Monday, June 30, 2008

Is Oil A Problem Or Not?

PRICE 139.830
CHANGE -0.480
%CHANGE -0.34

Have you heard the latest dramatic action that president Bush is taking to get oil prices under control?

Me neither.

The Bushes are self proclaimed "oil men" who have been sucking up to the Saudis and other oil giants for generations, so you would imagine that they would at least be able to call some kind of summit meeting for all of the big players to discuss what's happening. But nothing.

Not a word.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I am under the impression that the tripling of oil prices is a world-wide economic catastrophe that could lead to a near global depression. Yes? No? Maybe?

Is anybody in our government paying attention? Well, apparently that task has fallen to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Let's see what he's doing . . .

Monitoring Market Conditions

Courtesy of Bloomberg June 24, 2008 -
Paulson also repeated his view that high oil prices are a symptom of tight supplies, rather than a trend driven by financial speculators. ``I just think it's important that when you see a fundamental issue, that you don't get diverted with an issue that is not a key driver and is not central to the problem,'' Paulson said. When asked about the role of speculators, Paulson stuck by his insistence that it is not a big factor in current market conditions. ``I've seen no evidence that it is a major factor. And I've seen a lot of evidence that there's a supply-demand issue, and inventories are becoming tighter,'' Paulson said, adding that U.S. officials will continue to monitor market conditions.

Well, OK, I guess. But should something more be happening? For some reason, I personally am way more worried about oil prices that I am about Al Quaeda blowing me up, or Iran building nuclear power plants (actually seems kind of smart), or whether Mitt Romney will get to lose another election this year, or who's doping up at the Olympics.
I've had three of my clients go out of business this year. And I don't have a lot of clients. Our economy is about to go into the tank, and it already has for a lot of people. Meanwhile, folks in Dubai are skiing indoors. That's great for them. But it seems to signal a big shift in wealth. We say good bye, they say hello. Let's make it not so big.

George should at least call a big meeting to discuss it. He's done nothing! Instead I'm only hearing about what McCain or Obama will try to do about it next year. What about this year? Will somebody please go into the oval office and slap that fool awake!

Remember all that bullshit talk justifying the Iraq War II about oil being the fuel for the "engine of democracy" and so strategically we could not allow ourselves to be blackmailed with it? Well, guess what? We're not being blackmailed. We're being robbed.

Let's get it together here. The sellers should not have this kind of pricing power. We have other cards to play here besides just stupidly bidding our dollars away. Please tell me we are smarter than this. We, meaning you and I, can start by letting own pols know that we demand some action. And we don't mean invading Iran.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Word of the Day - Mau Maued

Ahhh. Maureen Dowd. NYT's resident bitchy vixen, has managed to use the term Mau Mau in relation to Barack Obama. I'm not sure how many main stream media types would dare to do this. There is absolutely no way this was a mistake. She's playing with fire, teasing all the conservative writers who would get pilloried for such cutesiness with racially charged terms.

Here's the quote from Sunday's column:

"It’s hard to fathom why Obama should be mau-maued into paying off the debt that Hillary and Bill accrued attacking and undermining him, while mismanaging the campaign and their nearly quarter-billion-dollar war chest so horribly that one Hillaryland insider told The New Republic that it bordered on fraud."

Redheaded Seductress Maureen Dowd

Excellent point! Especially given that about $12MM of Hillary's $22MM campaign debt is owed to Hillary herself, and another $6MM is owed to the hateful and rightfully despised Mark Penn. Take those two out of the mix and I'll send in $100. I don't even mind paying Hillary back, but as long as Mark Penn is in the mix, fuggedaboutit.

So, unless you're as old as John McCain, you're probably wondering, "What the hell is a Mau-Mau?" Some kind of chocolate-coconut candy from Hawaii? Well, no.

The Mau Maus were a group of African revolutionaries in Kenya in the 1940's and 1950's, fighting English imperial rule. They used protests, strikes, and terrorism to fight the English. Of course they were also black, and so even scarier than the Irish Catholics. The Mau Mau lost, but their cause ultimately prevailed.

Kenyan Mau-Maus

And their name has stuck around. Tom Wolfe used it in a hip book from the 1970's. (Isn't it funny that Tom Wolfe used to be hip?) As a verb, it means to strong arm someone, which is a form of "unarmed" (hah hah!) robbery. Basically to bully someone into doing something or giving up something.

But, it also is used, rarely, as a racial pejorative for black people, implying that they are criminals or violent. When I say rarely, I'd say not as rarely as "Macaca," which I had not heard used as an epithet prior to Senator George Allen's famous blurtation.

So, for context, I've included this song from Hair! which includes the use of Mau-Mau (I know I'm being inconsistent with the hyphens) among a litany of racially derogatory pronouns. It's also a pretty snappy tune. But don't sing it at work.

I'm not typing or saying the name of this song.

So, what do you think? Will Maureen catch any flak? Should there be fallout? Will anyone even notice? If nobody notices, is that even worse for Maureen? And finally, what is she up to with this?

Weekend Roundup

Kids Today

My 5 year old tells me that the big kids "make out" while they hang around their swim meet waiting for their races. When I ask what "make out" means, I get giggles, until finally my 8 year old answers that it means, "bust a move." Who knew?

Young MC

Our Growing Economy

If GDP is up 1%, but inflation is 4.2%, then I don't think the economy is really growing. Oh, and oil is at $142 a barrel.

The Angelina Jolie of Journalism - Lara Logan!

So, I saw CBS's Lara Logan on The Daily Show and thought, "What a gutsy chick going into all those war zones. May she's brainy, too." Well, maybe. But now she's also a tabloid queen for having 2 boyfriends in Iraq who got into a fight over her. A fistfight in Iraq? Now that's news! Oh yeah, she and one her boyfriends are married to other people, and she's from Africa.

Old Ralph Nader Still Crazy But Now Also Racist!

Ralph Nader, who may or may not also be Alan Alda, became a famous liberal icon by writing a daring "tell all" book to inform the country that cars can be dangerous. And he was right! That was about 45 years ago. So, apparently bored, Ralph has kept busy by being a public crank and helping Republicans beat Democrats in elections because his own political soul is too pure to engage in the dirty business of doing any real-life good in the world.

For his next act, Ralph will publicly soil his pants in a condescending and pretentious manner.

Here's Ralph's latest insightful ralph on Barack Obama:

"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader said. "Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards."

Well, they call it ralphing for a reason. Obama is obviously just a white-talking mulatto who doesn't give a crap about exploitation. (When's the last time you heard the word "explotation" in a political context?) He ain't no better than that white-playing quadroon Tiger Woods.

Nader, of course, is Green, thus continuously embarrassing all people who care about the environment.

Irresistable headlines

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Who Should Host Meet The Press?

Tim Russert wore many hats at NBC, but hosting Meet the Press on Sunday mornings was his show for 18 years. So, naturally, people are starting to wonder who will take over a show that's been on for as long as most of us can remember.

Tom Brokaw will fill in for the immediate period, which seems appropriate for his anchor emeritus status. But who will fill the job on a permanent basis? It's actually kind of a cheery guessing game to be able to play after the jolting loss of Mr. Russert. I would imagine that he would see it as timely as well, in an election year with historic overtones.

So, first, what's the criteria? That would be a logical place to start. But deciding who you want to watch on tv can be a little like dating or house shopping. You want to look at everything until you fall in love.

Meet the Press is a prestige property. And NBC will want to keep it that way. Current NBC newsies will have the inside track, no doubt. But an outside hire is always possible. I would expect that NBC will also not want to give up on any currently successful shows, like Matthews or Olberman, by moving the name host to MTP.

But who do we viewers want? Some basic guidelines would be:

1. The new host should be someone who's experienced, cut their teeth, made their bones, earned their stripes. Meet the Press is not middle management. It is a destination job.

2. It is also political job, so we want a political junkie. This reduces the pool to experienced political reproters.

3. We want it lively. Politics is fun for a lot of people and so should be the show. So we want a real personality, like Russert, who fills the room with vitality.

4. We want someone worldly. It's time to go global in our political gossiping. We are looking at the future, and the future continues to show a shrinking world. We want someone with a global perspective.

5. Since it's called "Meet The Press" the host should be someone who can legitimately claim to represent "the press."

Having said that, let's consider some candid dates.

1. The Obvious Dandydates

Brian Williams - NBC nightly anchor may want the hour for more reflective reporting, but may not want the 7 day work week.

Andrea Mitchell - NBC political veteran seems like a natural fit. Putting in a woman would also be a timely move.

Soon to be jobless NBC alumn has lots of inside friends, but CBS anchor gig proved she's not a real reporter and no politico.

Chris Matthews - a real political addict and entertainer, but doesn't pull in the ratings and some question the quality of his credentials. Also already has 2 tv shows.

George Stephsomething - Booooring. Current host of ABC's This Week Without David Brinkley probably not going anywhere.

David Gregory - Tall, blonde, and handsome David is currently hosting MSNBC's Race For The Whitehouse, scheduled to sunset just as Brokaw's temporary tenure expires. Coincidence?

Bob Scheiffer - Everybody loves CBS's senior anchor Bob Scheiffer, but he's probably heading for retirement.

2. Bold Moves We Would Like To See

Christiane Amanpour - This would be exciting! Amanpour is with CNN and has also done work with CBS' 60 Minutes. She's international, and could expand MTP's scope.

Gwen Ifill - PBS moderator of Washington Week in Review as well as Jim Leher's sidekick on NewsHour. She would be solid but is a little low key. She has the gravitas, though.

3. Longshots

Keith Olberman - Too fiery and too liberal.

Norah O'Donnell - Solid political reporter could do the job, but may be viewed as too young.

Joe Scarborough - Former Congressman and UF Law alum has established an evenhanded political approach that works well. Not really a reporter though, so may not fit as the representative of the press the show seeks.

Chuck Todd - Interesting Russert protege, political junkie, official MSNBC number cruncher, has good insight, and also has weird fan following. I think he's too young though.

Alex Witt - MCNBC Anchor also plays in band called Mrs. Robinson, and let me just say, well, I'm down with that. Not a real politico, though, so I don't think she's in the running.

4. Up & Comers - Maybe Next Time

David Shuster - Too young, needs to learn to tone down the opinions a bit, but he'll be doing something good by this time next year. That "pimping" thing only made him cooler.

Michelle D. Bernard - Smart cookie will show up more and more if the MSNBC has any sense.

Rachel Maddow - Awesome Rachel is strong politico with great insight, charm, and the voice and presence to control a political debate. She's be a great choice, but may be a bit too . . . um, gay, for some at MSNBC. She should get her own show though. I'd watch it.

Ann Curry - A surprise surge in 51 year old Ann's career as she goes from Today Show's third banana to appearing as substitute anchor on NBC Nightly News. Back to her early reporter roots. Middle aged women and men all wonder why she still loooks 30. Not really politically oriented, though, so a longshot.

5. No Chance

Stone Phillips - It used to be good to be Stone Phillips.

Dan Rather - Hah hah! Just kidding.

Matt Lauer - A great interviewer, Matt is capable of more heavy lifting than the Today Show. Not an real MTP cnadidate, but I'd like to see him do more politics. Another suspiciously young looking 50-something.

Harry Smith - Great reporter and interviewer. A CBS player so not a real candidate.

Edith "E.D." Hill - Fox mouthpiece famous for not knowing what a "pound" is and calling it a "terrorist fist jab." Her show was cancelled 4 days later.

Tucker Carlson - Works at MSNBC with no specific job that I can identify. Show got cancelled. A conservative shill, but insightful. Sometimes obnoxious, but it's hard not to like him a little. No chance here though.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good Order & Discipline

Soldiers, like all military equipment, will deteriorate and wear out from overuse. Mentally, this is why "morale" is so important in the military. Once any person gets to the "fuck this shit" stage of demoralization, it's tough to get them back without a good, long break. Repeated 15 month tours, combined with a lack of a clear mission, is demoralizing our Army. And it is a big big problem.

Military officers are charged with the duty to maintain good order and discipline. It's not happening in Iraq. The next time you want to watch a half hour of whatever is on tv, click on Youtube instead, and watch some "Iraq" videos. The conventional narrative that we hear from our political leaders, telling us about how eager the troops are to stay and complete their mission, is blatantly absent. What you will find are American soldiers who are frustrated, angry, bitter (yes - bitter!), profane, emotionally detached, and grouchy. More than that, watching these young men, one gets a feeling that they are, somehow, lost. They are acting mean, and are indifferent to the suffering and need around them. I don't think this is how they were when they first arrived in Iraq.

Did you know that the military is not testing the troops in Iraq for drugs? Drug testing of all military members has been mandatory since Ronald Reagan became President in 1981. Who made this policy change? I didn't read about it in the papers or hear about it on the news. Any suspension of drug testing in the field looks to me as a none-too-subtle green light for soldiers to get high. Talk about the opiate of the masses. Stepping back, I see an Army of soldiers given alcohol, pornography, vulgar music, free to do drugs, and free to abuse civilians, all without any clear mission. This is the Army of the 1970's. It's already breaking. This needs to stop.

Good order and discipline keeps morale high. Soldiers did not sign up because they wanted to be a part of some low class gang of profane bullies. When they signed up, they had high hopes. When the officer corps allows the worst behavior to become the norm, and fails to punish offenders, the good soldiers become demoralized. They think, "Why am I trying so hard to do it right when nobody here cares?" And then they start to feel like fools for carrying the burden when the slackers are allowed to fuck off.

I saw these video clips on Youtube and they are very disturbing, at many levels. Where are the officers and NCO's in charge of these guys?

This one I am suspicious of as a possible hoax:

Anyone know anything about this?

To support the troops, we need to use them in a humane and reasonable way. We are using them up like disposable cigarette lighters with these repeated and extended combat tours.

In Viet Nam, the rule was a soldier only had to do one tour, and typically that tour lasted 11 or 12 months. In Iraq, the tours are 15 months and many soldiers have to do 3 or more. And when their enlistment is up, the Army tells many that they are forced to stay in under the "stop-loss" program, so that they can be sent to Iraq again. Add to this the many problems our veterans are having getting their promised benefits once they return home, and it adds up to a shameful situation.

Support the troops by taking care of the troops.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday Catch-up Potpourri

Iraqi Kids Enjoy Summer Vacation

Akbar has to be the American next!

Dana Perino Canonized!

I'm really really sorry about those earlier posts.
Barack and Hillary Make Up

Obama Eager To Meet Hillary Supporters

And so is Bill!

Weird Stuff That's "In"

Don't blame me, I'm just the messenger, here.
Words I Had To Look Up Recently
Lede - this one is not in my dictionary or Wikipedia. Apparently it is uniquely used by journalists to refer to the opening sentence or paragraph of a story. (Lawyers call this the "commencement.") There are 2 theories on why it is spelled this way. First is that publishers intentionally misspelled it to distinguish it from the heavy metal "lead" that was the material fixed type was made of. Second is that "lede" was the original spelling of the word "lead" (the verb "to lead") until the 1500's, and the original spelling only survives in this context.

Temporal - this word has several meanings, but the one I was looking for is basically "chronological," as in time.
Keeping Track
Crude Oil is at $136.80 a barrel.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Child Rapists

Convicted Child Rapist

Courtesy of CBS News - Richard Troy Gillmore was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1987 for raping 13-year-old Tiffany Edens. Gillmore, an admitted serial rapist who terrorized Portland, Oregon-area woman in the 1970s and '80s, stalked his victims while jogging and became known as "The Jogger Rapist," reports Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman.

Last year, the parole board recommended Gillmore be set free, despite a psychological evaluation that showed he has a 75 percent chance of raping again.

So, Edens joined the local district attorney's office in a lawsuit seeking to keep Gillmore behind bars. Edens says she wanted the parole board members "to get a sense what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl on a Friday night doing her chores so that she could go to a movie with a friend and to have a sleepover, and then to be brutally raped and ambushed in her home. And that's what I wanted everyone in that room to get a sense of what that's like for somebody that goes through that."

"I think he's a serial rapist waiting to get out and commit rapes again," declared Multnomah County Deputy D.A. Russ Ratto. Their opposition comes despite a condition of parole that Gillmore wear a GPS tracking device.

Tiffany Edens today

Well, if you are like me, these stories just really make you mad. I am always doubly mad when the press is complicit, and enables irresponsible conduct by public officials, by not identifying who they are. It's just "the parole board." I just bet old Richard Troy Gillmore got a real kick out seeing his rape victim have to come into court again. And I bet those folks on the parole board will be really really sorry if he decides to go see her again once he's out. Really sorry.

For more on the history of this case click here and here.

So who are these people? Well, they are right here:

Steven R. Powers

Steven R. Powers served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Appellate Division of the Oregon Department of Justice before coming to the Board. In that role, he briefed and argued a variety of civil, administrative, and criminal cases before Oregon and federal appellate courts, and was a member of the team of attorneys who defended Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act before the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Powers received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western State College of Colorado and his Juris Doctor degree from Willamette University College of Law. During law school, Mr. Powers was a Public Honors Fellow/Extern at the Oregon Supreme Court and following graduation he served as a Petitions Clerk for the Oregon Supreme Court. Term(s): 02/05/2007 - 06/30/2009

Darcey Baker

Prior to being appointed to the Board, Ms. Baker served as a parole and probation officer and unit supervisor with Clackamas County Community Corrections for 25 years. Ms. Baker is a recognized leader in sex offender notification and was instrumental in the enactment of SB 444 into law respective to predatory and sexually violent dangerous offenders. Additionally, Ms. Baker is an advocate of educating the public on sex offenders in our communities and a social service professional through her involvement with the Oregon Sex Offender Supervision Network. Ms. Baker is a 1979 graduate of Southern Oregon State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology. Term(s): 06/25/2004 - 12/10/2007 12/11/2007 - 12/10/2011

Candace Wheeler

Candace Wheeler possesses a Masters of Social Work from Portland State University and a Bachelors of Arts from Western Oregon University, as well as a certificate in paralegal studies. From 1999 to 2006, she was employed by the Oregon Department of Justice as a paralegal. She supported a team of attorneys representing the board and the Department of Corrections in civil and criminal appeals. Previous to her work with the Department of Justice, Ms. Wheeler worked for the Alaska Citizen’s Foster Care Review Board overseeing program development and day-to-day program service delivery, and spent many years as a social worker in the field of adoption and foster care placement. Term(s): 02/01/2006 - 01/31/2010

MEANWHILE, Back in Washington, DC, The US Supreme Court Says,

"We conclude there is a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape." - Kennedy v. Louisiana, to see the full opinion click here

Well, I for one did not even get a chance to vote on that national consensus. I'm not a big fan of the death penalty, but I could probably pull the trigger on these guys.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Iraq Surge - So What?

American Soldiers in Iraq

David Brooks today takes a break from reality for a trip to Never-Never Land (notably not to Iraq) in writing rapturously about how courageous President Bush was to defy his generals, and the will of the American people after the November 2006 Elections, by sending thousands more of our brave, young people down into the rathole of Iraq for The Surge. And what a success Mr. Brooks sees there. To quote our Mr. Brooks,

David Brooks

Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006. More than a year on, the surge has produced large, if tenuous, gains. Violence is down sharply. Daily life has improved. Iraqi security forces have been given time to become a more effective fighting force. The Iraqi government is showing signs of strength and even glimmers of impartiality. Iraq has moved from being a failed state to, as Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, merely a fragile one.

Well. That all sure does sound pretty good. Doesn't it? This Surge has really helped America, right? It's really all been worth it, right? We Americans are a lot better off because of all of this, because . . . well, why exactly?

Guess Which One David Brooks Calls Courageous?

How does this help America? Exactly?

Pop Quiz Time!!!

Q: The Iraq War (II) and The Surge has helped America by (fill in the blanks):
(Answers Below)

Coincidently, Bob Herbert also appeared in the NYT today writing about a RAND Corporation study on our returning Veterans. Here's Bob referencing that study,

The study found that approximately 300,000 individuals who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are currently suffering from P.T.S.D. or depression, and that 320,000 have most likely experienced a traumatic brain injury.
Add to that burden the mental torture of depression or P.T.S.D. or the debilitating effects of traumatic brain injury, and you have the stuff that leads to alcoholism, drug abuse, family dissolution, homelessness, trouble with the law and sometimes suicide.

Bob Herbert

Obviously Bob is choosing to be a Negative Nelly about how courageous President Bush is in this time of war. If only Bob and the other Debby Downers out there would open their eyes and see all the good that war has done for us.

Oops. Don't look at this chart.

Crude Oil Prices

Answers To Pop Quiz:

1. Makes huge profits for Cheney's bosses at Halliburton
2. Disrupts oil production for 5 years and counting, spurring interest in alternate energy sources
3. High oil prices keep oil industry profits and oil stock prices high, saving the US stock market, and our 401-K's, from complete collapse in otherwise crappy economy (TX is doing fine btw)
4. US weapons industry gets to field test all their products, helping sales
5. Neocon nerds get to pretend they're tough by talking about fighting

OK, those could be construed as actual benefits. But what about the cost? Mr. Brooks?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stupid Republican Contest

This is US Representative Thaddeus McCotter. Really. He is from Michigan, the state with the worst economy in the country, if you don't count Iraq. Of course, at least in Iraq things seem to be improving.

So, you might naively think that perhaps Ichibod, I mean Thaddeus, might be hard at work in the Congress trying to reform and revive the auto industry, or help bring new business to the economic dead zone of the Mitten State.

But no. Instead, Thaddeus is spending Congressional time to warn us that after 7 plus years of Republicans In Charge!, we are in danger that the Democrats will ruin the economy and tax everyone out of a job and lose the war in Iraq. And just to show just how detached from reality, and his job, he really is, Thaddeus delivered his message in a little skit, on the floor of the US House of Representatives, where he sarcastically pretended to "translate" words that Democrats use into what they really mean.

The people of Michigan should really be embarrassed by this.

It is painful to watch, but useful. Because, if keeping our country viable is important, then we really need to ask ourselves if it is OK to have people like this in Congress.

Just watch it as long as you can stand it. It's only 3 and a half minutes.