make state workers pay for the fiscal misdeeds of their Republican majority: This is like the defendant who murdered his parents and asked for leniency because he’s an orphan.

Heh. Do note, however, that CNN's reporters had to play a game of "bury the lede" to get this fact into print, burying the actual details so far down the story that their ideological minders ("editors") would not notice them and order them struck. Similarly anybody else who is merely skimming through stories will see only the headlines that support the official ideological position, not the actual details that contradict the official ideology.

So it goes in Soviet America, citizen. Our censorship here is not as onerous as it was in Soviet Russia, often facts contradicting official ideology can make it into print, albeit buried deep within stories, but censorship is censorship, even if the ideological minders are employed by multi-billion-dollar media corporations rather than by the government. All hail our great and mighty nation, and our invincible armies and our technological magnificence! What, you disagree, citizen? Treason! Report to the nearest streetcorner for processing as a homeless bum, comrade!

-- Badtux the Sovok Penguin

Life in Soviet America

I've been reminiscing on another blog about the Soviet state and the way it crumbled from inside, as its leaders refused to acknowledge any facts that contradicted official ideology. Even as they fell desperately behind the West, official ideology held that Soviet technology was the best, that Soviet military might could roll over Western Europe within weeks, that the Red Army was an unbeatable force of unspeakable might, and so forth. Sounds an awful lot like Republican politicians on Capital Hill talking about health care, where they still insist that the U.S. has the "best health care system in the world" even though all statistics -- *ALL* statistics (other than cost) -- show that it's mediocre, ranking somewhere amongst the recently-freed states of Eastern Europe in outcomes. But don't try to tell them that. Any facts which do not conform with official ideology get discarded -- often violently, in the case of the Soviets, as individuals who dared contradict official ideology were removed from their jobs and sent to mental institutions or forced labor camps.

Hopefully the U.S. will wake up before reaching the point of collapse that denial led to in the Soviet Union. I’m not feeling too optimistic though, we have different minders here (called “television”, “teabaggers”, “freepers”, and “dittoheads”), but the effect is the same — people are afraid to talk about things that contradict official ideology, except in certain circumscribed circumstances such as on blogs, for fear that they’ll be ostracized, fired, have their homes and vehicles vandalized, or otherwise suffer dire consequences. If you’re going to set up a police state, that’s the smart way to do it — everybody’s an informant, everybody’s an enforcer, and Siberia is an economic class, not a geographic place. We could end homelessness here in America within months, even in big cities there’s plenty of empty commercial space that could be used to house the homeless in hostel-type settings, but the homeless are useful. “Don’t rock the boat, or you’ll be a miserable homeless spat-upon nobody just like them.” Thus the reason I blog as a penguin rather than as a member of homo sapiens, especially considering the industry I work in.

The mistake our oligarchs are making right now is that they’ve decided that keeping the general rabble fat and happy is no longer necessary, that they’ve consolidated their power so well that they can make things work in their favor even if they allow the rabble to become increasingly impoverished and desperate. This thirty-year project thus far seems to be succeeding… but we’ll see. The oligarchs in 1929 thought they’d arrived at a steady state where they could strip the assets of the general population away (via deflating the money supply) without repercussions too, and the end result was FDR and the New Deal.

– Badtux the Sovok Penguin

Friday, February 18, 2011

War is hell

"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. [...] You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people [...] can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride." -- General William Tecumseh Sherman to the citizens of Atlanta.

-- Badtux the War Penguin


Love letter for Jessica

Continuing the love song theme, our favorite lesbian guitar hero, Kaki King, doing her song "Jessica" off of her 2006 album ...until we felt red. A sort of shoegazer-ish textured song where she (gasp) sings, which utterly disenchanted her New Age-ish fans who used her previous instrumental albums as meditation music. Their loss.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Urban homesteading

My family had an urban homestead in the 1970's -- we owned an acre of land in the middle of a city, and put most of it to use growing fruit trees and vegetables (originally there were chickens too, but zoning shut that down... what do you do with a chicken coop once the chickens are gone? It just stood empty, that's all). Every year we sold hundreds of dollars of figs from our fig trees -- a not insignificant sum of money back in those days, when you could buy a decent running second-hand car for under $500 that still had a little bit of new-car smell to it.

Little did I know that I was violating a trademark filed in 2008 back in 1975!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Fly like a penguin

Added together some mineral spirits and silicone, and did the second coat of seam sealing of my new Tarptent Moment. I made an especially large batch because I wanted to coat the floor, though I could only coat the inside of the floor at the moment because I seam-sealed the top seams and they must dry first. I did this all in my big music room because it's raining outside.

What I can't figure out is why the room keeps pivoting around me. Fly like a penguin, to the screen, fly fly fly like a penguin...

-- Badtux the Too-much-glue Penguin

Love letters for Valentine's day

Okay, so I'm a bit late for Valentine's day. This is the Dex Romweber Duo doing an acoustic version of "Love Letters From Your Heart" for an in-radio-studio show. If I didn't know better, I'd think Dex was the demented love child of Buddy Holly and Elvis...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Are charter schools the solution for urban schooling?

That is a question that Andrew Sullivan asks. And the answer is... no. And yes.

I got to see how charter schools work first-hand when I lived in Arizona. Basically in Arizona if you can afford to hire a certified principal (or are a teacher willing to take the courses for administrator certification) and have a pulse, you can start a charter school. The only regulation is that you a) accurately tell the state how many pupils you have so they send you the right per-pupil monies, and b) actually spend that money educating kids, rather than embezzling it for yourself.

So did it work? The answer is... well, mixed. The horrible things the liberal doomsayers said about charter schools didn't happen -- charter schools did not become modern "segregation academies" for white children, charter schools didn't cherry-pick only the best students and leave the worst for the public schools, etc., what happened was that a lot of teachers of "at-risk" children decided that they could do a better job outside the public schools and started charter schools focused specifically at kids at the lower end of the scale, so there was a wide variety of charter schools formed, not just the segregated academies. The doomsayers also said that charter schools would suck money out of the public schools. That happened, but because the charter schools get less per-pupil monies than the public schools, it turned out that the money taken away was less than what it would have taken to educate the kid in the public schools. Given that the public schools in Arizona were overcrowded because growth had outpaced school construction for years, the net effect was minimal on public school budgets -- they just let the lease lapse on some of their temporary classrooms and the normal turnover of teachers handled the rest.

The problem is, few of the great things that advocates of charter schools promised happened, either. Charter schools in Arizona, on the whole, turn out to educate children no better than the public schools did. And while there were thoughts that large educational companies would come in and start for-profit charter schools even though Arizona has one of the lowest per-pupil funding ratios in the nation and charter schools get even less than that, because "private enterprise is more efficient than public", that turned out to not be true. A couple tested the water, couldn't make money on the per-pupil funding provided by Arizona, and closed up shop in Arizona within a couple of years.

So why didn't charter schools provide a better education in Arizona? Part of the problem is churn. Charter schools proved very prone to "founder burnout". Charter schools were largely formed by master teachers who wanted to teach a specific group of children (say, homeless kids). Handling all the aspects of running a charter school *and* teaching simply sucked the life out of them over the years, and after they burned out and went back to teaching in public schools, the charter schools they founded largely fell apart and disintegrated by the end of the next school year. A bigger part of the problem, however, is institutional. Charter schools don't have the institutional memory of public schools. That's the point, that they would be able to do things better because they were starting out fresh and new without all that baggage. But it turns out that the institutional memory of public schools is important. Those teachers who've been there 28 years turn out to have something to contribute after all, not to mention the decades of textbooks, teaching materials, lab equipment, classroom buildings, sports facilities, etc. that public schools have accumulated over the years. All of which turn out to be more important than public school detractors thought.

The experience issue is especially important here. A teacher with a lot of experience in the public schools is not going to leave for a charter school because he or she is putting in the years for retirement. That means most charter schools are going to be staffed with new teachers either fresh out of college or only a few years on the job. But I'll tell you a secret that's not really a secret: Most new teachers suck. I know. I was one, once. New teachers go into the classrooms and haven't a clue as to how to teach. Our schools of education don't have a clue as to how to teach teachers to teach, and most of a teacher's training in how to manage kids and get kids to understand material happens on the job as he or she tests various techniques and finds out, after a number of years pass, what works based on his personality and the abilities of the children he's teaching. We have studies on this -- basically if you look at student achievement gains and adjust for the socio-economic status of the students, on average experienced teachers simply show more gains than inexperienced teachers.

But by their nature charter schools are churn. The chance of any specific charter school being there 30 years from now is basically nil. The founders will get tired and fold up the school, or it'll lose its lease on its building and fold, or so forth. So at least in Arizona, they're being used by young teachers as their "tryouts" for better public school districts than the one they got a job with just out of college. Sick of teaching inner city kids in South Phoenix? Want to teach rich kids in North Scottsdale but you don't have the years yet to do that? Well, a charter school might just be the place for you!

So what *is* the solution for inner city schools? Well, they have to be institutional changes in how schooling is organized there, which is why charter schools have failed to do any better there -- charter schools have no institutional memory and thus by their nature cannot foster institutional changes. Furthermore, any changes will take *money*. Poor kids come to school lacking a lot of the background of rich kids. The culture shock of being a poor kid in a rich school was pretty dramatic on my part, here's these kids talking about their vacation to Aruba and their psychiatrists and stuff, while in our neighborhood vacation was piling the kids in the rusty third-hand station wagon and taking them to visit relatives who lived 50 miles away and psychiatric help was a belt across the mouth and a "quit talking crazy, fool". We can't take poor kids to Aruba to give them the same experiences as rich kids, but we definitely need to widen their horizons beyond the circumscribed world of no money that they live in.

But in the end, any such changes aren't going to happen as long as the United States continues its current war on the poor. Which means, if you were born to a poor family today, tough luck, kid. You're going to be spat upon, kicked, and treated like shit for the rest of your life, so just get used to it. I was lucky to be part of the last generation of poor kids to come up before Reaganism got a full hold on things, I got an education courtesy of Uncle Sam and the taxpayers and as a result now pay a large amount of taxes every year that I don't mind paying because if it wasn't for other people paying their taxes, I wouldn't be in a position to pay taxes. But the poor kids coming up today... they don't get that. They instead get the opportunity for permanent debt bondage with "student loans", which are actually slavery contracts today because they are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy and the banks and government tack on fees forever that make them unpayable if you are currently unable to pay. And poor kids might be poor, but that doesn't make them stupid enough to sign slavery contracts in large numbers... which means they stay poor, which means the U.S. stays poorer because poor kids as smart as me choose other professions like, say, drug dealer, instead, and we're all the worse for it. But hey, kicking the poor when they're down and making sure that not one dime of white people's money goes to them is more important than a strong United States where all smart kids, rich and poor, have a chance at the education needed to contribute to the nation's economy, so...

WASF. And if you're poor, you're doubly-fucked. And we're all the poorer for it.

-- Badtux the Education Penguin

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Copyright and state web sites

A lot of folks apparently are under the illusion that if you see a photograph or document on an official state website, that this photograph or document is automatically public domain. That is not true. Copyright law is a Federal law, one of the powers specifically granted to Congress, and there is no Federal law stating that public documents at the state or local level are public domain.

In short, you are at the mercy of your state's laws there, most of which simply state you can view public documents -- not that you can freely copy everything that has been placed into a public documents repository. That is especially irritating for those of us who do electrical work because the National Electrical Code has been written into law in many municipalities, but with local modifications. But the National Electrical Code -- AND its local modifications -- are copyrighted. In a place like the Silicon Valley where there are dozens of municipalities in a fairly small area, that means that either you spend a lot of money buying each municipality's slightly different copy of the NEC, or you just get the national NEC book and hope that the inspector will let you slide by on that.

So anyhow, what brought this on is that a restaurant owner thought that a photograph of Sarah Palin on the State of Alaska web site was public domain, and thus could be freely used on his web site. The photographer's lawyer strongly dissented on that one. It turns out that the State of Alaska did what a lot of states do -- rather than have a photographer on staff to create photographs of personalities and events, they simply licensed what is called "stock photography" -- photography from places like news services and private providers such as Getty Images that are still owned by their original photographers.

The copyright to virtually every photograph on any state's web site, in other words, still rests with the original photographer. The state merely licensed the right to use that image *on their web site*. And if you want to use it on *your* web site, you, too, must similarly pay a license fee to the photographer or photographer's agent (such as Getty Images).

Now, most of us aren't going to have to worry about a lawyer tracking us down. We're arguably within a "fair use" category -- we're providing political commentary and discourse for free and using the photograph for illustrative purposes rather than for business purposes. But if you use one of these images on your businesses web site, expect to be contacted by a lawyer. Because these photographers make their living off of licensing fees for business use of their photographs -- and if you don't pay, they *can* ream you a new one under the law.

-- Badtux the Copyright Penguin

A woman's place is barefoot and pregnant in the home

That, apparently, is what the Republican commissioners of Frederick County, Maryland say.

Note that a woman staying home with the children, in today's day and age, is very much an upper middle class affectation. Nobody who's in the bottom 90% of income can afford it. Simply buying a house in most of the country requires two wage earners, because the median salary in most of the country won't even pay the mortgage note even with today's lower home prices.

So let's get this straight: Republicans in Frederick County, Maryland, just told 90% of the people in the county "yo, go live on the street, you bums." Because you can't afford to live in that (fairly expensive) county on a single wage-earner's income... well, unless you're a corrupt Republican politician in the top 10% of wage earners, anyhow.

-- Badtux the "Well, at least it wasn't cake" Penguin

Are there no workhouses?

That question, asked by Dickens' villain Ebenezer Scrooge when a charity came by asking for donations for the poor, is currently "No" for children. But the State of Missouri is aiming to change that. To quote Jay Leno: “And in Missouri, Republican state Sen. Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill that would eliminate her state’s child labor laws. Well, yeah, I mean, why should the 10-year-olds in China be getting all the good factory jobs?”

I've never had a desire to move to a third world nation. I like hot showers. I like heated homes. I like cook stoves that you can simply turn on and off and they just work. People say I should at least travel to a third world nation so that I can get a first-hand look at how the majority of people on this planet live. No worries, though -- it appears I'm going to live in one anyhow, without moving an inch. Complete with child laborers in our factories and fields.

- Badtux the Third-world Penguin

Cute grunge

This is the one song by Letters to Cleo that is worth listening to. In this video Kay Hanley is impossibly cute while singing tongue twisters at such high speed that you know she's from Boston :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just like Hitler

One of the favorite games of the political extremes, most prevalent on the right but also often from the left, is to say that person X is "just like Hitler." Really? So George W. Bush or Barack Obama are short German dictators? Err... not exactly.

The usual technique used is to find some human attribute shared by many people, most of whom are *not* Hitler, and then say that having that attribute makes the target "just like Hitler." For example, Hitler loved Mickey Mouse, Britney Spears was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club, why, that makes Britney Spears *just like Hitler!*. Well, her, and about a billion other Mickey Mouse fans worldwide. Which is the problem with the whole "just like Hitler" thing. Hitler possessed a lot of traits. He was short -- like George W. Bush, or like Jimmy Carter. He was apparently a vegetarian, like approximately a billion other people on the planet. In other words, focusing on a trait that Hitler shares with a billion other people and saying that this makes someone "just like Hitler" is meaningless. Hell, Hitler was a member of Homo Sapiens, both you and I are members of Homo Sapiens, by that standard *we* are "just like Hitler"!

So clearly you have to focus on attributes that are shared between Hitler and only a few other people if you want to play the "just like Hitler" game, which is where the right wing usually falls down -- they usually take someone like Obama, take some trait he shares with a billion other people, and say that makes him "just like Hitler". Obama wants national healthcare! Hitler had national healthcare! (As does every other Western nation). That makes Obama "just like Hitler"! Well, and makes every *other* Western leader for the past 80 years other than U.S. Presidents "just like Hitler" too, which fails the "only a few people" test".

If, on the other hand, you point out that Hitler invaded Poland on a bogus premise of a Polish threat to Germany, and Bush II invaded Iraq on a bogus premise of an Iraqi threat to Germany... there aren't all that many leaders over the past 100 years that have invaded other nations based on a lie. So in that respect, Bush II really *was* just like Hitler. But now you get to the point where the whole game of "Just Like Hitler" shows itself to be utterly useless: In most other ways, Bush II was *not* "Just Like Hitler". For example, Bush II had/has no genocidal urgings, and does not appear to himself be a outright racist. Indeed, one of the few things I genuinely respected about Bush II was when he emphatically made the point, repeatedly, that Muslim-Americans were *Americans* and should not be discriminated against.

The reality, then, is that the game of "Just Like Hitler" simply isn't useful. It is useful to point out when our opponents use tactics commonly associated with the Nazis, such as the Big Lie tactic, or have beliefs commonly associated with the Nazis, such as a belief that white people are superior to brown people or that gays and ethnic minorities should be exterminated. But that doesn't make them "just like Hitler" -- it just makes them evil sons of bitches, yo.

-- Badtux the Brimstone-sniffin' Penguin

Google is an Islamist plot

Did you know that Google is an Islamist plot to impose sharia law upon the United States? Neither did I... until Glenn Beck said so.

Yes. Google. Is an Islamist plot. A sinister conspiracy. Eeeeeevil. Between that and his delusional notion that the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings are part of a vast plot to create an Islamic caliphate, Beck ain't just jumped the shark -- he's jumped a whole row of shark tanks. Just sayin'.

-- Badtux the Insanity-scryin' Penguin

Holy mountains of death

System of a Down, "Holy Mountains", off their album Hypnotize.

Just in the mood for some nu-metal...

-- Badtux the Metal Penguin

Monday, February 14, 2011

The revolution starts... err... not.

So in the aftermath of the Egyptian public driving out their President-for-life with protests and strikes in the aftermath of Mr. President-for-life Mubarak failing to take care of the fundamental business of the people -- that is, making sure that his people had jobs, food, housing, that kinda shit -- some of the folks of the lefty sort say, "uhm, say, we got those problems too, when are the Americans going to follow the Egyptian example and have a revolution of their own?"

What a *great* idea! And hey, we have one of these revolution thingies every two years, you betcha. Why, back in 2010 we actually had one of them there "revolution" thingies, called, "a vote". And, uhm... excuse me. You see the bozos that got elected? Republicans who hate government welfare except when they collect it themselves, teabaggers waving their sacks around while proclaiming "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!", the works.

So, as usual, the stupidest, most corrupt, most inept people got elected, while people with smarts were called "elitists" and had no more chance of being elected than The Mighty Fang has of flapping his ears and flying to the moon. At which point I gotta say... revolution? Dude. If Americans aren't going to even take the time out of their days to research the candidates and elect the best ones rather than the most corrupt ones (the ones who've taken the most bribes... err... "campaign contributions"... and thus have the slickest ads), what makes you think that they'd take even more time out of their day to, like, hold massive demonstrations and shut down cities and shit day after day? It is to laugh. If Americans are too lazy, stupid, and apathetic to even take the easy route to revolution, i.e., simply researching who's the best candidate and voting for him, they certainly aren't going to inconvenience themselves by marching in the streets.

So congratulations, America. You have your chance for revolution every 2 to 6 years (depending on the politician in question)... and you instead vote for Hosni Mubarak's clone brothers each and every time. It is to laugh. Or cry, depending upon whether you're one of those who've been thrown out of work by the oligarchs and corrupt puppet politicians or not.

-- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

Dum Dums

Dum Dum Girls, "I Will Be", off the album by the same name. Sort of like modern alt-rock meets a girl band from the 60s'...

The girl on the album cover is lead singer/songwriter Kristin "Dee Dee" Gundred's mom, many years ago.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Retail politics

So I went into Koreatown yesterday to have kimchi, pork, and tofu stir-fry in a restaurant in a plaza full of Korean restaurants, shops, and a Korean grocery, and come out and there's a sheet of paper under my windshield wiper. I pick it up and read it, and it's a Korean-American politician inviting me to attend a fundraiser for his candidacy for the CIty Council, at a dinner at the largest Korean restaurant in the area. The amount of money requested is modest and it's clear that this restaurant is owned by one of his supporters who is donating a lot of the food and services.

So I'm reading this, and it occurs to me that this is old school retail politics. And it also occurs to me that this applies to immigrant communities in general -- they're fundamentally conservative. They believe in hard work, family, and traditional values. They believe in the American Dream. Which is why the Republican Party is shooting themselves in the foot so badly by becoming the party of the KKK, the latest outrage being of course not allowing brown people to use the emergency rooms in Arizona (they should just go die quietly on the streets, yo!).

The Republicans have gone nuts. That's all I can figure, they've gone nuts. They're pandering to an aging and declining population of white racists upset that brown people will soon be the majority, and not looking at the long term at all. They're like corporate CEO's who focus on the next quarter rather than on a strategic vision of the future, and end up destroying their company and their brand. This outbreak of outright racism from Republicans basically dooms them to minority status in the future, even if there are short-term gains in the present in states like Arizona that have a lot of old racist fucks who retired there from Indiana.

Democrats today are relying on the insanity of their opposition to win elections. It's pretty clear that Alaskan insane moron Caribou Barbie lost the election for John McCain -- Obama didn't win it, Caribou Barbie lost it. Thing is, relying on your opposition being insane is not a recipe for victory in the future. Just ask the Israelis, who relied on Hezbollah being incompetent when they invaded Lebanon in 2006... and ended up getting the shit beat out of'em by Arabs who proved to *not* be incompetent, they didn't even hit mainline Hezbollah forces, just the village militias, and got the stuffing whupped out of'em. Relying on your opponent's incompetence or insanity for victory is, in the end, a losing game, because sooner or later you *will* meet an opponent who is neither incompetent or insane...

So our two legacy parties here in the U.S. have lost their minds. But then, the nation as a whole has gone insane anyhow, so I guess that's no surprise...

-- Badtux the Old-school Penguin

Another sunny day

So I went out hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains... I saw deer:

And flowers on the manzanita as I dropped through the chaparral biome on my way into the redwood biome: The redwoods were awe-inspiring as usual:

And I finally arrived at my destination, about 3.75 miles from the Skyline Highway:

I saw this nice yellow banana slug while heading back:

As you can imagine from the biomes I went through -- from high prairie to lowland redwood -- the hike back was all uphill. So it goes. All in all, it was a lovely day, and I saw only one person on that trail, which was almost closed-off with trees on the trail once I got into the redwoods... WTF is the matter with people, not taking a nice walk in the woods on a sunny day?!

-- Badtux the Strolling Penguin

RIch men don't fight our wars

Poor kids are the ones who die in rich men's wars.

This is Steve Earle, "Rich Man's War", off of The Revolution Starts Now.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Caturday Catalounger

It's Caturday, so of course the warm vibrating catalounger is in use. It also happens to be drying a load of towels and jeans as it performs its principle duty, i.e., of providing a warm butt massage for The Mighty Fang...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin


So the FDIC has seized a couple of more community banks -- that is, banks owned by people in the communities they serve -- and once again, we're treated to the spectacle of hearing that Somewhere Community Bank had assets of $X and liabilities of $X-Y (that is, they had more assets than liabilities). At which point, I go, say wha?!.

Because look. If I have more in assets than I owe, I'm not bankrupt. And if a bank has more in assets than it owes, that bank isn't bankrupt. So why is the FDIC seizing the bank, rather than having the bank sell off assets or use assets as backing for loans at the Fed window if they have liquidity problems? Curious penguins are... curious. Because it looks an awful lot like the FDIC is serving as the hatchetman for Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase as they pursue their agenda of locking up the entire banking market for themselves...

That said, some of these banks were simply badly run and did not fit the criteria I mention above (that of banks that had more assets than liabilities), and thus should have been closed down. But still, enough fit the criteria I mention above (more assets than liabilities) that I have to say, "Say wha?!". Because it just doesn't make sense.

-- Badtux the Curious Penguin

Waitin' fer Republicans to refudiate her

At CPAC, Our Lady of the Skanky Little Black Cocktail Dress (sometimes referred to as "Man Coulter") says that the U.S. should start throwing journalists in jail. Just like in those havens of freedom North Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia, I suppose.

Note that CPAC didn't boo OLOTSLBCD, they *cheered* her. If the Republicans want to stop being compared to Nazis, they need to quit proposing Nazi policies, yo. Just sayin'.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Sunny day

Today was 72F and sunny here in the Silly Cone Valley. Eat yer heart out, Northeast and Midwest :).

The rose bushes were starting to put on a tiny bit of new growth, so I pruned them back and fertilized them and watered in the fertilizer. I also cut back the vine that spends all summer flowering and attracting hummingbirds and bees, it was threatening to take over the place. This same vine was at my old place and they always cut it back severely this time of year, it always grew back with tons of new flowers, so I figure that's the right thing to do. I also soaped down the aphids on my trumpet vines, sigh! Oh well, at least they keep the aphids off of everything else.

Still left to do: The lemon trees are still ripening their latest crop of fruits, so I can't prune them back right now. The fuchsias need pruning back since they make their flowers on new growth, but I'll need to be careful there, they are old and not very healthy. Things are looking a bit dry right now, but we're supposed to get rain on Monday and Tuesday so I'm reluctant to water...

-- Badtux the Gardening Penguin


Okay, I've already had this video once over the past couple of months. What can I say, this song came up on my iPod again, and I hit the "repeat" button multiple times -- again. Devics, "Lie to Me", off their album Push the Heart.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bad mountain

Drive By Truckers, "Lookout Mountain", off their 2004 album The Dirty South. Which it is, y'all. This album's not a "must have", but it's a damn fine one.

-- Badtux the Southern Penguin

Why my bedroom is so cold

Mencken demonstrates the proper way to have a cold topside and warm bottomside.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let them vacation in the Caribbean

The peasants are freezing in Massachusetts? Well, President Obama and the Republican House apparently agree: Tax cuts for the wealthy are more important than home heating assistance for those in the Snow Belt who would otherwise freeze to death.

And those people in the snow belt who will freeze because they don't make enough money to heat their homes? Well, dear, our oligarchic overlords have a solution for that one. Read the title of this blog entry again.

-- Badtux the "Let Them Eat Cake" Penguin

Why am I not surprised...

...that the State of Mississippi is about to issue a commemorative license plate honoring... the founder of the KKK?

Note that Nathaniel Bedford Forrest wasn't just a short-term member of the KKK. He *founded* the damned thing, which is another level altogether over Robert Byrd and Hugo Black, both of whom were junior-level KKK members for only a short amount of time.

-- Badtux the Unsurprised Penguin

CPAC infested by blood sucking parasites

Uhm, yeah, CPAC is infested by Republicans, you already know that. But it turns out that the hotel they're meeting in is also infested with bedbugs.

Unknown is whether the bedbugs have refrained from biting the Republicans out of a sense of professional courtesy, from one blood sucking parasite to another...

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Municipal Building doesn't get Harry Baals

Yes, Ft. Wayne had Harry Baals as mayor for many years, despite Harry jocularly pronouncing his last name as "Balls". But Ft. Wayne appears to now be ashamed of their Harry Baals -- they aren't going to name their new municipal building after him.

And in commemoration of that, I moved the music video formerly scheduled for this spot to a later date, and now present to you a music video showing the attitude that Ft. Wayne's uptight city council *should* have about their Harry Baals:


-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Another day, another Republican politician cheats on his wife

Maybe I just need to make this post a "template" to deploy once a month, regular as clockwork. In this particular case, the horndog in question is Rep. Christopher Lee of New York State. Who, amongst other things, sent his Craigslist honey a cell phone picture of him shirtless flexing his muscle. At which point I say... duuuuuuude! The only people who take cell phone photos of themselves in mirrors to send to their sweetie are, like, 16 year old horndogs looking to score with other 16 year olds. Grown-ups just don't do shit like that -- they use a real camera on a tripod with a timer :).

But then, the majority of Republicans never escaped their teenage years, mentally. They're still stuck in that teenage mentality of the high school elite and the high school high school bullied, where they view themselves as the "cool kids" who bully the "losers", who, like, shouldn't be losers if they don't want to be bullied, right? And when it comes to wanting sex with any man, woman, or mule who comes down the pipe, they make your average 16 year old horndog teenager look downright sedate... that ain't no gun in their pants pocket, yo.

To his credit. Rep. Lee resigned. That shows he at least has more class than "Diaper Dave" Vitter and Sen. John Ensign, who simply shrugged and kept on keeping on. Way to go, Party of Family Values! For some definition of "family values" that, apparently, involves fucking anything with the appropriate-sized vagina or swinging dick that comes along...

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Melancholy bells

Mazzy Star, "Bells Ring". This is the acoustic version, I think I already did the album version on the blog. Hope is just standing at attention with her arms behind her back, looking like at any moment she might suddenly bolt and find some small place to hide...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wikileaks: Saudis at Peak Oil

Wikileaks document: Saudi oil production has peaked, stated reserves are fictional.

By 2020, Saudi oil production will start crashing like a rock. And with them producing around 15% of world oil, and alternatives to oil still being nowhere near capable of taking up the slack...

Just makin' out my last will and testament, yo.

-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Sarah Jarosz singing "Tell Me True". She was 17 years old for this performance. I saw another video where she was 16 years old singing this song, which she wrote. Her 2009 album Song Up in Her Head reached #1 on the U.S. Bluegrass charts. Of course, selling a few dozen albums is probably enough to make it to the top of that particular chart, but still, quite impressive for someone who was all of 19 at the time and is not a thin blond cute chick chosen by the star machine for her looks rather than her singing and playing ability. (Not that Sarah is ugly or anything, but she's definitely not cut out of the same cookie cutter as, say, poor li'l Taylor Swift... she looks like a real person, not a Barbie doll, yo).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Is World Nut Daily a pagan homosexual cult?

As we all know, the fine folks at are paragons of sanity. For example, homosexuals in Germany were required to wear pink triangles, and were eventually all rounded up and killed in the death chambers. So asks, "were the Nazis a pagan homosexual cult?"

Uhm. No.

See? Easy answer. For you and me. But we're sane, unlike Joseph "Batshit crazy" Farah, owner of WND, who apparently has dived into the shallow end of the pool a few too many times. Press has apparently published a whole *book* claiming that the Nazis were gay. Dude. Gay. Nazis. What next, is going to claim that the Nazis were a JEWISH cult? Oh wait, no, that won't happen because Joseph Farah loves Jews because Israel invaded Lebanon to keel moooslims, who him hates, hates, hates with a passion...

- Badtux the "WTF?!" Penguin

Monday, February 07, 2011

A taxing question

Taxes for 2010 are the lowest they've been, as a percentage of national income, since 1950. This is true whether you're looking at just federal taxes, or you're looking at combined local, state, and federal taxes.

So why, then, do many people seem to believe that they're overtaxed? My thought: It's because taxes today are fundamentally different from taxes in 1950. In 1950, taxes on ordinary working class and middle class individuals were fairly low -- sales taxes were around 1% in those few states that had sales taxes (vs. average of around 8.5% today), payroll taxes were 1.5% (vs. 7.65% today), and residential property taxes (vs. commercial property) accounted for around 1/3rd of all property tax receipts here in California vs. 2/3rds today. Corporate income taxes accounted for around 30% of income taxes collected in 1950, whereas they account for only around 7% of income tax collections today.

In short: People believe they're overtaxed because they are overtaxed -- but not because overall taxes have risen, but, rather, because taxes have been shifted from the rich and corporations to ordinary people. And if you think this result, which occurred only with the domination of Republican tax policies starting in around 1980, is coincidence, I got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale cheap to the lowest bidder...

-- Badtux the Taxing Penguin

In commemoration...

This is what most intelligent people thought about Ronald Reagan back then. Reagan didn't care about what intelligent people thought, though. Intelligent people weren't his audience. Remember, he made bad B-movies, not great art... he was about bamboozling the general public, and could have cared less that intelligent people panned his movies as stupid and his Presidency as a crime against the American people.

Intelligent people generally agreed: Reagan was exactly as stupid as this video says. And America loved him for it.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

World Nut Daily wants to bring Christianity to Egypt!

So I get a frantic email from asking for donations to help them bring the word of Jesus to the heathen Egyptians. Because, y'know, Egypt has only had Christianity for a brief time -- only since 42AD.

What's so wondrous about modern U.S. evangelicals is their utter ignorance of geography and history... including the history of their very own Christian church, of which Egypt was a major part up until the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs in 641AD.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Sunday, February 06, 2011

He was a crook

That is the most important thing to remember about Ronald Reagan on his 100th birthday: He was every bit as vicious, venal, twisted, and crooked as Richard Nixon. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Reagan was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. He ran one of the most corrupt administrations in U.S. history -- over 138 Reagan Administration officials convicted or indicted, and his whole political career was based upon racism and the BIg Lie theory. Reagan was Limbaugh with a smile, a racist thug who would lie about his own mother's milk if that's what was necessary to attain his goals. Whether he was jibbering in 1962 about how Medicare would destroy democracy in America and turn the U.S. into a socialist hellhole of crumbling grey concrete tenements, empty store shelves, and tyranny and then later lying about it on national TV when confronted by Jimmy Carter, or blatantly pandering to racists by kicking off his Presidential campaign in a KKK strong hold and inventing fictional racial stereotypes to get racists to vote for him, Ronald Reagan was a liar of the first degree, a man who never let the truth stand in the way of getting where he wanted to be -- which was to be President of the United States. And once President, he then doubled taxes on the working class via his massive hike in the payroll tax (paid by workers) and his shifting of responsibilities once handled by the federal government to the states (which required the states to hike taxes drastically -- especially sales taxes which fall more harshly upon the poor, which went from 1% in my state to 8% by the end of the Reagan Administration) while slashing taxes for the rich, and set into play the economic dynamics of the next thirty years, where the rich got richer and the rest of us got the shaft, all the while pretending to be a "man of the people" -- while doing his best to discredit the only organization We The People can use to defend ourselves against predators -- that is, government, which, Reagan implied, was an alien imposition upon America rather than the way that We The People chose to provide ourselves with services that aren't economical or possible otherwise.

Ronald Reagan took Richard Nixon's maxim of "if the President does it, it can't be illegal" and used it to run a regime whose corruption in retrospect is astounding -- and he got away with it. He was not only a crook, but a smart crook, one who knew how to keep his own hands clean while his subordinates did his dirty work. And he set the tone for the next thirty years, by showing people like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk that they could blatantly lie and never be called on it by the media.

That, then, is Ronald Reagan and his toxic legacy. He is a man who did the most to create the environment of the past 30 years that has hollowed out the American economy and caused America's military might to become such a hollowed-out relic of its former self that a bunch of medieval asswipes with 1950's-era weapons beat it in Iraq and are beating it in Afghanistan. His anti-government anti-tax anarchist rhetoric resonated with the large number of Americans who want the benefits of living in a civilized nation but don't want to pay for it, his racist rhetoric and lies set the stage for people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to pollute our national discourse with hatred and lies, and we are all the poorer for it.

= Badtux the History Penguin

My own relationship with Ronald Reagan at the time was one of extreme distrust. I didn't "buy" his awe-shucks gee whiz schtick. Unfortunately these were the days prior to the Internet, and there simply was not the resources then to turn my suspicion that the man was a fraud into proof. In today's Internet era Reagan's many lies would have made his candidacy a mockery, he had too much history by the time he was elected in 1980 to survive Internet-level deep scrutiny. Unfortunately while the Internet has proven a boon for preventing experienced liars and crooks like Reagan from being elected, the result has been blank slates like George W. Bush and Barack Obama being elected, where you haven't the foggiest notion what they're going to do after election,

Blatantly inspired by Hunter S. Thompson's obituary for Richard Nixon. Too bad I'm not half the writer that Doc was...

Sad days

Sharon von Etton, "Much More than That". She's a Southern girl living in New York City, and brings the melancholy gothic of the South with her.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Signatures are important

Everybody knows that. Everybody, that is, except, apparently, She Who Must Not Be Named whose trademark application was bounced by the trademark office because it wasn't signed. Who apparently believes that signatures are for the little people, not for Republicans. Either that, or she signed with an X and the trademark examiner simply didn't notice it ;).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Saturday, February 05, 2011

No end

I think I've done this one before, but so what, I like it.

Low, "Breaker", off their 2007 album Drums and Guns.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Catch the breeze

It's Caturday here in the penguin's lair, and 72F and sunny outside. The front window and back window are open to let a nice breeze blow through the house (remember, this place is laid out long and skinny). Somehow the "Lucky Bamboo" in that pot has managed to survive The Mighty Fang catching the breeze there... for now.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Friday, February 04, 2011

Adjusting reality

The BLS says today that the January unemployment rate fell to 9.0% in January, from its previous 9.4%. Cool, you say, people are finding jobs! Except... err... they're not -- according to the BLS, January employment grew by 36,000 while the number of unemployed people declined by 600,000. So, err, where did those 564,000 people go -- did they simply drop out of the labor force? Err, no, the BLS *also* says that "the labor force was unchanged".

So we have 564,000 people missing. They're not employed. They're not unemployed. They just... aren't. So, where did these people go? Were they all rounded up and turned into Soylent Green? Well... err... no. They were adjusted. Which sounds vaguely pornographic, but is what the BLS has traditionally done in January -- decided that "seasonal" workers weren't really workers, they're just college kids and senior citizens getting a bit of extra money, and thus don't count.

The only problem is that the BLS has done this every year since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007, and every year they've had to *undo* it and quietly issue a "revised" report within two months. The old rules that worked fairly well in the past just don't seem to work during the new economic conditions of the Great Recession. The people doing the seasonal work at Christmas in today's new economy aren't "marginally attached" seniors and college kids, they're just plain old workers trying to earn money for their families. And once it becomes clear that they aren't going to drop off the unemployment rolls just because because they did in the past, the BLS has to come in and revamp their figures -- again. For the 4th year straight.

So the reality is this: The Great Recession isn't over by a long shot. Three years into the Great Recession, we're still fucked. Calling it the "new normal" or disappearing half a million people don't change that shit, yo. Reality simply *is*, and attempts to "adjust" it so it doesn't look so bad are doomed, in the end, regardless of how much the BLS desperately wishes that things today were better.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin