Saturday, August 29, 2009

Part Honest Fear, Part snark, Part Just Funny

I have never seen Downfall, but I have from time to time posted pieces of Hitler's rant with satirical subtitles. EB Misfit posted another one of these this week; I left a comment saying I found these very funny, and she recommended I watch the clip with its original subtitles. It was actually more difficult to find than I expected; there are apparently well over a hundred of the spoofs. However, her point is well-taken; the original is not funny. It is terrifying. This man came to control over Germany under conditions that are eerily similar to what we have now: economic disaster, a non-functional political system, paranoia, searches for scapegoats, and a deep fear of the "other".

Could it happen here? I don't know. I'm not enough of a student of history, nor of political science, to hazard a guess. But it is clear that a very large portion of people in this country have utterly forgotten (or more likely, never learned) what fascism is. Forgetting history is the first step toward repeating it. Firedoglake has been running a three-part series on the patterns of nations' slides into fascism, how to resist those patterns and avoid the traps that lead to that state. It's a fair amount of reading, but highly recommended. I learned a lot from these, some of what I learned has been hopeful, some... not so much.

Part I: Fascist America: Are We There Yet?
Part II: The Last Turnoff.
Part III: Resistance for the Long Haul.

As Stewart remarked a while ago, what has this country come to that people could be accusing a gay Jew (Barney Frank) and an African-European halfbreed (Obama) of supporting fascism?

I will also point out that with darker hair and the proper moustache, I think Glenn Beck could pull off a powerfully accurate Hitler.

So with those thoughts, I offer a little comic relief... this is the best (funniest) version I've seen so far: Hitler finds out his subtitles are wrong.

In case you think I take this whole thing too seriously...
adolf hitler
see more Political Pictures

...and you may (or may not) recall that I started off the year begging that we quit calling each other fascists, and doing my darndest to show how silly it was to trivialize the concept.

Just saying.

A Note to Republicans Who Seem Determined to Start a Shooting War

The perfect Illustration for this post, from imgur.


Missing Persons, "Destination Unknown":
One of the first people I got to know at OSU later became a DJ for the college radio station. Missing Persons was one of many groups he introduced me to. Wall of Voodoo was another group introduced to me by one of those first-term dorm friends. "Call of the West" is my all-time favorite from this group, with a firmly tongue-in-cheek mockery of the mythology we've built about the American West. Wall of Voodoo is probably best known for "Mexican Radio," which was on this same album.
Aww, heck, I just checked on "Mexican Radio;" I'm gonna double up on Wall of Voodoo.

Short Takes

I have mentioned this weekly feature in The Oregonian before; I'm quite fond of it. One of the short takes in this week's selections gets it just right:
Descent of TV news:
"And that's the way it is." Walter Cronkite.
"And that's how I see it." 24-hour TV news personalities.
"And that's the way it is because we said so." Fox News
Thomas W. DeJardin, Southeast Portland
From OregonLive.

Requiem For The Right

There is a very interesting e-mail interview at Newsweek with Sam Tanenhaus regarding the future of conservatism in this country.
The editor of The New York Times Book Review and the paper's "Week in Review" section, Sam Tanenhaus is the biographer of Whittaker Chambers and is at work on the life of William F. Buckley Jr. In a new, short book, The Death of Conservatism, he argues that the right needs to find its footing for the good of the country. In an e-mail exchange with Jon Meacham, Tanenhaus reflected on the book's themes.
A self described independent, he comes to much the same conclusion regarding conservatism that I have, namely that the country is best served by both parties having smart and insightful opposition, and that currently conservatives in this country show little evidence of either.
Hannah Arendt identified the ability to listen—to place oneself inside the mind of others—as the essential requirement of democratic statesmanship. The function of conservatives is not to meet every liberal program or scheme with a denunciation or a destructive counterscheme, but rather to weigh its advantages and defects, supporting the first and challenging the second. A declaration of ideological warfare against liberalism is by its nature profoundly unconservative. It meets perceived radicalism with a counterradicalism of its own.
This is an article I wish everyone would read and consider.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Facebook In English (Pirate)

Ok, this may be old news to others, but I just found out I can have my facebook page presented in Pirate dialect. Below is my home page before translation (click to enlarge)......and after translation:Wonderfully silly! (I have wiped others' names and pictures.) If you want to try this out, scroll to the very bottom, and you will see a blue "English" button just left of the middle. Click on it and you will have a wide variety of language choices, one of which is English (Pirate)

My Sort Of Overwhelming View

is that Cheney is an ass, who knows that he's an ass, and who committed and caused others to commit numerous crimes. He'd just really like everyone to look somewhere else.
Cheney, who strongly opposes the Obama administration's new probe into alleged detainee abuse, was asked in the Fox News interview whether he was "OK" with interrogations that went beyond Justice's specific legal authorization.

"I am," the former vice president replied.

"My sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks," he said. "It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well."
From McClatchy.

You Have to Admire His Confidence

but not his intelligence.

Why is it every time I catch a clip of Beck these days, it sounds like he's about to collapse bawling on the floor? Could this be it?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This Looks Like Fun!

CD Bubbles!

Cheney's Pride and Panic

Welcome to the brave new world.
Here's what the "CIA pros" did to prisoners (the non-CIA pros improvised the president's directive to torture and abuse prisoners in very similar ways): stress positions, nudity, hooding, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, long time standing, beatings, hypothermia, and walling. They key thing, according to the CIA, is to enhance "the potential dread a high-value detainee might have of US custody." Notice the shift from the standards of the past. In the past, the US was known for being a country whose soldiers would never mistreat prisoners; now, the US wants the world to know that US custody is something to be dreaded. That's what Cheney did to America. He's proud of it. If you are ever captured by a US soldier, and suspected of terrorism, you know that torture will be coming soon. The values of Washington and Eisenhower and Reagan are inverted. The reputation of the US as a defender of human rights is reversed. The point is that America must be feared for its willingness to abandon all human rights.
I remarked to a friend recently that all of us were sad and scared after 9/11; I know I made a number of not-very-rational comments. I was also certain, within minutes of hearing about the events, that Al Quaida was responsible; Iraq never crossed my mind. The whole piece linked above is worth reading... of particular note are the passages dealing with prisoners being forced to lie in their own excrement.

Which leads to the point I want to tack on here. Within a week or two after 9/11, as the fear and fury receded, and a touch of rationality returned, I supported the invasion of Afghanistan. I still feel it was necessary, I just wish we'd had some sane leadership. Because Bush, and particularly Cheney, never did get over that bone-chilling, stomach-clenching terror. I guess Cheney felt if he was going to spend nearly eight years crapping in his britches, that'd be fine for the prisoners too. He wasn't strong, his policies weren't determined, the results didn't improve American standing and safety. His reaction was that of a panicked four-year-old, running around screaming and hitting, and fouling his underwear.

The outcome was pretty similar too, but on a global scale. The main difference is that a panicky four-year-old gets over it in a few minutes. Cheney never has.

Further Comment

Unnecessary. (From)

Going Solar

Leah Nash for The New York Times

A worker at SolarWorld in Hillsboro, Ore., fills a container with polysilicon, which is then melted to make a solar crystal.
I've seen a number of articles regarding the price drop of solar panels; this is in large part due to Chinese plants that are manufacturing, at lower prices, key materials that go into the panels. An article in the NYT states that the prices have dropped 40% since the middle of last year. I'm dubious about the economic viability of these devices at the current time, but am optimistic that as their efficiency increases and their prices fall, they will eventually be truly competitive with traditional electricity generation.

That last sentence needs a little teasing out. Currently there are government subsidies for installing solar panels. In other words, the government recognizes that while the benefits to society at large of increasing solar power are substantial, the costs to the individual investor are not met or exceeded by the value of the electricity thus generated. In the article, one of the subjects spent $77,000 on fitting his house with solar. In addition to that up-front cost, you also need to account for the foregone income he might have made by saving or investing that money over the time it will take to recoup his expenditure- an estimated 16 years. So when I say the economic viability is dubious, I mean that without government subsidies, I'm not confident that the panels will actually pay for themselves in the value electricity generated.

Nevertheless, their value to weakening our dependence on carbon fuel is powerful. In this case, the subsidies balance out a cost that electricity generators and suppliers have externalized: the cost to our planet of dumping CO2 exhaust into the atmosphere. In other words, traditional sources of electricity ought to be more expensive; the price of power does not take into account all the costs of generating them.

However, the thing in this article that really jumped out at me was at the end: a way of paying for this investment that is new to me, and very sensible in my opinion.
Danita Hardy, a homeowner in Phoenix, had been put off by the prospect of spending $20,000 for solar panels — until she spotted a news item about a company called SunRun that takes on the upfront expense and recovers its costs gradually, in a lease deal, essentially through the savings in a homeowner’s electric bill.
I hope that SunRun is a great success. This sounds like a very smart way of funding the up-front costs for many people who otherwise couldn't pull it off, and weaning those who choose to invest in solar off of government subsidies. I think subsidies, as in this case, are sometimes justified, but they should always have sunset clauses, and a sharp eye kept open for opportunities to end the unbalances that justify them in the first place.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pet Peeves

I haz dis iz wunna dem.

Via epic4chan.

Third Anniversary of the Rover Landings

Counting in Martian years. May the little rovers that could have many more!

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Seems like an appropriate song today. There are some audio glitches in this, but this is a version I haven't heard before; I like the way they weave the tale of comfort and safety into the song.

The Tokens' performance on the Dick Clark Show, the version that first became a hit when Kennedy was a newly-minted Senator, is embedding-disabled, but here's the link.

This metaphor, the lion as the one that was trying to keep us safe, comfortable and healthy, has really got me teared up.

Who In the World Are We?

That is the question that needs to be asked at this point. Are we a country so afraid of actually caring for its citizens that we will allow the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins to block meaningful reform, condemning hundreds of thousands to death, and millions to misery? Are we more afraid of modest tax increases on the wealthiest one percent than we are for the lives of the poorest twenty percent? Do we want to place the profits of the health industries above the risk of bankruptcy to the 80% or more of our population that is at risk in the event of a medical catastrophe?

Scanning over the news these days, I'm afraid the answer to all of the above questions is "Yes."

At this point I see no realistic way to dissipate the fog of lies, innuendos, and rumor. The president is brown, therefore anything he proposes must be a ploy to destroy whites: ipso facto. One benefit to my learning from all the hullabaloo, though, is that it has motivated me to read articles comparing and contrasting how civilized countries manage their health care issues. There's a concise rundown in the Alaska Daily News today:
"For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany. ... For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule.

"And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die."
It's been interesting to learn about the tremendous variety of systems advanced countries use to take care of their citizens, but so terribly sad to realize that the country I live in is no longer advanced or civilized. We have become a post-modern corporate-driven idiocracy. We inhabit the infrastucture-- social and physical-- painfully constructed by the efforts of past visionaries like Ted Kennedy, but we no longer have the will or sense to maintain it, let alone continue their efforts.

So my answer to the question in the title is "We are Terri Schiavo."

Pull the goddamn plug already.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thanks For All You Did

Edward Kennedy has died. More when I've had time to process... I guess I didn't realize how bad his situation was.

OregonLive's short note here.

No Kidding

The Guardian has an excellent and concise piece pondering the insanity-- and the potential consequences-- of right-wing politicians and pundits fanning the flames of hatred toward Obama, non-whites, and liberals.
I could only rub my eyes in disbelief when I saw footage of one protester standing outside an Obama town hall meeting in New Hampshire with a loaded handgun strapped to his leg, holding a placard proclaiming: "It is time to water the tree of liberty," in reference to the Thomas Jefferson quote "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots." In Maryland, one man went even further, holding up a sign saying: "Death to Obama" and "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids".

This militant, rightwing craziness comes on the back of the now-infamous ad published in a Pennsylvania newspaper in May, calling for Obama to be assassinated – and, of course, in the wake of a presidential election campaign in which crowds at Republican rallies shouted "Kill him!", as well as "Treason!" "Terrorist!" and "Off with his head!"

Less than a year on, and under the spurious guise of a "row" over healthcare, we are left, in the words of investigative journalist Chip Berlet, with "a very dangerous situation that can spin off 'lone wolf' individuals who decide now is the time to act against people they see as an enemy."
If, God forbid, Obama were to go the way of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy, as that Pennsylvania newspaper ad demanded, 21st-century America would be engulfed by violence and protests on a scale not seen since the 19th-century civil war. The country would tear itself apart.

Republicans should beware. They are playing with fire.
Truer words have not been spoken.

But If You Were On The Stack, It Would be Fog

A very cool picture on EPOD today, taken in Olympic National Park, Washington. That is a lenticular cloud forming as a breeze of very-nearly saturated air rises over a sea stack, cools a tiny amount, leading to condensation and cloud formation. As the air descends again, it warms, and the cloud droplets evaporate. So this would look like a standing wave in a stream; the cloud would appear to be constantly moving, but not going anywhere. Click the pic for bigger, and over to the site for more info.

Actually I just went back to the site and re-read the blurb... it's quite dissimilar to breath condensation. In that case, very warm, moist air is being introduced to a cooler, drier environment. The "fog" dissipates when it mixes enough with the drier air to bring the overall moisture content below the dewpoint. The formation and evaporation of the mist has nothing to do with adiabatic processes.

Followup: I took a smaller version and ran it through autolevels in Paint.Net: the result is nice...

As Seen On TV

And at the Bristol Zoo:(Click for glorious full size) Via BuzzFeed

A Thoughtful Remark

Chris Wallace is apparently ready to start contemplating end of life issues.
WALLACE: I guess one of the questions I have about it is why would those even be in a document about end of life? Usually people don't even contemplate end of life until they're in an irreversible coma.
Too bad Terri Schiavo is no longer around to give him advice. (Hat tip to Sadly No!)

Guess Who Opposes the Holder/Durham Investigation?

I was actually thinking about posting on this very individual last night, with the question, "How long before we hear the heavy mechanized breathing of Darth Cheney telling us this is politically motivated and a persecution of the heroes who kept us safe?"

Looks like I missed my window of opportunity.
"The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions," he said in a statement dated Monday.
I suppose he's nothing if not predictable.

Followup: Nice takedown at FDL.

Wow! Can I Touch 'em? No!

I remember being quite fascinated with live lobsters when I was a youngster at my grandmother's house. Of course I had a fascination with all things crustacean, and had caught crawdads since my earliest memories. But this kid seems more amazed than is humanly possible. WOW!

Pink Panther

My favorite cartoon character ever after Bugs Bunny.

According to Wikipedia,
The first entry in the series, 1964's The Pink Phink, featured the Panther harassing his foil, a little white moustached man who is actually a caricature of Friz Freleng (this character is officially known as "The Man," by constantly trying to paint the little man's blue house pink. The Pink Phink won the 1964 Academy Award for Animated Short Film, and subsequent shorts in the series, usually featuring the Pink Panther opposite the little man, were successful releases.
Also, according to Firedoglake, the blog that posted this video over the weekend,
The first of the Pink Panther animated shorts distributed by United Artists, it was released on December 18, 1964. Winning the 1965 Academy Award for Best Short marked the first time in history a studio won an Academy Award with its very first animated short film.

Another One of *Those* Days

I don't like waking up five hours early and not being able to fall back asleep.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Chinglish" to be Banned?

This would be a shame...
The authorities in the Chinese city of Shanghai are starting a campaign to try to spot and correct badly phrased English on signs in public places.
Shanghai wants to spruce up its image. It is expecting millions of visitors for the World Expo fair.
...I suspect this will be only temporary. As soon as the Fair is over, they'll go right back to providing fodder for hilarious pictures.

This Seems About Right, But...

From WaPo:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.

Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

Durham's mandate, the sources added, will be relatively narrow: to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees. Many of the harshest CIA interrogation techniques have not been employed against terrorism suspects for four years or more.
But why is that last sentence there? Yeah, I know, "gotta have balance." How would it sit with you to read about a suspect in your town, who was accused of terrible crimes, given an off-the-cuff defense by a journalist, "He has not tortured, killed or raped anyone for four years or more."

It doesn't sit real well with me either. Look, here's my position: I desperately hope these allegations and reports turn out to be baseless. I hope the investigation is well documented and that relevant evidence is released when it can be... not necessarily during the course, but when it can be without interfering with justice. I hope that Holder and Durham have the cajones to pursue further action if it's warranted.

But I'm fearful that all three of those hopes are likely to be dashed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Inspired by M.C. Escher's print "Waterfall," James Dyson created a garden water sculpture to make the illusion real. Click over to see how it works... ingenious! Also, a story at BBC.

In Another World...

How long would it take for a Tyrannosaurus Rex to digest your corpse?