Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fish in a barrel

Getting such a late start, there's little I can add to what's already been said on better blogs concerning King George II's SOTU address.

Go read Kos, TPM, or Thinkprogress if you want the lie-by-lie, crap-by-crap, meaningless point of blather by meaningless point of blather breakdown.

Let me just say -- BOO!!!

Wake me when this embarrassment is gone.

Monday, January 30, 2006

What's mine is mine

Glad to see the 70 trapped miners in a Saskatchewan mine have all been safely extracted. It's inevitable - and happens in every report I've seen on the event - to have this incident compared to the tragic event at the WV Sago mine.

Obviously - I don't know nearly enough about mining techniques (specifically, the differences in mining for coal vs. potash), and only slightly more about mining safety regulations in the US vs. those in Canada, but I couldn't help marvel at the idea of "safe rooms" and how relatively easy it seemed to have been for the 70 Canadian miners to reach safe areas where they would be secure until rescued. Certainly understanding that the use of safe rooms may simply be more appropriate in huge potash mine as opposed to the smaller Sago mine, the question is whether this use of "safe rooms" is a requirement under Canadian mine safety regulations, under US regulations - and if there's some sort of size threshhold or other means that require their use. From what I can tell - the Sago mine looks it was a long, thin, 2 miles versus the 18X12 mile Saskatchewan mine.

Forget the cost, I'd just want to know if it was physically feasible in a mine like the Sago mine. If so - and I grant that's one HUGE if - why wasn't there one at the Sago mine? If the answer then does have to turn to cost, my next question is whether "cost prohibitive" means the profit margin shrinks a point or 2 -- or makes the whole operation unprofitable.

There are probably plenty of answers to be found at the MSHA's special site set up for the Sago tragedy...

But I'd like to wax on the larger philosophical point.

We don't like to talk about it, but the idea of safety costs vs. the bottom line is analysis that virtually any industry undertakes. Outside of public safety employees (police, fire, rescue teams, etc) -- most of the private industries that have high rates of casualties - not just death, but injury or otherwise - could certainly be made 100% safe. Setting aside costs - it's entirely possible to get ore out of the ground without putting anyone's safety at risk. However - certainly, the costs would be so prohibitively high as to prevent any ore mining... so the cost of increased safety gets balanced against the bottom line on a balance sheet.

It's not "an outrage" in and of itself - ever since the days when our loinclothed forefathers went after larger animals with stones, spears, and arrows, there's been some degree of danger in many of the industries nominally necessary to maintain our civilization. We make this tradeoff somewhat 'automatically'.

Nor am I laying the fault at the feet of the capitalists - as much as our free market treats labor and lives like any other resource or commodity, state-controlled economic systems can and have done far worse. With no avenue for change - union organizing or a court system to seek recompense, miners (or loggers... or commercial fishing vessels... or you name the industry) would be even less safe.

I accept that risk is inevitable. I accept that in the end, we make a decision on how much safety we can afford. I even accept that a free market certainly enjoys more mechanisms to improve this safety than any other.

What bothers me is that we allow this conversation to take place in board rooms and stockholder meetings, and increasingly -- the two single largest mechanisms for making that analysis public and giving the common worker a chance to weigh in, organized labor and the court system, are increasingly under attack.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Perfect

Jacob Weisberg absolutely nails it nothing to add but go read it.

NOW!

Archduke Scalito ascended

Kos is right, it's over. Frankly, I think it was a pretty good showing just to keep the final nail away from the coffin Dubya has built for civil liberties as long as they did.

As I commented there, I understand the issues, I understand what's at stake, I understand what Justice Alito means. Hell, there's a damn good chance that I'll living under a Thomas-Scalia-Alito triangle of judicial whackery until I retire... and by then, I may have to deal with one of the fucking twins deciding she too has matured, just like her daddy.

It's a hollow thing to sit (smugly?) back as America faces a future where a president - any president - can stretch a terrorist attack, with the proper congress and legislation (or hell, skip the legislation), into Nixon's wet dream... or worse.

Today it's your phone call or e-mail, but what if tomorrow it's your gun?

Democracy wasn't built around rash actions undertaken when emotions run high. Sometimes that's an enormously frustrating thing - it's why it took 71 years and the Civil War to start treatment on the cancer of slavery, then some odd hundreds years reduce it to a sometimes still lingering scar. It's the tradeoff we make - the right to change our national policies in exchange for the time and effort it takes to do so.

The problem with the Thomlitilia is that despite their supposed reverence for a strict interpretation of the constitution, they'll defer to a president when he decides he can handle doing the job of another of our three branch besides his own. The scariest - and probably (hopefully?) least likely - result of this trio, together with whomever from Kennedy, Roberts, or Souter they can bring along, will defer to only certain presidents.

The first option is enough for me to believe a third mistake is being added to SCOTUS.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sad grasp at a claim to being hip

Check out Nice Peter, a Chicago band that I described to friends as the result of They Might Be Giants and Weezer having offspring that was then abducted from the hospital by Tenacious D, abandoned, then ultimately adopted by Frank Zappa.

In particular, I highly recommend visiting their page of MP3s and giving "The Bush Song" a listen.

Repealing Godwins Law

Sadly, the Wikipedia lists no methods for repealing... or maybe more accurately, none of the formula to be used to disprove Godwins Law. I say sadly because like the bloated traditional media that graced post one here, it's fast outliving its usefullness, gets terribly misused, and has become the purview of country club commentators still wicked impressed over replacing LOL with RDF.

I'm not attacking the basic premise that comparing whomever to Hitler isn't pretty strong evidence that you're out of real ammo in any given argument - but the whole embargo on using historical comparisons, even from the most villified and evil regimes, in discussions on current events really needs to end.

Bush is Hitler?

No, he's not.

But just like Franklin Roosevelt's plan to pack the Supreme Court was utterly defeated -- by a democratic congress that had just upped its majority, not to mention attacked by his own Vice-President, no less -- the alarming power grabs that are becoming everday exposes with this administration need to be confronted. Since the President's partisans in congress aren't especially interested in checking his abuses, and the senate recently became obligated to allow Bush's every whim free passes onto the bench (unless, of course, the radical right finds those whims more fanciful than fanatical) -- perhaps words like 'Nazi', 'fascist', and yes -- 'Hitler' might become necessary to wake you from your stupor. I mean, come on people, even would-be Supremos like Michael Luttig are aghast that the bastards keep getting away with making it up as they go along.

While my imaginary readers take the above paragraph out of context -

Let me strongly assert that I do not think Bush any more a fascist than I do FDR - the fury over the NSA bullshit isn't about undoing some terrible wrong turn into fascism, it's about screaming at the seemingly oblivious driver that the signs say "bridge out" - so hit the damn brakes, jackass!

It's irrelevant whether he's a madman hell bent on killing us both, or a frustrated driver that missed the sign -- you sure as hell don't sit quiety while you careen into the river.

The evils of any totalitarian regime are virtually never spotted, or at least - challenged, before it's too late. Moreover, sometimes even the groundwork for that evil isn't laid by the regime that ultimately brings it to life. We rely on our laws, our constitution, our balance of powers - once upon a time, even a working '4th estate' - to guard us against such rises. FDR was looking to circumvent a branch of government by cronying it up. He needed this to bypass previous losses of the NRA and the AAA to SCOTUS decisions-- the first of which included novel ideas like minimum wages and work hour limitations, the second of which isn't a whole lot different from today's farm subsidies.

His opponents hurled charges of fascim, of Roosevelt as a dictator. Even years later, it's not too hard to find credible historians, politicians, and commentators that would call Roosevelt's New Deal -- and not just the stricken bills -- remarkably similar to fascist economic systems... and guess what - there were different degrees of state economic control to both.

I feel quite secure in believing that Franklin Roosevelt was no fascist, no dictator -- but thanks to the patriots that rejected the plan, we never had to find out for sure.

That's the power of checks and balances -- that regardless of party, no branch cedes its authority no matter what the situation, and I'd think the tumult of the 1930s economic and geopolitical realities were every bit the frightening situation to those that experienced it as the GWOT is today.

Even at the time - without the hindsight of watching the results of the Nurmberg Laws, the Night of the Long Knives, the Enabling Act play out in Germany - America and its elected representatives smelled something fishy and ulitmately rejected it.

Bush isn't Hitler - but the lack of physical jackboots no more entitles him to the governing vestments of totalitarianism than even the best of intentions did FDR.

Hell, at least Roosevelt had the courtesy to work within the system to launch a grab for expanded presidential power in the form of a bill debated in congress and among the American people.

It's a relatively open-and-shut case that the NSA spying violated provisions of FISA - and I've yet to see a credible legal scholar that buys the argument that the AUMF allowed the president to flout the law. He's using it as a flimsy get out of jail free card.

What we have is clearly a grab for increased presidential powers... just like Roosevelt... and yes, just like Hitler.

That doesn't make Bush = Hitler -- but as Americans, we have the luxury of never having to take that chance with him ---- or any of his successors.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The hack that launched a thousands blogs

Somewhere between following the latest absurdities in Chrissy's ongoing struggle for continued beltway relevance and the Loofah Billy's latest brave stand against the lefty internet's jihadists I starting thinking it might be time to jump back into this blogging thing....

Well, truth be told, I was looking for a piece of the pie, like Jane at Firedoglake, because damn it, I can criticize the incompetent and irrelevant among us as well as anyone.

But that's besides the point - because I do actually have a thought to share on this.

It's hard for me to get outraged about any of them... not because I think Bill O'Reilly is some great thinker (I certainly do not) or that Chris Matthews has lapsed to hack territory (he has) and its our duty to save him (it isn't), but because I really don't care about either of them.

In their own way, they're all cheap sideshows (as are you, John Gibson, you Rush Limbaugh, and so many others that this could turn into a DNS attack on MediaMatters, if anyone were to... you know... read this lonely first post). They're fast becoming the equivalent of an unfunny amateur that takes on open mic night before a room full of professionals, an anachronism in a world that no longer has a choice but to trust every word that passes from their lips. Yep, fact-checkin's a bitch, eh fellas? Wail and moan about the internets destroying their entitlement to complete and steadfast belief at face value, but really folks -- it only makes the decline that much more entertaining for those of us that gave up on you long ago.

Don't get me wrong - I understand millions rely on audio and video brownmics to form a good portion of their world view, and that fact alone makes it worth the energy of letters, calls, blogposts and such to drain energy from their nefarious attacks and put them on defense for a change.

I wouldn't have said it a year ago, but yeah, I think I get the majority of my news on the net nowadays. Of course, that does include stops at the front pages of many major newspapers, but I honestly can't remember the last time I get my "news" or even my analysis or opinion from television. I've even taken CNN and MSNBC off my favorites list on the cable remote (Take THAT, you scourges of discourse!). It wasn't some one event or show that weened me from the cable news teet - it just became a tiresome exercise in having my intelligence insulted, the questions I wanted asked ignored, the BS answers spewed without arguement, talking points recited like the pledge of allegiance... all of it.

When's the last time any extended watching of CNN or MSNBC (and we won't even GO there) did anything but piss you off? It's rarely informative. It rarely grasps the issues with any depth or completeness. Even the entertaining moments are hollow pap - sure, it was funny watching Zell Miller do his best Yosemite Sam impersonation, but uhhh... Chris? Even I didn't think Zell Miller really believed John Kerry wanted to fight the war on terra with spitballs. How about a better question - Senator Miller, why didn't you just bolt for the Republican party with the rest of the racist dixiecrats 30 years ago?

I'm certainly not "anti-TV", either... hell, I'm trying to wrap this up before the Daily Show and Colbert Report - but just like I find that I don't have nearly the sweet tooth for candy I once did, I just don't have the time or taste for such worthless filler. OK - maybe it's more lack of taste than lack of time, but the point remains ;-)

So yeah... Chris, you should apologize. But you have to stop sucking before I'll watch you again.