Thursday, July 31, 2008

Headline of the week

Via the NY Times (who must have had a chuckle writing this one):

Bush Orders Intelligence Overhaul

Yea, 7.5 years into this national horror and now he thinks he needs some brains. He's a zombie, I tell ya.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Reminds me of that old Burroughs statement that drugs are as American as mom and apple pie.

Let’s re-examine the house of cards that is the global financial system. Emerging markets seek export-led growth: they undervalue their currencies, so their exports are more competitive purely in terms of price. That’s essentially a subsidy to consumers on the other side of the table – those in the developed world. As emerging markets accumulate surpluses, they recycle them: they lend them back to the US and UK in the form of government and mortgage debt, stabilizing their economies, and amplifying the existing consumption subsidy through leverage.

Amplifying that artificial cheapness is the simple fact the true costs of production haven't been factored in - until now: very real costs like pollution, community fragmentation, and abusive labour standards.

So we’ve been able to consume mercilessly and remorselessly – with no regard for the human, social, or environmental consequences, to us or to others.

It’s not just cheap oil we’re addicted to: it’s cheap everything. And the world we’re entering isn’t really of Peak Oil as it is one of Peak Consumption.

More here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Obama in Israel

Two months ago in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush, coming to the end of a two-term presidency and presumably as expert on Israeli-Palestinian policy as he is ever going to be, was accompanied by a team of no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview with this writer and three other Israeli journalists.

In March, on his whirlwind visit to Israel, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs, chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview our diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and I conducted with him, looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.

On Wednesday evening, toward the end of his packed one-day visit here, Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is leading the race for the White House and who lacks long years of foreign policy involvement, spoke to The Jerusalem Post with only a single aide in his King David Hotel room, and that aide's sole contribution to the conversation was to suggest that the candidate and I switch seats so that our photographer would get better lighting for his pictures.

Several of Obama's Middle East advisers - including former Clinton special envoy Dennis Ross and ex-ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer - were hovering in the vicinity. But Obama, who was making only his second visit to Israel, knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel, and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects.

Read more here. The interview is interesting and it demonstrates Obama's stance towards foreign policy in the Middle East. He seems to have a good grasp on the status of Israel in the region and it's concerns. That's an important plus. For 8 years we've had an administration which disdains foreign policy except when it comes to saber rattling and war. In other words, we've had a president that hates the one major area which a president constitutionally has power over. Not that this president gives a rats ass about the constitution, but that's where the power of the presidency really relies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Only terrorists prevent sunburn

Idiots at Yankee Stadium are preventing people from taking sunscreen into games for fear of a terrorist threat. Yep, another reason to hate the Yankees - their stupidity.
Security guards collected garbage bags full of sunblock at the entrances to Yankee Stadium over the sweltering weekend, when temps hit 96 degrees and the UV index reached a skin-scorching 9 out of 10 - a move team officials said was to protect the Stadium from terrorism.
Patriots, mind you, see their skin cancer as a sacrifice worthy of our national glory. Even so, some whiny, soft people who dare to call themselves "American" (probably Canadians who snuck across the border to humiliate us with a false protest) complained and the Yankees have capitulated - sort of. Taking the lead from Fatherland Security:
An hour after being asked about the sunscreen ban, Yankee spokesman Jason Zillo told The Post that the rules would be changed to permit 3-ounce containers.

McQueeg and Iraq

A retrospective. The best stuff begins about a minute and a half into it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dear Conservative Pundits

But with sectarian violence nearly gone, Al Qaeda in Iraq almost totally routed and even Shiite Sadrist militias seemingly neutralized, the stakes of withdrawal seem low enough for Americans to feel comfortable voting for Obama.
Does not make it so. How is a truce the same as being "routed"? Watch what words you choose to eat in some future morning as they might be loaded with sugar.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Retail Tale

Customer: I see that you don't have one of those things in your ear that seem to be everywhere these days.

Me: Nope, I'm not one of the Borg.

Customer chuckles.

Me: Besides, I can't wear one those at work.

Customer: Why not?

Me: I can't use a cell phone at work. It's bad enough that we have customers walk through here on their phones ignoring us. What kind of service would I be offering if I had to say to the phone, 'Excuse me, a customer needs some help?'

Customer: Do you even own a phone?

Me, smirking: Yes. I own 2 - a land line and a cell phone.

Customer: How do you feel about the new law? The one requiring hands free use while driving?

Me: It doesn't bother me. I use the same method of dealing with that as I did before the law went into effect. It's very low tech and it doesn't cost me a dime. I turn off the phone when I'm driving the car.

Customer: That seems to be when most people turn them on.

Me: Hence the desire for the law, but it's not effective. I still see people talking on the phone without the devices. People still think they are multitasking fools when really only the latter part of the phrase applies. When driving a car that should be your one and only task. It's hard to do when kids or friends are in the vehicle with you, but picking up the phone is a choice. We have answering services after all.

Customer: True that. Hey, thanks and have a nice day!

Me: Sir!!

Customer: Yes?

Me: You forgot your phone.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Two news items

I normally post news items to the side bar Google reader widget, but these 2 were deserving of attention. First, a reminder that the Bush administration gave the Taliban $43 million before the September 11th attacks for their efforts in eliminating poppies. It never hurts to keep that bit of information handy when arguing with neo-cons.

Secondly, the former top criminal prosecutor at the DOJ, a man who just got his top secret security credentials renewed last year, is on the government's terror watch list. He's not happy.

Just askin'

Isn't it kind of odd to receive in email a recommendation from Amazon for a book on privacy concerns? Don't get me wrong: I've read books by one of the authors before and they have been on the topic of privacy. I may have even ordered one of the books from Amazon (thereby demonstrating that I don't mind giving up a little privacy in order to get the book). I appreciate Amazon's ability to keep me up on his published works (hence, another reason to give up a little privacy). It's just when the email arrived this morning, the whole thing amused me a great deal.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guess the speaker!

From the Washington Times:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years."

That's Phil Gramm, former Senator and professor from Texas and now chief economic advisor to John McQueeg.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


July 3rd was a very big day at the store. It was the type of day that is normally reserved for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the last day before Xmas. Luckily, I had anticipated an increase in customers and had brought in extra stock to not only assist those customers, but also the ones that would come in on Saturday. All in all, a successful venture.

Most of our business on the day before the 4th came during the last 3 hours of the day. It was around the first of those three hours (about 4 PM) when I found myself waiting on a gentleman that I could not recall serving before. He was in his late 50s/early 60s. His hair was trimmed neat and meticulous. We exchanged pleasantries casually as I went about ringing up his purchase. At that particular moment there wasn't a line behind this customer.

I don't recall exactly how it came up, we were discussing the holiday, Independence Day, but the gentleman asked, "Did you serve?"

No, I didn't, I told him. The question confirmed in my mind what I had assumed - that this customer was military or former military. His demeanor, his presentation, his polite and formal language all said "military" to me, but one cannot be certain. Then he asked the question and it's the sort of question that only military people and their family members ask. I was certain my assumptions were true.

The gentleman paused and stared into my eyes. I stared back as I am wont to do. I was wondering what he was thinking. Was he about to say that he thought maybe I had? Was he thinking, "Why not"? Was I supposed to feel ashamed at having not served in the military? Should I mention to him that I'm a raving peace lunatic? (smirk) I decided not to say a word one way or another, but see where it led. Then his facial features changed a little. The corner of his mouth quivered ever so slightly. His eyes grew soft, weary, needy.

"I served" he said. "In the 70s. My daughter served, too. In 2003, she was shipped off to serve in a place we never should have been. It's a place we had no reason to be in and a place where we still have no reason to be."

"I'm thankful and sorry for your daughter, sir. Is she OK?"

"A little PTSD. Physically, she's fine, but stuff is starting to come out. Some of it has burst forth, but more needs to come." As he spoke, the gentleman's voice sounded calm. His face betrayed nothing of the gravity of feelings he was expressing. It was as if he were telling me about his daughter's soccer game. The only hint of how this was weighing on him was the welling up of a little water in the corner of his right eye. It would not be a tear, though. This was a well trained soldier who knew he had to remain calm and strong for himself and his family. He blinked and the water disappated across his eyeball lending a glint to his grey blue iris.

"January 2009" he said. "I cannot wait until January 2009. When we can get this country back and get the hell out of there. No one else should suffer like she has."

I nodded, feeling a bit impotent, not knowing what to say or how to reply. I felt solidarity with this man. "I agree" is all I could come up with.

He nodded back. A not-so-secret handshake of sorts. A signal amongst fellow conspirators. The gentleman forced a weak smile on his face and patted my shoulder. "Well, I better get going before I go off on that subject. Once I start, I'm hard to stop. Good meeting you and 'Happy 4th'!" With that, he backed out the door of the store, turned and walked to his car. By the time I turned around I had another customer and had to get back to working. The gentleman obviously had a lot more to say, to share, to lessen his burdon. I hope he finds someone to do that with. If he walks in my store and the conditions are right, I'll ask him to share a cup of coffee with me down the block.

Monday, July 07, 2008


"I'm glad now that we walked to this film." So declared the co-signer. She was right and I felt better as well. We had just seen Wall E on Sunday afternoon at the local theater. It's such an odd thing - watching a movie warning about the dangers of sloth and conspicuous consumption in a building designed to promote the virtues of sloth and conspicuous consumption. Then, of course, came the realization that the movie makers would also promote conspicuous consumption and hyper consumerism via the marketing of products tied to the movie. Truly odd, and yes, I was happy to have walked to and from the movie.

That said, I liked the movie a lot. Overlooking it's heteronormality and the typical of Pixar female character as a sidekick to the male hero syndrome, I found it to be entertaining. Not the best of the Pixar fare (that remains Ratatouille in my book), but still a good film.

Another recommendation: The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert. I finished it Sunday morning. The book follows the life and death of the title character. She has a somewhat directionless life and an angry, bitter, sometimes ironic, and very cynical view of it as she battles and falls to a brain cancer. The book is dark, funny, tragic, and at times poignant. This is not great literature in the way that Orhan Pamuk or Salmon Rushdie write, but it is the sign of a possible bright career. I look forward to future novels from Ms. Albert. Give this, like Wall-E, 4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Incompetence Again

As if we needed further proof, from the NY Times today:
The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.