Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birther Blather

I’m disappointed . . . along with a bunch of other people. The President has released his birth certificate . . . again. He wants to make the issue go away. What issue is that, you ask? Oh, the fake issue of his birth status—he’s not American, remember?? So, anyway, the Prez is trying to make the Birthers shut up. But, how is he doing it?? By releasing facts!!
Hahahahahahaha. The Prez thinks the issue lacks facts. Hahahahahahahahaha.
Prez, the Birthers don’t employ facts. They make stuff up, remember?? Like the Faux News Network, whose motto is, “We make stuff up, so you don’t have to.” Rupert never let a fact get in his way.
The Birthers are (take your pick) terminally stupid, charlatans, racists, terminally crazy, all of the above. But Mr. Prez, if you actually stopped them from debating your non-existent Kenyan birth, they would have to dream up something else to debate.  And someday they may stumble across real issues, like the national debt, deficits, George’s wars, your war,  global warming, health care, the failure of free-market economics, unemployment ..  . you know, real problems. And we do not want these people anywhere near real problems.  We need them to remain fixated on your birthplace, The Donald’s hairpiece, Sarah bimbo’s kids, and Mike Dingleberry’s belief that the earth is really flat and at the center of the universe.  So long as they are debating that crap, they won’t be able to damage actual thinking/debating of reality.
So quit trying to bring them into our universe, Mr. Prez. I’m sure that the aliens in their alternate universe really like them.
And that’s a good thing.
And on yet another exoplanet, the Bank of America has announced that it has contracted with the Italian Mafia in Sicily. The full terms of the contract have not yet been released, but we are told that Mafia hit-men will break your kneecaps if you fail to pay your credit card bills on time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Technology Rules

The other night, we attended a play at the Actors’ Theatre. The play was “Dead Man’s Cell Phone”, by Sarah Ruhl. The play is about a woman who has to confront today’s technology through a cell phone of a man who dies next to her in a café.
As we awaited the beginning of the play, three 30-something boy magpies behind us were chattering excitedly about their coming weekend events and about their cute I-Phones, which co-located them at the theatre by name.  Wow, another I-Phone App by Apple, the company specializing in really, really cute solutions in search of a problem. As the trio of guys chatted on endlessly, sort of like a group of 8-year olds might have done, the play began and they all quieted. The play is a comedy of sorts, about dead people and technology that lives on after death. Where do all those cell phone conversations go, if not into the ether? Do they vanish, or do they keep going forever?
The same day, someone announced that Apple’s cute I-Phones all keep secret information about your whereabouts, hidden within the phone. Wow! Who’da thought Apple would keep data on its customers without telling/asking them? Amazing.
But the play and the chattering class behind us set me to thinking about today’s technology and what it is about. What troubles me is that it seems to be about less than it used to be.
My working career, after obtaining my engineering degree, began in the aerospace world—helping to build complex missile systems that could destroy whole cities in the blink of an eye—terrible things they were indeed. But they were part of that period we now refer to nostalgically as “the Cold War.”
It seemed to me that technology in the days just after dinosaurs roamed the earth, i.e., when I was young, was founded on that old saw—“necessity is the mother of invention.” That is, when we encountered some problem, sooner or later we would figure out a solution to that problem. That was the heart and soul of the industrial revolution.  At some point, maybe it was during the 1980’s, with the advent of the personal computer, that technology principle seemed to change. Technologists began inventing things for which we had no problem identified. We invented, because we could.  In short, technology began to lead needs, as in "Invention is now the mother of necessity."
Now, how does one market new technology, when the public is not even aware that it needs the technology? Well, you market it the way we market new clothing designs. With clothing, we have various Spring fashion shows, when the designers show off their latest line of clothing. The idea of the shows is to produce a “must-have” mentality among the buying public, at least that part of the buying public that cares. In technology, they have the same thing—Spring/Fall fashion shows that market the latest, coolest, hottest, tech gizmoes, along with the Apps you never realized you needed. That pretty much defines Apple, and Apple pretty much defines the world of technology.
So, now what do we have? We have millions of people, most of whom aren’t even geeks, walking around with these fashion-plate tekkie gadgets, which they consult every minute or two. We have Facebook, a pseudo-social network, where the young go to whine, or to tell us about their latest triumph. We have twitter, we have texting, we even have sexting. We have pseudo-communications gobbling up all the available space in our public airwaves, just so everyone can feel “connected”.
We can observe people sitting in restaurants, ostensibly engaged in social contact with other humans, but not quite connected with the humans in front of them. Instead, they stay pseudo-connected with all their other pseudo-friends on Facebook, all of whom are twittering/texting/sexting continuously. Everyone is walking around, driving, sitting in a permanent state of social disconnect, or perhaps semi-connected. Bodies that are almost disembodied, permanently.  Nothing is real. Everyone is connected, but nobody is connected.  Pseudo-conversations go on endlessly, with no actual information going back and forth. The ether fills up with babble, and one wonders whether all this electronic goo continues to float out into the ether, traveling on forever into some future time and place.
It is all pretty amazing stuff, and would be wonderful, I suppose, if any of the world’s current real problems somehow became solved, or even addressed. Here we have people all over the world blowing up themselves and others on a daily basis. Children go hungry, people are sick without respite, other people are dying for no good reason that anyone can articulate.  And yet, the adult 8-year olds of the world go on chattering to one another, without ever actually communicating, or seemingly caring about all the crap going on about them.
Is this a great world or not??
I wonder what our great grandchildren will make of this stuff?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

War by Other Means

Libya Who?
So, does anyone out there know what we are all doing in, by or for Libya???? I see now that we have just approved the use of armed drones . . . you know, those flying thingies that swoop out of the blue, fire rockets at things and people, and then disappear, all without human hands at the helm. But, we will not put “feet on the ground.”
Why not, pray tell? Someone might get hurt?
First we (the UN) said that Ghadaffi should go, and that we (the civilized world) declared a “NO-FLY” zone, keeping  Ghadaffi from dropping bombs on civilians.  Ok. Then we started rocketing his tanks, until we discovered that the rebels (remember them??) got their hands on some tanks.
Then it all started getting really ugly and complicated, as wars often do, with Ghadaffi adapting and pushing the rebels back all over Libya. As Ghadaffi became more aggressive, and more effective against his opposition civilians, we seemingly became more confused.  So we finally declared that our goal, in addition to protecting civilians, was to have a “regime change” (remember those??). We wanted Ghadaffi out.
Except that the man steadfastly refuses to go. He is patently refusing to pay any attention to our invitations to get him to depart post haste.
So, what’s our collective response? Well, the Brits are sending “advisors” (ahh, for those of you who remember Vietnam, that’s how we began there).
I don’t get it.
We decide collectively, that Libya should be freed from its murderous ruler. But, we need to obey some rules. Mustn’t send in troops. That’s a no-no in UN-speak. Huh??? We are apparently relying on the local population to pull off another Egypt or Tunisia thing. They do the work, and we applaud in the background. Except this time, it doesn’t seem to be working.
I guess I have never really understood these rules by which we declare goals and then refuse to act so as to achieve them. War is nasty business. One should not engage in war unless you are sure that the end justifies the means. War-means are inherently deadly.  That’s why it’s’ not called peace.
Maybe we need to back off, unless we are clear about what we are doing., and what will happen as a result. Maybe the UN just isn’t up to this regime-changing business.
Maybe NATO isn’t either.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pearls before Swine

As seen in today's Charlotte Pamphlet:

Pearls Before Swine:

Hmmmm . . . I wonder . . .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mad Hatters

So, crisis avoided for this week. Our royal, loyal opposition, the republican-madhatterteapartiests, decided to move around the shutdown thing, I guess because that 1995 shutdown thing didn’t work so well for them.  But they have more crises up their sleeves than Carter has pills.  I guess that next up on the docket is the debt ceiling. The Madhatters claim they won’t extend the debt ceiling until the Dems cave on . . . something. Maybe it’s the EPA greenhouse emissions thing. Their owners, the Cocks, really hate EPA, cuz EPA keeps them from totally destroying whatever environment they touch.  So, the Cocks want to gut EPA—maybe just phase it out of existence.  And they will stop at nothing in order to get what they want. They’re a bit like Islamic terrorists in that regard, only instead of strapping on dynamite vests, they are willing to push the entire nation over a cliff to get what they want—see they don’t care what happens, and that’s why the Dems keep caving.
And, after this latest sham crisis,  they will still have the actual budget issue awaiting in the wings. See, after they get all of their social and regulatory goals achieved, they may even turn their attention to actually dealing with the debt and the annual deficits.  The Madhatter party has been using the same strategy for decades. It goes something like this:
1.       Once you are in power, create a fiscal crisis by spending waaaay more money than you have—it’s called “republican charge and spend” politics.
2.       Then, when people begin to get alarmed at the imbalance between income and expenses, you attack something you don’t like, like taxes on the wealthy, or EPA regulations, or banking regulations, or family planning, but . . . you get the point.  
3.       And you link your attacks to the budget problem—“oh, we can’t fund that. We have to rein in our debt.”
4.       Then, after the public votes you out of office because of your insane policies, you link the Dems to the budget problem you created.  That strategy has been working for 30-40 years now.  For the last two years, Obama has been trying to deal with the Madhatter-inspired economic collapse, and the budget imbalances caused by the Shrub’s huge giveaway to his rich friends, coupled with his wars (Madhatters love wars).
This cycle really has little to do with actual fiscal policy per se. The Madhatters seem not to care a fig about such things. Mainly, they want to limit the power of the Dems to solidify their voter base. They want the power. That’s all they ever want—power. And what do they want to do with the power? Why, use it to advance the cash positions of their owners—the Cocks and others of that ilk.
It’s all a giant game to them, where they can win only if they can cause the Dems to lose. They don’t know about win-win scenarios, nope, only zero-sum games.  So, they intend to gut the main power sources of the Dems—middle class programs. Thus, they intend killing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid (see Paul Ryan). They intend to continue whittling away at all programs valued by the Middle Class, because they see them as a source of power for the Dems. Hang on, folks, it’s going to be a really bumpy ride over the next several years.
And on yet another republican exoplanet, Mike Huckabee announced that he actually believes that state governments, being closer to the people and all that, are more effective levels of government and should have more power than the feds. Hahahahahaha . . . Yeah, Mike, who’dja get that one from—the Alaska bimbo???

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Games People Play

So, the big budget game begins with a shot over the bow from the right, as the Paul Ryan cannon fires its big budget, cutting four trillion dollars in ten years. The right wing, some of it, is delighted because at last the right wing is doing more than just shouting at our pinko-commie-fascist president. The left wing is . . . silent.
As I best understand it, Mr. Ryan proposes to eliminate Medicaid, give Medicare to the Insurance Industry, and reform the tax code, without actually increasing any taxes, especially on corporations or the über-rich.
How does he eliminate Medicaid? By converting it into a block grant. While the states now largely control Medicaid, they do so within the limits of Federal regulations. The Feds pay half, the states pay half, but the states are not free to do what they want. Under Mr. Ryan’s plan, as a block grant, the states will be freer to work their will. As I see it, a block grant will largely kill off Medicaid, since states notoriously drive to the bottom when it comes to spending on the poor.
On Medicare, whereas Mr. Ryan exempts current recipients of Medicare from his changes (thereby nullifying their political interference, he hopes) he converts Medicare for future seniors to a voucher, allowing them to buy insurance from the industry. Whatever the merits of his voucher plan, it will never improve on a single payer system that eliminates the industry altogether. He characterizes his plan as taking the decisions away from 33,000 bureaucrats and giving it to 330,000,000 Americans who will then use the wonders of modern free capitalism, with all its competitive advantages, to buy the best health care at the least amount of money. Oh, if only that was the way today’s health insurance market worked. Alas and alack, it doesn’t work that way. Instead of 33,000 bureaucrats, we have several thousand private sector insurance executives and stockholders making the decisions, mainly so as to enhance their bonus and payout opportunities.
And on taxes, Mr. Ryan punts on the subject of raising taxes to pay for the current debts, largely brought to us by the Republican Party. While he proposes reforming the tax code, to do so without increasing the tax revenue base converts his effort to the level of farce.
So, we now have one proposal from the serious right wing. It is the turn of the serious left wing to bring in their proposal and lay it on the table. We need to bring down the deficits and the National debt. We began that promise under, oh let’s see, it was Mr. Clinton I think. Then we reversed course under the Shrub and have been drowning in debt ever since. So, let’s get serious. We need both expenditure cuts and tax increases. Otherwise we are doomed.
Mr. President . . . Mr. Reid . . . Ms. Pelosi??? Your turn.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Schools Without Schools

More great news from the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system. According to Emperor Pete Gorman, we don’t need, are you ready for this . . . Teachers!!! Yeah, is that great news or what? Pete has introduced a brand spanking new program that allows students to complete their high school years without setting foot in an actual school. Well, not quite. The kids will need to occasionally meet with a counselor. According to Pete:
“This Fall, CMS students who wish to take 100% of their classes online will have the opportunity to do so by enrolling through the newly created e-Learning Academy at Hawthorne High school. Qualifying students will be allowed to work from home with weekly face-to-face check-ins at Hawthorne High School. To qualify students must be currently enrolled in a CMS school, have an unweighted GPA of 2.5 or higher, be on track for graduation and have previously passed at least 1 online class. Students will receive their degree from Hawthorne High School, not Myers Park.”

So, we don’t need any teachers. Think of the savings. No teachers, assistants, principals, or princely assistants. Not sure whether the kids will need actual books, since E-learning is often carried out without any. Now, Pete may have outdone even himself in his zeal to can teachers. See, if we don’t need actual teachers in this hi-tech version of learning, it is by no means clear that we need Pete and his high-salaried minions. See, maybe we can just bypass Pete, buy our on-line learning from some E-learning establishment in Bangalore, India, and then have the ETS in New Jersey conduct the E-Learning EOGs.
Is this a great country, or not?
And on yet another exoplanet, Republicans have announced a new plan to shut down government. It having worked so well for them in 1995, John Boehner and his Cockserfers have decided to try, try again. Better get your visas before Friday people.