Friday, May 09, 2014

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) This is what freedom looks like. I keep in mind that a lot of this hearkens back to Hugo Chavez and how he tossed out candies of government patronage while keeping the food of freedom away from the table.

2) Solar now, solar forever.

3) Fairy cake not included.

4) Sanity may finally win out with voter ID laws.

5) I can understand South Dakota being number one. A lot of credit card companies have their “headquarters” there because there are no usury laws so they can charge whatever interest rate they damned well please, which means a lot of clerical workers are needed. New York being so low on the list is a bit of a surprise, tho.

6) Putin rubs Ukraine’s nose in it.

7) Mitt Romney backs a minimum wage hike. This is not an Onion article.

8) Simple answer, guys: Yes

9) How to make $5 into $100. No, this is not a work-at-home scam. Well, sort of. I mean, you can do it at home and there is work, and ultimately, you scam other people.

10) Creeping Sharia! And it’s shaved meat!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

So....About That "Global Warming"...

You think maybe folks in west Texas are starting to take the hint?

Barham says residents (ed. Note: of Wichita Falls, Texas) have cut water use by more than a third, but water supplies are still expected to run out in two years.

So the city has built a 13-mile pipeline that connects its wastewater plant directly to the plant where water is purified for drinking. That means the waste that residents flush down their toilets will be part of what's cleaned up and sent back to them through the tap.

Drinking your own pee is pretty good indication that you might be in trouble.

I don’t mean to make light of a very serious situation, but it’s come down to that for many Texans. Amarillo is on course to become the largest American city to run out of water, a dubious distinction at best, and here’s the juice quote:

“We still have a generally warm Atlantic Ocean, and that tends to mean dry conditions,” [Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon] said.

Welcome to the 21st century, Amarillo!

Although this is not the worst drought to affect the region (the 1930s Dust Bowl was), the increased population plus the additional food production in the region will make this by far the most devastating if this trend continues, which seems extremely likely.

As I write this, New York City is under a storm system that will see rain deep into the weekend.

The economic consequences for the west Texas region have only begun to seep in. After all, every dollar spent on bottled water is a dollar less for such luxuries as food, electricity, and fuel.

Yes, luxuries. You can live without fuel and electricity, and maybe for a while food, but water? In the heat of a Texas summer?

Is this the event I talked about a few days ago? That “what would it take?” that no climate-change denier has ever satisfactorily answered before they started to believe it’s real and it’s a problem?

I hope so. But I doubt it.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Why Now?

Monica Lewinsky has a column in this month’s Vanity Fair in which she opens up about The Affair.

I don’t really have to tell you which one, do I? Unless you are younger than 20, maybe 21, it would have been really hard not to be at least dimly aware of the incident that may have brought down a President.

This is a woman whose name will be forever linked to scandal. I can imagine it’s hard to live like that, particularly when your own involvement in the scandal was not illegal. I mean, she’s not Charles Manson or Sirhan Sirhan. About the closest parallel in our lifetime is Yoko Ono, and she got a lot more support from the man involved than Lewinsky did.

Lewinsky’s only “crime” was entrusting her secrets to a woman who thankfully slunk off into the hell of obscurity after betraying a naïf. I won’t mention her name. Google is your friend if you don’t recall.

Lewinsky turns 40 this year, and so I’m sure she saw an opportunity, indeed perhaps even a need, to get this off her chest. Kudos for her. And kudos more for finding a sweet spot in the political calendar to engage the country again.

In fact, it says a lot about Lewinsky that she doesn’t hold a grudge – much. In fact, she sympathizes with the other “other woman” in this mess, Hillary Clinton, and points out that her anger was not misplaced but perhaps misdirected. (Clinton, it was recently revealed, blamed Lewinsky and herself for the mess, claiming she was emotionally unavailable to Bill at that time, thus neatly deflecting blame from Bill Clinton himself.)

Anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows I believe Bill Clinton’s place in history as one of our greatest Presidents will become more and more apparent as time goes by. The tragedy of his administration was the energy and drive that Clinton showed publicly slopped over into his private life, or I think already his place in history would have been secured.

Nonetheless, by stepping forward now, Lewinsky does Hillary (and Bill) a favor: it’s far enough ahead of even the midterm elections to have minimal impact as a talking point – altho you can bet Republicans will try. And certainly by 2016, the nation will have digested, mocked, and finally accepted Lewinsky’s words for what they are.

An honest attempt to fix history. For that, I think we should thank her.


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

On Deaf Ears

The Obama administration has decided to move the national dialogue forward, to try to take a pro-active position on climate change:

Washington (CNN) -- Flooded rail lines. Bigger, more frequent droughts. A rash of wildfires.

Those are some of the alarming predictions in a White House climate change report released Tuesday, part of President Barack Obama's broader second-term effort to help the nation prepare for the effects of higher temperatures, rising sea levels and more erratic weather.

"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," the National Climate Assessment says, adding that the evidence of man-made climate change "continues to strengthen" and that "impacts are increasing across the country."

We, of course, can anticipate absolutely no action will take place on this. When a significant number in even a dying political party do not believe in climate change – or worse, somehow conflate climate change with God’s will – nothing will happen.

Still, Obama is correct to make a go of it. After all, it’s a desperate enough situation that some kind of effort has to be made, even if it means hearing endless plaintive wails about the amount of money it’s going to cost us and the effect on a seedling economic recovery.

To do nothing is to drown that seedling.

Ten years ago, we might have hoped that our children’s children’s children would curse us and our inertia on what will be the most critical issue of the 21st century. That timetable has been moved up, alarmingly so. It will not be our great-grandchildren. It may not be our grandchildren. It may not even wait for our children, altho they will certainly suffer for our stupidity.

Our generation, us: we may be the victims of our own stupidity, greed, and fear.

I suppose there’s a poetic justice in this. All my life, I’ve tried to live by the credo that we only have one earth and it’s up to me to take care of the parts I live in. Even so, where possible, I’ve tried to expand that territory to shepherd what places I can. I’m not alone, but I’m far from a majority.

Nature is too complex a system for a minority to assist. Sadly, it’s also such a complex system that one person can destroy more than any given number can protect. A lit cigarette, a bottle of bleach down a storm drain, and yes, the proverbial butterfly wing flap, all can create entropy in place of consistency and predictability.

I keep asking my friends who don’t believe in global warming and the concurrent climate change what one event would change their minds? What would provide undeniable proof of the rightness of the science?

No one, not a single one of these friends, has ever provided an answer. This tells me that, deep in their hearts, they know the science is correct. And they’re scared, but not scared enough to let go of what they’ve been instructed to believe by people who are lining up to steal their money in the next disaster.

An event will happen, this much we can be sure of. By then it will be too late. It already is.


Monday, May 05, 2014

The End of the Teabaggers?

You may have blinked and missed it. At any rate, tomorrow will be a bellwether for this November, and 2016:

The race has been cast as yet another skirmish in the ongoing GOP civil war, pitting the establishment-backed Tillis against seven tea party challengers. It's true that Tillis has the support of prominent national Republicans -- including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- and the Chamber of Commerce.

But it would be too easy to frame a Tuesday victory for Tillis, if it happens, as a clean win for the newly emboldened Republican establishment. Tillis hasn't been forced to beat back a tea party challenge, because his opponents haven't put up much of a fight. They've also splintered conservative support.

He has two serious rivals for the nomination: Greg Brannon, a staunch libertarian tea party activist who wants to put U.S. currency back on the gold standard, and Mark Harris, a prominent Baptist pastor from Charlotte who spearheaded the 2012 passage of a constitutional amendment that strengthened the state's same-sex marriage ban. Like other insurgent Republican candidacies around the country this year, neither campaign has managed to stir the kind of grassroots passion that propelled so many tea party victories in 2010.

With memories of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock marked indelibly in the consciousness of the Republican party – along with the “what if?” of two winnable Senate seats thrown away – the GOP establishment must be taking comfort in the fact that they’ve managed to ostracize and minimize the Teabaggers on this go around.

The follow up question, then, is “Quo Vadis?” Where are they going? [ed. Note. I know, technically its “Quo eunt?” but…]

There’s no place in the Democratic party for them, and any third party bid will be doomed to irrelevance, as Duverger’s Law comes into play, even with Koch and Adelson shoveling money into a Tea Party engine, at least at the beginning. They’re businessmen. They’ll stop the minute it becomes unprofitable.

The Koch’s have already made some comments that seem to indicate their frustration with throwing good money after bad. You get the sense they will be ratcheting back, having caused enough damage already.

The real damage the Teabaggers have done is at the local level: co-opting state and local governments, even school boards, to advance an antediluvian political philosophy rooted in Cro-Magnon sentiments, with a hint of white supremacy. That disease, that decay, will take much longer to root out.

We’re starting to see it with issues like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. Those are the issues, I think, that may give the nation as a whole a second look at liberal political philosophies, and perhaps even force a rejection of conservatism, at least for the next generation or so.

I hope.