So

She's dead. I wish this were more anti-climactic, but it seems that the parents and everyone they got into bed with in order to make this a political issue are still flogging this, and probably will for as long as they think they can get some mileage out of it.

On a personal note, I found out while I was at work today. I'd stopped at a local eatery to get a bite and saw the story on Headline News. Within five minutes, I saw Assface Bush blathering some shit he obviously doesn't believe about how it's the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak in this country. Fuck him. Fuck him in his stupid ass. He's a fucking hypocrite, and it would be poetic justice if in five years, he wound up broke and on life-support in a Texas hospital, and the doctors got to decide to yank his tube because of a law he signed while he was governor. Where was his call for the strong to protect the weak when it came to Baby Sun Hudson? Where's his talk about protecting the weak when it comes to slashing social programs left and right? Fuck him. He's not my president, and he never will be.

Luvly

Via Truthout.



P.S. In case you didn't guess, the photo was taken outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo is about to die.

Quote of the Day

Via Pharyngula, from this story on Yahoo news (and I better do this quick while Blogger is working):

Christians are a lot more bold under Bush's leadership, he speaks what a lot of us believe," said Mummert.

"We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture," he said, adding that the school board's declaration is just a first step.


Intelligent and educated. Wonder what part of that is supposed to be insulting?

Two links to check out

One hysterically funny, one not so much.

I'll go with the not so much first, so you can cheer yourself up afterwards. Steve Gilliard has been all over anything having to do with the draft and parents--like me--who have considered removing our children from the country should one be reinstated while the current fuckwads are in office. He's gotten me to reconsider a bit. But don't miss the article he links to dealing with the effect of Bush policies on Army recruiters.

Now to the funny. This is what hapens when you just follow links--I started at Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte, who linked to Feministe who linked to the funniest thing I've read in a long fucking time--The Everlasting Phelps. Here's a very brief excerpt.

As a matter of fact, I'm willing to bet that most of the men who have skidmarks do wipe properly. That isn't what you are seeing. What you are seeing is fart spray. Part of the confusion may come from women not farting. I don't know what it is, but until they hit late-middle age, women don't fart. They "poot". A poot is largely air. That ain't what we do. We fart.

You know what a fart is? It is hot stomach gas blown past turds. Okay? When you blow air over a turd, you are going to pick up turd bits. You should be glad that we are wearing pants, because if we weren't, all that aerosol crap would be floating around in the air instead of being nicely filtered by multiple layers of cloth.
Like Banky's grandmother said, "Banky, the money's in the dick and fart jokes."

Success!

Well, after a fashion, anyway. I began a redesign of my home site yesterday, and after many fits and starts, I have the first page up. I'm a little proud of it, considering I've never used style sheets before (and still wouldn't know what the hell to do without a template). So drop by and feel free to use the comments here as a place to make fun of my webpage-building skills.

What Next?

Via The Next Hurrah, we read about how one of the few reasons left for a poor person to join the military is going bye-bye.

The U.S. Army's Tuition Assistanceship Program provides funds for soldiers to pursue an education, whether online or in classrooms around the world.

However, the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars might put an end to that, at least in South Korea. Stars and Stripes reports:

Tuition money for servicemembers still could be in jeopardy despite officials’ announcement this week that funds for the military’s free tuition program will be available for the next term.

That’s because the U.S. Army has no money budgeted for the last two terms of the fiscal year, which includes late summer and fall classes in South Korea, according to Dr. Gary Hunt, director of the University of Maryland’s college program for the U.S. military in South Korea and Singapore.

“It has never been like this before,” said Hunt, who has run the program from Yongsan for seven years. “I would hate to think we’re going to be doing this every semester.”

This is money for active duty soldiers--we're not even talking about Reservists or the Guard here.

I almost joined the military seven years ago, and it was for one reason--money for school. I'm glad I didn't for reasons beyond this debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan,and I'll gladly pay back what I took out in student loans instead. But those are going to be drying up, not to mention Pell grants--the military is the last best chance for college for a huge number of people in this country, and if that's taken away, we'll see despair on multiple levels. How would you like to be faced with the choice of being unable to go to school, unable to get a job, or go to fight in a war where there's a pretty good chance you'll be either killed or significantly injured? Not much of a choice, is it?

Craziness

I was a fan of Robert Heinlein when I was a teenager--as I've gotten older, I appreciate him more for his prescience than for his actual writing. I was all set to write this bit on what Heinlein called "the crazy years" in his novella Methuselah's Children, and being lazy, was googling my ass off to find the headlines Heinlein came up with for his story. What do i find instead?

The Reality Stick had beaten me to it. Oh well. At least I can add this to the collection of madness surrounding Terri Schiavo.

A man arrested in Buncombe County Friday was charged with threatening the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of the right-to-die case gripping the country.

Richard Alan Meywes was arrested in Fairview by the FBI and the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, the FBI said in a prepared statement.

Meywes is accused of sending an e-mail putting a $250,000 bounty "on the head of Michael Schiavo" and another $50,000 to eliminate a judge who denied a request to intervene in the Schiavo case, the FBI said. The FBI did not immediately identify the judge.
How long before Randall Terry or some of the others involved in this start calling for Meywes' pre-emptive pardon?

These right-wingers have been called the American Taliban, and I think that's accurate, but I wonder if the only thing keeping them from becoming suicide bombers is their level of personal comfort? It's tough to recruit people in the US for suicide missions because the standard of living is pretty high here, even for people at the bottom of the economic ladder, compared to that of people in the Middle East for example. There's not as much desperation to feed them with. But if the economy goes as deep in the shitter as it could, based on the dollar's weakness and our current economic policy, maybe some of these nutjobs will start thinking they really do have nothing else to lose, and if the voice in their heads that they think is God's promises them heaven in return for sending a few dozen evolutionists or homos or liberals to hell, then we could find ourselves in a shooting war.

Admittedly, it's an extreme scenario, but then again, who would have predicted the insanity that this story has already given us?

How long, I wonder

before Jon Stewart just throws up his hands and says "Fuck you guys--this isn't fun anymore."

Watch the whole video--just when you think "news shows" can't get any dumber, Fox goes and outdoes them all again. Hollywood couldn't make this shit up if they tried.

It's all Trey and Matt's fault!

If you've been online in the last couple of days, and you've managed to dodge the ongoing Schiavo saga, then you've no doubt heard about this study that deals with the abstinence only education programs and the fact that many teens in those programs are engaging in higher risk behavior (anal sex, for instance) in a misguided attempt to preserve their virginity--although how a guy can credibly claim to still be a virgin after popping a girl in the poop chute is beyond me. In my book, if another person gets you off, you've had sex, and the virginity issue is off the table. I won't speak as to the female part of this discussion, as I am not a female and have no way of knowing what conduct could credibly be considered "sex" as regards the keeping of one's virginity.

But enough digression. I'm surprised that no one has pointed to the lyrics of the Most Offensive Song Ever" when discussing this issue. After all, it's talking about the Virgin Mary.

I'm with PZ

I want this living will.


Howard speaks up

DNC Chairman Howard Dean has been keeping a low profile on the Schiavo case, until today, and he didn't even really take on the case itself, as much as he took on Senate Majority Leader and all around quack Bill Frist. Excuse me--Doctor Frist.

"This is a deeply personal matter and ought to be left up to physicians," Dean said in a telephone conference call with Tennessee reporters.

"For Sen. Frist to say he could make a diagnosis based on a videotape is certainly not medically sound," said Dean, who, like Frist, is a physician-politician. "I wouldn't want my doctor making any diagnosis of me on videotape."

Ouch.

Frist's spokesman gave the standard defense--Frist wasn't making a diagnosis, blah blah blah. Let's look at what Frist actually said about Terri Schiavo.
In a speech Thursday to the Senate, Frist questioned Florida physicians' diagnosis that Schiavo is in "a persistent vegetative state."

"I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," said Frist, going on to quote medical texts and standards.
If you're challenging a standing diagnosis and calling it incorrect, then you are in fact making a diagnosis, and if you're doing so using a home video tape that others have noted was culled down to four and a half minutes from four and a half hours of raw footage, then you're a quack and I wouldn't let you operate on my ex-wife.

Time for my rant

Joe Lieberman gets a lot of shit, and rightly so, from partisan Democrats like myself for his willingness to toady up to the Republicans in Congress and blast away at his own party on television. It's funny because Joe-mentum's voting record as a Senator actually is fairly progressive--he's not as conservative as say, Ben Nelson of Nebraska or Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, at least on paper. The difference, of course, is that Landrieu and Nelson are from conservative states and Lieberman is from Connecticut, bluer than blue--he ought to be able to take stands for the party that the others have to be wary about.

But you know who he reminds me of, without the war record or the charisma? John McCain. And the reason I say this isn't to make Lieberman look better by comparison; it's to hopefully get some of us on the left to stop lionizing McCain.

McCain, for all his rhetoric about bi-partisanship and his maverick status, is a standard conservative. He's certainly not as moderate as Lincoln Chaffee or Olympia Snowe, even though he talks a good game. And why should he be? He'll be re-elected from Arizona for as long as he wants to be--he can be the next Robert Byrd or Strom Thurmond if he wishes. Here's the big similarity, though--no matter how much smack he talks on the pundit shows, when Frist wants him to vote for a bill, McCain does it, no matter how badly it fucks even his own constituents.

In the end, McCain's just another hack, and he's certainly not worthy of the fawning adoration we on the left seem to like to bestow upon him. He's nothing more than Joe Lieberman, just on the other side.

Check out the sidebar

There are a lot of new entries on the blogroll, folks I've started reading in the last few weeks but never added because I was too lazy. So there they are. I'm especially encouraging people to check out Big Brass Blog and The Next Hurrah. They both remind me of the early days of Kos's place, before he got famous. Did you know there are over 40,000 registered users there now? I'm user #842--does that make me some kind of uber-politico geek?

I love this idea

I don't know if I blogged about it before, but I certainly read about it a couple of weeks ago and liked it then and hope it comes to fruition.

The tax... would apply to stores more than 25 percent of whose employees work part time and whose full-time employees make less than $22,000 a year. Citing research that found state taxpayers spend about $421,000 a year for every Wal-Mart store with 200 employees, Senator Toole estimates that the tax would affect 160 stores -- about half of [state] retail -- and raise some $20 million annually.


Now you may notice that I edited out the name of the state where this is under consideration. I did that because it's really surprising. We're not talking about Vermont, or California, or Oregon, or any of those supposedly uber-liberal states. We're talking about Montana. Yeah, that Montana. The Montana that went so heavily to Bush in 2004 that I don't believe Kerry set foot in the state.

However, that same Montana also elected a Democratic governor and put the Democratic party in charge of both houses of their state legislature. Go figure.

My only beef with the article is that they lump Costco in with Wal-mart, Target, and other big box retailers. Costco pays their full-time employees enough that they wouldn't be hit by this tax. Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart would pay their employees in store credit instead of money if they could get away with it.

So I hope Montana does this, and that other states with high health care costs follow suit. It's time to make companies like Wal-Mart pay their fair share.

Damn, Eleanor--Just say it already!

Eleanor Clift blathers in Newsweek today about why Condi Rice won't be the Republican nominee in 2008. She spends two internet pages making the point that Condi won't be the nominee because--get this--she's mildly pro-choice, and as such won't be acceptable to the social conservatives. If Condi were, say, Rudy Giuliani, Clift might have a point, but Condi Rice isn't an Italian-American male, so her abortion stance isn't the problem.

Eleanor, honey, I'm going to let you in on a little secret as to the real problem with a Condi Rice presidential run. She's black and a Republican.

This has absolutely nothing to do with her qualifications, which are even more meager than those of her boss before he ascended the throne--this has everything to do with Republican electoral strategy for the last 35 years.

Not all Republicans are racists. I'll go even farther--I'll say that a majority of Republicans, even those in the deep red states are not racists, not the openly virulent type anyway. But there are enough of them to provide the margins of victory for statewide elections in those states to derail any African-American Republican candidacy. Why do you think Haley Barbour refused to denounce the Council of Conservative Citizens when they endorsed him? Because he knew they were going to provide him his margin of victory, and the fact that they're Klansmen trying to act respectable didn't matter one whit to him as long as they delivered on election day. the story is the same across the south. Kathleen Blanco won in Louisiana in large part because a small but decisive percentage of Republican voters wouldn't vote for Bobby Jindal because of his skin color--they either voted for Blanco or stayed home.

See--it's not a party line thing. It's a race thing, and in close elections, racists hold the decisive votes. That's why Condi Rice would never get the nomination. Sure, the pundits would claim that it's due to her mild pro-choice stance, but if you think that the redneck crackers with the Confederate flags on their trucks--people I grew up with, by the way--will vote for a black woman in a primary, you're a damn fool. And if by some miracle, Condi ran enough of the other states to actually get the nod, then you'd have an insurgent third party candidate, probably Roy Moore, who would split the Republican vote in the south and hand the Presidency to whichever Democrat happened to be the nominee.

I know pundits like to act as though electoral racism is a thing of the past, but trust me, it isn't, and Eleanor Clift does no one any favors by acting as though Condi's Achilles heel is her stance on abortion.

Let us now praise Mark McGwire

It was kind of hard to miss the fact that baseball players and execs were testifying before Congress today on the steroid non-issue--hard to miss because the media was talking about almost nothing else. Social Security? Nope. The war in Iraq? Nada. Celebrity murder? Old news. Even Michael Jackson took a backseat to the farce on the Hill.

And that's exactly what it is--a farce. As I noted last December, I don't give two shits if these guys used steroids until their eyes bugged out of their heads and their cocks disappear--their bodies, their choices, and as some sports figure once noted, "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."

But the farce isn't the non-denial-denials, it isn't the "we didn't know" lines spouted over and over--the farce is in the hectoring, moralizing, self-righteous posturing done by the members of the committee that has nothing better to do with its time. And that goes for you fucks in the media--Jayson Stark, I'm talking to your sorry ass especially--as well. Here's why Stark pisses me off. He writes:

Legally, of course, McGwire didn't have to answer those questions. Remember that. The men who wrote the Constitution handed him that right. So in a way, all he did was exercise his fundamental right to avoid ensconcing himself in a whole mess of trouble.
McGwire did more than that, even if he did it out of self-preservation. He told the Congress to go stick it, albeit politely, that he was going to be neither forced, nor intimidated into giving up information on himself or on others. Were I in that situation, I'd be far more rude about it, even if I were clean. And surprisingly enough, Stark gives my reason for feeling that way:
And let's give him one more shred of sympathy. Nobody would want to be put in the position this committee put McGwire in Thursday -- dragged in front of Congress, TV cameras rolling, essentially declaring him guilty the moment he walked into the room unless he could figure out some way to prove himself innocent.
That's my problem with this sort of shit--thanks to blowhards in Congress and in the media (including Stark, throughout the rest of the piece), you put a person in the position of having to defend himself against charges that will ruin his reputation, whether he actually took steroids or he just doesn't want to be a stool pigeon. That's the farce here--even if McGwire is innocent, he's been gutted now, and that's not right.

Update time

Because I believe in publicly noting when new information comes to light about stories I've written on, unlike some blogs with a far larger audience aka Powerline, I present this update, courtesy of the correspondents corner at Altercation.

Name: D.C. Smith
Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.

About the Saddam Hussein capture story, apparently UPI is disavowing it. The day after this story came out, a Weblog maintained by the World Editors' Forum ran the following note from UPI's Pamela Hess:

I'm the UPI Pentagon correspondent. This is actually not a true story. It was written in a Saudi paper, and picked up by our Arabic-speaking desk in Lebanon. However, I've not been able to find any evidence that this guy exists, much less that he was in the Marine Corps. The story was not run by me before it was published, and we have since pointed out the errors in the piece. Any questions, please contact me.
Pamela Hess, UPI.

As I noted when I wrote about it, I didn't know what to make of the story, even though I didn't find it hard to imagine that it could have happened, and still don't. That's what happens when the administration pulls the kind of shit it has for the last five years--you get to where you find things that might seem ridiculous as quite plausible.

Are you sure that's what you meant?

Sounds to me like the Bush administrationwants to repeal the Second Amendment:

"First things first," the official said. "Syria must get out and Lebanon must have unfettered elections, then Hezbollah must disarm. ... There is no place for an armed militia in a democratic society."
Emphasis mine.
I'm sure the rabid Second Amendment defenders/Bush fans (and the two are not always the same, I know) out there will find some way to justify this statement, and it'll probably use the terms "camel-jockey" or "towel-head." But the question really ought to be, if the Second Amendment is worth having, even defending (and I believe it is, personally) for us, then why isn't it good enough for the Lebanese?

It needs to be remembered that Hezbollah rose to prominence as a result of the Israeli occupation. It is far more of a militia than any self-styled group here in the US--they just happen to oppose most US policy in the region, which makes them "bad" in this administration's eyes. Let's be real here--if they were attacking Syrian soldiers instead of Israelis over the last 25 years, they'd be our best friends. Yes, they were responsible for the embassy bombings that killed 256 Marines during the Reagan administration, but whose interests were we serving at the time? Weren't we backing up the Israeli occupation of Lebanon?

Remember--the only real difference between a terrorist group and freedom fighters is the side they're on.

Misplaced Media Priorities

If I didn't know any better, I'd think that nothing really important happened today. After all, look at the head graphic from MSNBC.com.



And then this little section right next to it.

MORE TOP STORIES
• Death for Peterson | • Video gallery
• Obesity may cut U.S. life expectancy
• Senate pushes Arctic drilling ahead
• Sex offender sought in Florida case
.
MARCH MADNESS 2005
• How to win the pool | • Brackets
• No. 1 Illinois ready | • Prediction

I see one, maybe two important national stories there, and neither of them have anything to do with March Madness. One could argue that the ANWR story is one of global importance, considering that it directly impacts the environment, and the obesity story is important to me because, well, I need to drop about thirty pounds and the older I get, the harder that is to do.

I bitched about this sort of thing when the Peterson verdict came back, which is why I'm bitching about it again. Who, outside of the people directly involved with the Peterson case, ought to give one tenth of a shit about his sentence? It's not like he did anything all that unusual--he killed his wife. That happens an awful lot in this country, and yet those cases don't get a fraction of the media scrutiny that this one got.

At least with Blake, there was a surreal sort of celebrity factor at work, although I doubt most of the viewing public so engrossed with this case ever saw "Baretta," much less anything else Blake ever did. I remember "Baretta" vaguely at best, and I'm 36 years old. And yet MSNBC sees fit to not only make it the top story, they give prime space to Michael Ventre to wax rhapsodic on how Blake got away with murder, thus making him into another O.J. Never mind that Ventre admits that the case against Blake was flimsier than Bush's WMD argument (and that's a tough act to top)--Ventre says "Now folks will look at him as somebody who pulled a fast one and got away with it."

How exactly Ventre knows this is beyond me. Personally, I imagine Blake will probably go back to his life the way it was before he was arrested and acquitted for the murder of his wife--he'll go back to being a nobody that the vast majority of the television viewing public never heard of in the first place. And that's just fine with me. I wouldn't even mind it if Ventre took his self-righteous faux-piety act into obscurity right along with Blake.

Why do Republicans hate old and disabled people?

As Kos notes, Sen. Bill Nelson offered a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that "Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt." The final vote? The amendment was rejected 50-50, which means all but five Republican Senators are in favor of deep cuts in benefits and/or massive increases in debt above and beyond the yearly deficits we're already facing.

Let's focus on that last part and simplify it: Republicans want to cut your Social Security and put us even deeper in debt.

Howard had it right: if you want fiscal responsibility in Washington, you'd better elect a Democrat, because you can't trust Republicans with your money.

I love my camera phone

because it lets me record things like this bumpersticker I saw in the Haight right after stuffing myself at an extraordinary tapas joint.



It takes stones to put a bumpersticker like that on your vehicle, even in San Francisco.

How do you spell relief?

H-O-T T-U-B



Nothing quite kicks your stress level in the ass like soaking in a hot tub, drinking wine with friends. That's where I was Sunday night, and somehow I didn't give a shit about what happened in the world that day.

On a side note, for the first time in school history, my alma mater is going to the Big Dance where they will no doubt be destroyed by Oklahoma State. Still, Go Lions!

Odd coincidence

According to the Writer's Almanac, today is the birthday of both human crotchstain Rupert Murdoch and one of the funniest writers of all time, Douglas Adams. At least Fox isn't making the movies--that would have been creepy.

P.S. A new trailer is up on the website. I'm going to watch it now.

Big Congrats

to my buddy Geoffrey Brock. Not only is he a top notch translator, husband to the delightful Padma and father to the handsome Ravi, winner of the New Criterion prize (which means his first book of poetry will be coming out next year, the bastard), he's also the newest member of the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Arkansas. That's where I received my MFA. Geoff and I got to be friends while we were Stegner Fellows together last year at Stanford, and this couldn't happen to a better guy. Check out some of his work here and here.

One last thing, and then I'm going to bed

The troll is back in the comments. Everybody drop in and give him a hug--he needs it, I'm sure.

And dude--you're not a troll because we disagree--you're a troll because you're an asshole, you don't make any reasonable counter-arguments, and you insist on signing your name John F. Kerry and putting down a fake email address. You want to have a reasonable discussion, be reasonable to start with, and don't hide behind some cheap-ass bad joke of a post name.

That said, as long as you don't cross the line and start getting personal, I won't ban you from the site.

The Capture of Hussein, Part the Second

Michael Hussey, about whom I know absolutely nothing, but whose blog carries a very similar tagline about the reality based community, pinged me of all people earlier today on the Hussein capture story below. Thanks dude--I imagine your readership is bigger than mine, so I appreciate the plug, even if it were inadvertant. He says of the story:

This is starting to look like B.S. I emailed Jeremy Botter and asked him about the news story. He was a part of Saddam Hussein's capture. Here is his version of the events.


1. Rabeh was not part of my unit. I am in the Army, 1-10 Cavalry of the 4th Infantry Division. I can tell you, from my own memory at least, that no Marines were involved in Operation Red Dawn. I pulled perimeter security while the assault teams went in, and yes, Saddam was captured on this mission -- I have photographs taken through night vision goggles to prove it.

2. The mission was December 13, not December 12.

3. Yes, Saddam was found in a spider hole.


Botter states quite clearly that Hussein was found in a spider hole. There also is this.


A Marine Corps captain contacted by WorldNetDaily was unable to confirm by press time if the Marine mentioned in the story was indeed in that branch of the armed forces.


I do remember reading on the internet that the media was interested in buying Botter's photos of Saddam's capture. You can ask Botter how that went. I would imagine they were worth some serious cash.

Here's the thing--Rabeh's story and Botter's story don't contradict each other. Now I'm not saying that Rabeh is reliable here--I don't know that at all, and I'm a bit suspicious of it myself, but just because Botter doesn't know the guy and Rabeh didn't serve in his unit, that doesn't mean that both men could be telling the truth, from their own points of view and experiences. After all, if you're looking to stage a capture, you're not going to use the same unit for both instances, and you're certainly not going to tell anyone in the ranks about what's going down. You might not even tell the commander of the operation. If I were trying to set this up and make it as plausible as possible, no one but the spooks who put Hussein in that hole would know he was there, in order to make the surprise at the capture real.

Let me make this clear--I have no doubt that Botter and the other men involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein pulled him out of that spider hole and believe that he'd been hiding there for quite some time. But that belief doesn't preclude the possibility of Rabeh's story also being true.

Don't know what to make of this either

but it wouldn't surprise me at all.

A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

Thus far, Juan Cole doesn't have anything on the story, and he's the biggest Middle East expert I know of, but he'd be the person I look to to give some indication of how reliable of a news source al-Medina is. I imagine he'll have something to say on this soon.

Quote of the day

From a comment on a diary from the Daily Kos dealing with the question of whether T-bills (which comprise the whole of the Social Security Trust Fund) are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government:

So if i say that the tooth fairy doesn't exist and you say that the tooth fairy is a can of dinty moore beef stew that shoots lasers out of its ass, then the truth must lie somewhere in between.

And for so many on the right-wing, that's exactly where the truth lies.

One more thing on payday loans

The biggest issue that I have with payday loans isn't the usurious interest rates--and their rates make usury look like a family loan--it's the legal jeopardy you can put yourself in by taking one out. In Louisiana, the collatoral you put down for these loans is a personal check (or at least it was six years ago). If you default on the loan, i.e. they cash the check and it bounces, and it's for more than a hundred dollars, you can be found guilty of a felony. This isn't just a matter of financial problems anymore--this is the equivalent of the return of debtor's prison.

On bankruptcy bills and credit cards

It's been all over the blogosphere--Josh Marshall, Atrios, Ezra Klein, and Big Media Matt among others have been pushing this story all day, and for the last week or two. It's a shitty bill, no question, for lots of people who have one thing in common.

They care about their credit.

That's where we part ways. I don't care about my credit. I've been in credit hell before and I'm heading back there again--one of those credit card companies that will make out like a bandit from this bill offered me a card five years ago, and then kept offering to increase the credit limit (an offer I took every time) until my credit limit was--and I'm not shitting you here--more than fifty percent of my annual income. Fifty-eight percent, to be exact, and that wasn't my only card. In fact, at one point, I had revolving credit lines that exceeded my annual pre-tax income. Now I spent the money on those credit lines--no question about that--but what's the penalty to the credit card companies that extended that credit to me when no sane lender would have done so? Apparently, none whatsoever.

Except for this one. The big card, the one with the outrageous limit that I never should have gotten in the first place? I'm shining them now, because I can't afford to pay them. I've walked away from debt in the past without going into bankruptcy, and I'll do it again, because it is possible to survive without credit in this society, believe it or not. I've got an answering machine on my landline (a line I use only for dsl service, so I don't even keep the ringer on) and I let the Mooninites talk to the bill collectors and the telemarketers. They're coming for you, and they're coming drunk, in the night, sweating beer. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, Aqua Teen Hunger Force season three extras and that's all I'm saying about that.)

I guess my point is this--lots of people on the short end of the economic spectrum get shafted by these bastards all the time, and a big part of the reason is because they think they're playing by the rules. Well here's what I've learned: the lending game isn't a Marquess of Queensbury boxing match--it's a brawl outside the bar at 2:00 a.m. and the lenders have thirty of their closest friends with baseball bats and chains on their sides and you've got... your ass, and that's about all. Did I forget to mention that in this scenario, you're in a wheelchair and only have three fingers left on the hand that's on the one arm you still have? That's what you're facing, and now, Congress is about to break those fingers, so you can forget whatever jedi mind trick jujitsu you were about to pull.

Your only weapon is the refusal to pay, and the willingness to tell these credit companies that you can live without them if they don't want to play fair. The only way we'll be able to stop predatory lending practices and usurious interest rates is if those of us at the bottom--the ones they're preying on--deecide we don't need to carry a gold card around, and that we'll make do with what we can pay cash for. It worked for the survivors of the Great Depression--it can work for us.

How does Wal-Mart do it?

Apparently, they don't really have lower prices, at least not across the board the way they seem to suggest they do.

A mid-size Wal-Mart supercenter may offer for sale 100,000 separate items, or stock-keeping units (skus). Wal-Mart and other major retailers believe that the general public knows the going price of only 1 to 2 percent of these items. Therefore, each Wal-Mart store shops for the prices of only about 1,500 items in their competitors' stores. If it is ever found that a competitor has a lower price on one of these items than Wal-Mart, the store manager will immediately lower his or her price to be the lowest in the area....

Price-sensitive merchandise is displayed in prominent places such as the kiosk at the entrance to the store, as well as on end caps, in dump bins, and in gondolas down the main aisles. Consequently, when Wal-Mart customers see the items of which they know the price, the ones always priced lower in Wal-Mart, they start assuming that everything else is also priced lower than at competing stores. This assumption is simply not true.

My barber has offered me a simple example. He sells a nonbreakable pocket comb for 25 cents that he procures from his vendor for eight cents. Wal-Mart sells a lower-quality comb for 98 cents, and one would assume that Wal-Mart pays less for it than the barber does. People keep buying Wal-Mart combs, however, because the average person does not know the going price of a pocket comb, and it is automatically assumed that the Wal-Mart price is the lowest.
So to a certain extent, Wal-mart does it with a little sleight-of-hand--they show you the low price up front and you start to think that they have it cheaper everywhere. Add in that even if you have your doubts about the value, you figure you'll pay for the convenience of all-in-one shopping. Factor in the efficiency with which Wal-Mart controls inventory and it's easy to see how they've become as dominant as they have.

Which is why it pisses me off so badly that Wal-Mart refuses to pay a living wage to their workers--trolls, spare me the recent statement by Wal-Mart officials where they claim the average wage is somewhere around ten bucks an hour. That number includes the CEO's pay, which makes the number artificially high.

The biggest reason Wal-mart is able to treat their workers the way they do is because there's no threat of unionization. Wal-mart has already demonstrated, more than once, the lengths to which they'll go to avoid letting a union into their industry. In one case, they shuttered a store in Quebec; in another, they completely changed the way they sold meat, all to avoid negotiation with a union. Why? It certainly isn't profit margin--Wal-mart makes so much money that even Hoffa couldn't have put a dent in their bottom line. No--it's part of their corporate ideology, and I don't fully understand it. Part of it is historical--Sam Walton was as anti-union as you could find, and to a certain extent, his legacy lives on.

But the more I think about this, the more I believe it comes down to this simple point--they're selfish bastards, and they're insatiable. They won't be satisfied until they have it all, which is why I appreciated this past Sunday's Boondocks so much.

Not exactly the march on Selma

but I guess this sort of qualifies as civil disobedience.

A STUDENT is planning to carry out a crime spree by travelling across the United States and breaking weird local laws along the way.

Richard Smith, 23, will risk being arrested for falling asleep in a cheese factory in South Dakota and going whale-hunting in landlocked Utah. He intends to break about 40 strange state and town laws as he crosses America, starting from the notorious former prison island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay.

His 18,000-mile journey across the continent will end in Hartford, Connecticut, where it is illegal to cross the road while walking on your hands.
Of course, he's planning to write a book about this, or perhaps get a tv network interested in filming a series about it (which would likely be better that half the shit on tv right now). It sounds like it could be a reasonably interesting challenge; the one law he plans on breaking that I think he ought to reconsider is the one from Zion, Illinois that forbids giving a lit cigar to dogs, cats and other pets. That law doesn't sound so stupid to me.

Chavez says
Don't fuck with Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned Friday that his nation, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, would cut off oil supplies to the United States if Washington tries to "hurt" his country, news reports said.

"We want to supply oil to the United States. We are not going to avoid supplying of oil unless the U.S. government gets a little bit crazy and tries to hurt us," he told reporters during a visit to India, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Gee. I wonder why Hugo Chavez might think that the US government might like it better if he weren't in power? Might it have something to do with the State department's willingness to recognize a government that had ostensibly overthrown Chavez's government even when it hadn't really done so? Might it have something to do with Condoleeza Rice's statement made during her confirmation hearings when asked by Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee if it were possible to say something positive about the Chavez government, replied "It's pretty hard, Senator, to find something positive."

Personally, I don't know whether or not Chavez is a hero or an autocrat--I suspect the answer lies somewhere closer to hero, considering the folks he's got as enemies--but I understand this much: the poor people in Venezuela are doing considerably better than they were before Chavez, and the oil companies aren't doing as well, and that's a good sign in my view. Add in that he beat back a recall election pretty handily, an election overseen by the UN unlike our own, and that makes Chavez even more of a good guy in my book.

Yummy

Just joking.

Corante has a terrifically simple rundown on the latest conclusions to be drawn from the "Hobbit" skull fossil--actually H. floriensis--discovered in Indonesia.

SCOTUS does the right thing

Morally, that is. Legally, I'm not so sure, since I'm not a lawyer, not even a dilettante in the field, but I'm heartened that people who aren't old enough to be considered adults when they commit crimes won't be executed anymore.

he Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Constitution forbids the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes, ending a practice used in 19 states.

The 5-4 decision throws out the death sentences of 72 juvenile murderers and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.
Antonin Scalia had his predictable hissy fit over the decision, saying it was the next step in the removal of power from the states (whenever he writes that, and he does so pretty regularly, I can't help but scream Bush v. Gore!). O'Connor was her regular self, looking to carve out individual options instead of bright line decisions meant to help lower courts actually make decisions.

Whatever--the important thing is that we won't be executing minors anymore. Maybe one day we'll stop executing people all together, but until then, this is a good step.

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