Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hate Week At Its Finest

Having really spared the rod during Florida-Tennessee Hate Week earlier in the season, Orson unleashes the wrath of the Old Testament God on the Dawgs.

If you are a fan of football, and even if you're not, you want to go read that one.

Hate Week from the premier college football/comedy/Florida Gators blog includes an interview with Mark Richt, a breakdown of the post-UGA @ LSU legal issues, and - of course - travel tips for to Jacksonville, Florida - an American cultural experience.

I wonder if he's going to do a Travel Tips Part III: St Simons Island? Maybe SAWB can write that over here since he'll be in my hometown this weekend? My consolation prize for not making the 11 hour drive? Raging up and down Octavia taking pictures of sugar high young New Orleanians, and later on Frenchmen taking pictures of....uhhh....high...on life... New Orlenians. I will be filing a report.

Next year, I make acutal plans to be back in the homeland for this most Holy (War) of weekends...

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Orange

The McCain campaign worker who made up a story about being assaulted because of her McCain bumper-sticker has copped a plea for filing a false police report. But what got me about the story was the photo that went with it. You see what color she is wearing? I remember old football centered jokes about a certain state university in Knoxville's color scheme and how it matched hunting vests, Waffle House uniforms and county prison jumpsuits for inmates.

This is unfortunate, because all the folks I know who are Tennessee fans are fine, upstanding and classy people. I can only imagine the FARK photoshops that will come of this episode to the detriment of that fine institution of learning and their fan base.

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Now we can talk recession and it actually mean something.

The US economy shrank .3% in Q3. The sky isn't falling yet but there is actually some sort of credence to the idea that we might be in a recession now. It really depends on if we bottomed out here or not. It also depends on the accuracy of the Q3 estimates. Over the next two months we'll get better estimates. I doubt the initial figure is down by .3% though. The nearest point of time when we'll know with reasonable certainty that we're in a recession is Jan 09. But for the time being assuming we're in a recession is at least a reasonable assumption (far more reasonable than when we were coming off almost 3% growth). After almost two years of economists telling us a negative growth quarter is unavoidable next quarter, they finally got one right. If they get another one right, they'll be as accurate as a broken clock.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Have Some Spare Failure Lying Around?

Are you short on cash? Do you have some spare failure lying around? Of course you do. Right now, our federal government is paying top dollar for your failure. Don't want to give your failure away? That's ok. They'll loan you cash. You keep your FAIL!

Yeah, loaning car companies, airlines, banks, etc money is old hat for our federal government. But at some point don't you have to stop? If I can't afford something and I can't secure financing for it, should I really expect the government to back my loan? That's what GM want to do with an acquisition of Chrysler. It's not like Iacocca is running the show anymore. I have my doubts that the next K-Car or minivan is waiting in the wings from the likes of Chrysler. Even if they do, they're not the ones trying to get the loan. GM is trying to get the loan. What is the difference between Chrysler going out of business and GM buying Chrysler and then shutting down excess dealers and auto plants?

Chrysler is in trouble and it needs to die. It won't be all doom and gloom. I'm sure Jeep will live on. If Chrysler was willing to buy all of AMC just for Jeep, someone will pick them up now. Chrysler is holding onto some nice technology and some pretty sophisticated plants they could sell off. But if GM wants to buy them out, they should at least be able to front the cash to make that happen. Even without libertarian leanings, I can find no good that can come of the federal government backing loans or taking some interest in the newly merged company. Layoffs will still be severe. Plant and dealership closings will still be severe. Game over, man.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Infrastructure

In a recent post I wrote, I questioned the validity of right-wing charges of 'redistribution' against Barack Obama. The idea that tax relief for the middle class is somehow a socialist or marxist plot by the ebil Democrats is something that sticks in my craw coming from the folks who rode the mantra of tax relief to power while failing to deliver for most working Americans. If tax relief for the middle class is a socialist plan, then WTF was tax relief for the richest Americans?

My biggest complaint about taxes over the years wasn't that that the rich got plenty of breaks (which pisses me off when they get that inch and take a mile), or that some po' folks got 'handouts' (and it pisses me off when they abuse the system, too); it was that, no matter what percentage of what demographic paid the taxes, our return on investment should be far, far better than what it is. Not that we're getting a shitty overall return on those tax dollars spent, we're still doing OK all things considered, but we should be doing much, much better. That we spend so much public wealth on top of all we've already built and accomplished, we should have far less potholes and failing schools all around.

I bring this up based on the following snippet from SAWB's comment on the aforementioned post:

And as far as the jobs question goes, perhaps you're looking in the WRONG PLACE FOR JOBS. You know, with how cities with actual infrastructure in place tend to have actual, really-real employers, with really-real jobby-jobs they need filled, and all. But, far be it from me to let the facts get in the way of your cute little talking point...

Well, let us bring facts into my cute little talking point. I'll ignore for a moment the years of 2002 and 2003 when I looked for jobs in the Atlanta - Athens area and could come up with nothing better than a stint in a retail bookstore and a tour of duty in a fraternity kitchen; we'll ignore for a moment the years of 2005 and 2006 when I was posting resumes all over the state of Georgia for a job when the economy there was hot; let us also ignore the fact that, for the better part of 2008 when I spoke to folks in the Atlanta area that there were many folks I know having trouble finding jobs. Let us instead focus on my job search between July of 2008 and October of 2008 in a city with suspect infrastructure that makes it more difficult to find employment.

Why is the infrastructure in New Orleans suspect? Why doesn't New Orleans generate uncounted jobs every year? Why isn't New Orleans attractive to sustained economic growth? The answer is very, very simple: misuse of public wealth on local, state and national levels.

Let us look at our suspect infrastructure. Levees, roads, power grids, and coastal erosion. Effective levees require more than big piles of dirt, as farmers in the Midwest discover every five or so years. You have to have a system that works, and building that system costs money - public wealth. Public wealth to construct such a system would pay for planning, construction and implementation, creating jobs and giving a return on investment to folks all over the nation who ship their goods or have goods shipped to them anywhere the Mississippi River is factor. Roads make it easier for people and goods to get around, and offer the return of job creation and increased commerce. I can only imagine how much better things would be here if we had competition in power delivery, but here we languish under a monopoly caused by giving so many breaks to business just to keep them around. The same thing happened with the coast, as the state bent over backwards to support an oil industry that was free from ecological regulation and that ended up sending profit revenue streams to distant lands of Houston and Washington, D.C.

Let us look at our suspect business culture. Failing schools, a medical industry in turmoil and emergency services that, despite the heroic efforts of many are made a laughingstock by the few. Without adequate public schools, it will be difficult for a middle class to sustain itself here. Without adequate medical infrastructure, our population will always remain beholden to the ER. Without adequate emergency services, crime and accidents will compound tragedies and drive away those who sustain a middle class.

All of these problems are real and fixable. They can be addressed by spending public wealth correctly and efficiently. They can be addressed by effective resource management. Repairing all of these aspects of society here will drive job growth, commerce, investment and at the same time preserve the unique quality of life here that makes New Orleans so worthwhile. Will it take money? Oh, yes. Plenty of it. But you get a return on that investment all over the country, and especially in the South and Midwest. And to do so will cost less in the long term than it would be to let such problems fester unanswered.

The reason I bring it up is because New Orleans is a microcosm of what is happening all over America. While Everyplace, USA has these same problems to some degree, New Orleans gets to be the poster child of Things Gone Wrong.

A bigger problem is calling the cure 'socialist' or 'marxist' or 'redistribution.' Fix the way the money is spent, and eventually you won't have to spend so much money.

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The Hitch

I've read some pretty strong words from Christopher Hitchens over the years, so it is no real surprise to see him go after someone he disagrees with. In this one, he takes it to Sarah Palin and it has nothing to do with her wardrobe or Saturday Night Live.

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured.
Fighting words, indeed.

In other expected news, The New Orleans Times-Picayune endorses Barack Obama for President.

The world looks on in awe as America,
which believes that humble circumstances, class and race should never trump intelligence and hard work, considers the possible election of an African-American man as president.

We believe that Barack Obama could help restore our reputation as a land of opportunity. But that benefit is dwarfed by a larger potential that we think an Obama presidency could achieve: Seizing the chance for America to lead and, at a time of crisis and transformation, be a global pioneer.



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Friday, October 24, 2008

Miss Louisiana Stripped...

...of her title.

I'm going to start this one off with a little story. Back when I was very young, I had a good friend who lived next to me. We played a lot and our parents were friends. One interesting habit she had was that she pulled weeds up out of the yard and put them in her purse. During that time, we always went to Taco Bell on Sunday because they had a deal called Taco Sunday. I don't remember the details but I do remember we got a lot of tacos for next to nothing. One week, she left her purse at the Taco Bell and was devastated about it. Her mom actually called up the Taco Bell and asked if anyone had found a purse full of grass. The employees got the wrong idea at first. Then they checked and did indeed find a purse full of grass.

The former Miss Louisiana has something in common with my old friend. Not only goes she leave her purse at restaurants but she also has a purse full of grass. Unfortunately for Miss LA, she has the kind of grass in her purse that makes the above story humorous.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Goodbye, Mervyn's...

Stick a fork in them. Mervyn's is dead. No acquistion, no buyout, no nothing. Just dead. I can't say I'm surprised. Back when they had Mervyn's in Georgia, that was always the place I parked at. It was easy to find a good spot at Mervyn's, even at Christmas. The only thing I don't understand is how Mervyn's can fail when their clone Kohl's is thriving. (And I'm not kidding when I say clone. Except for the cash register placement, the floor layouts are identical.) So long, Mervyn's. Have fun in that Service Merchandise in the sky...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Redistribution

There's been a lot of talk on the airwaves and on the TV about an upcoming "redistribution of wealth." When pressed, certain folks will spin some yarn about "punishing successful people." And yes, all this has to do with taxes.

Some things I think about this:

1. All taxation is a redistribution of wealth. It takes wealth out of someone's hands and puts it in someone elses' hands.

2. All taxation reminds me of racketeering.

3. Despite paying a large percentage of my income every year in taxes, I get a pretty good return on my investment, considering. That return isn't where I want it to be, but its a small price to pay (imho) compared to the alternative of having Soviets rolling tanks through my backyard. I could use some better levees, some better schools, some better roads and some better healthcare, but we're not arguing about actually paying taxes - we're talking about how they're spent.

4. If I get a tax break, I will still be paying taxes. I will just be paying less.

5. The additional money in my pocket will probably still end up benefiting someone who's making more than $250,000+ a year. It will just pass through the hands of many more people making under $250,000+ a year on the way up.

5A. The additional money in the pocket of someone who makes $250,000+ a year doesn't make it into my hands near as often on the way down.

6. I know many, many successful people who make under $250,000 a year. As a matter of fact, the only people I've met who make more than $250,000 a year are university presidents, congressmen, governors, high end restaruanteurs, rock stars, and a few others who were even close to that.

7. As a matter of damn fact, I just realized that, unless I win the lottery or hit it big with rock and roll (stop laughing, people), I will never make more than $250,000 a year.

8. If someone makes $250,000 per year, and pays 40% taxes, they net $150,000 a year.

9. If someone makes $48,000 per year, and pays 25% taxes, they net $36,000 a year.

10. I relate to #9 far more emphatically than #8.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

The Election Narrative

Worried that the McCain/Palin ticket will not win on November 4th, the right wing is spinning up the narrative that they will use on Nobember 5th to explain a possible loss. It is a good narrative, for them, as they get to use this to bring back the "super secret liberal takeover" myth that extreme or unfamiliar parts of the American left hold unfair sway over national elections. With it, they also get to continue using the "silent majority" myth: that they only lost elections because of lefty shenanigans, not because the majority of the voting population had chosen someone of another party to support.

I reckon this isn't completely disingenuous from the folks crying "Sore Loserman" in 2000, when one side wanted actual votes verified and all...

They've already put the words in the mouths of the center-left coalition, what folks like me will say on Nobember 5th if Obama loses - that he lost because he was black - despite the fact that it is not yet November 5th, the election has not yet been won or lost by any campaign, and I haven't yet chimed in about why the election was theoretically lost.

I mean, this sort of mythbuilding and narrative creation isn't completely one sided, as Democrats in Georgia explained Roy Barnes' thrashing at the hands of Sonny Perdue as being the undue result of "rebel flag voters;" not the teachers Barnes shat all over with his NCLB-like education initiatives.

But you can always tell which side feels weaker going into an election based on how shrill they sound and how many excuses are being made before the fact. Right now, the idea that an organization like ACORN will turn the entire election and undermine the foundations of democracy is rather laughable. Slate has a fascinating explanation of what is going on. This whole thing is political, and gives Republicans an easy boogeyman (one they've been after for a while). It is the same kind of unhinged narrative that comes out of the far left about right-wing malfeasance during elections. The unfortunate thing is the traction it is getting, and that just goes to show how much more effective the right wing mythmaking machine is than the left.

It is also a shame that the media can't seem to expose possible scandals like this ACORN stuff long before the fact (like, when they first find out about it) and take their cues mainly from the right wing blogosphere on these items. It is also a shame that the media will spend far more time on items like this (that get them ratings) than tracking down really real problems like faulty election machines, inaccurate voting databases, ridiculous micro-precinct voting, gerrymandering along political lines and a host of other problems with our election systems that go ignored.

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Sadly, He's Right...

When the Socialist Dictator of Venezuela looks up from his Communist Manifesto and calls you a pinko, something is very, very wrong. Sadly though, he has a point. What we're doing is very much a socialist tactic. Interestingly enough, it's also a fascist tactic but bringing that up pokes a serious hole in the socialists' arguments that national socialism is somehow the opposite of socialism.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sneak Dat Fool

I've seen a lot of silly decisions where alcohol contributed to a mistake. But I have never seen someone so drunk they tried to hijack a plane. I wonder what this will be called? TWI? Terrorism While Intoxicated? I love that the passengers overpowered this toolbag. I like even more that this individual will be dealt with doubly - by the passengers (because what airline passenger likes the drunk and rowdy in the middle aisle to begin with) - AND whichever government gets the pleasure of prosecuting this dude.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Must Read

I'll just send y'all on over to Cliff's Crib for this one.

(I wonder when Cliff is gonna run for office...)

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This Just In(box)

Obama is a drug using Muslim terrorist sleeper agent who single-handedly brought about the current United States' financial crisis.

At least that's what several new chain emails are telling me.


Have you seen them? Have they graced your inbox too? With the McCain/Palin ticket slipping in the polls, the new batch of mud (or perhaps an old batch freshly making the rounds) has been popping up in my accounts, forwarded from breathless conservative friends trying to 'educate' me about the candidate I support for President. These emails are written in a freindly manner, as if some soccer mom in middle America has done some internet reasearch all on her own (without providing links) and come to discover a vast, Manchurian candidate scenario that also implicates the media in 'ignoring' said vast conspiracy.

Why can't all conservatives be like SAWB (and others) who keep their opposition to strictly policy and philosophical matters? His last email was a linkfest to legislation information, that I'm still doing my research on to challenge. Keeping to those, there is a strong case to be made about who to support in the election. People would be able to defend their choices on informed, intellectual levels.

But what I get in my inbox is so silly, I don't even have to google stuff to know that it is bullshit.

The Enemy Within Email

This email asks four seemingly simple questions, and then spins into a laughable screenplay of guilt-by-association circumstance that Hollywood wouldn't even make into a Vin Diesel thriller. The questions:

1. Where did his campaign money come from?
2. Where did he get the money to attend Harvard Law school and buy his home in Chicago?
3. What about his association with people who do not have the country's best interests in mind?
4. Why is the news media ignoring this?

I'll spare the long winded 'responses' that go on for two pages insinuating that the candidate is getting his money from Iraq, Iran, Syria and his well heeled supporters in the Middle East; that he made these contacts on a trip around the world paid for by Middle Easterners; that they paid for him to go to Harvard; that they paid for his house; and are now paying for the campaign.

It is a tale so fantastic in scope, that I should be laughing. But since Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is now bringing up terrorist claims as well, I think the emails deserve some response. The folks who thought the levees were blown up during Katrina had an easier case to make. But the easiest ways to dispel myths and whisper campaigns is to bring them into the open and expose them. And, the simplest explanation is often the correct one.

1. Obama is getting his campaign money from over 2 million donors. And he had that number in August. Though much has been made of the big money donors, and over half of his campaign cash comes from those who donated over $200 or more, the 2 million number is astounding. You can do the quick math: if everyone gave $10, that's $20M for the campaign; if everyone gave $100, that's $200M for the campaign; and so on. He's actually underperformed, as if everyone gave the max, he would have rasised $9.6 BILLION.

2a. How did Obama pay for Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law school? He was raised by a single mother who had to use food stamps!! The same way everyone who isn't a legacy goes to such schools - a mix of student loans, scholarships and Ivy League recruitment strategies. Hell, I know some folks who ran up huge government tabs for their advanced degrees, including Ph.D's, law schools, and medical schools.

2b. How did Obama afford a $1.65M home in Chicago? Call me crazy, but the cat graduated from Harvard Law school and married an attorney who worked for a firm. In my America, that's called a success story.

3. His association with people who don't have the country's best interests in mind? In life, you're going to have to work with people you disagree with. You're going to have to work with people you don't like. You're going to have contact with people who you have to interact with to acheive your personal goals. You're also going to have friends who do things you find unsavory. You cope, and that's life. This line of reasoning is the same one that linked the Bush family to the Saud family, Al Gore to the Chinese, and John McCain to the Iran-Contra affair and several genocidal dictators from around the world. Some people who have gutted houses and provided medical care to hurricane victims in post-Katrina New Orleans will forever be labeled with the same stigma because they worked with Common Ground or ACORN to do some good in this city. Few people will survive the six-degrees test based on such standards.

4. The media is not ignoring this, which is why I can refute all of these points off the top of my head. We've been dealing with stories like these since the campaign began, and to keep suggesting some sort of conspiracy to keep these things quiet demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how popular culture works in America. Almost every charge is one we have gone over before and almost every charge was either debunked by media or bloggers, or ended up being a non-story due to lack of interest from anywhere other than the fringe. You think the media would keep stories like this quiet, just look at the cover of the now famous cover of the New Yorker. Add to that how cutthroat politics are in Chicago - you think political rivals of Obama there would keep this quiet? Add to that the cutthroat nature of national politics - you think political rivals in the Senate would keep this quiet? And the kicker of kickers for the "media ignoring Obama's shady terrorist past" story: YOU THINK HILLARY CLINTON WOULD HAVE KEPT THIS QUIET?!?!

If you do, then I've got a blowed up levee and a bridge in Alaska to sell you.

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Jefferson Wins Again

Despite the fact that 80% of voters voted for someone else, the fact that Bill Jefferson got 20% of the vote and is now in a runoff with Helena Moreno virtually insures his reelection to Congress. Unbelievable.

Thanks, Gustav, for postponing the Congressional primaries to October 4, when there were no less than 3 street festivals going down in somewhere in Orleans Parish or Gretna on Saturday.

Two things: 1. Memo to the Justice Department - please make sure your case is airtight, and you send him to prison. 2. New Orleanians - let's move our primaries to the Spring.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Debate Slate

On the drive into work yesterday, I heard radio man Michael Baisden had some advice for Sen. Biden in regards to tonight's debate: don't get long winded. The idea is to let Sarah Palin speak as much as she likes, for as long as she likes about whatever she's thinking about behind those Tina Fey sunglasses.

After hearing Limbaugh compare the current economic crisis to Hurricane Katrina (WTF??), what Baisden said made more sense than anything I've heard over the radio all week.

I will be busy during the debate rolling burritos for the hungry population of the Lower Garden District, so I won't be able to see if Sen. Biden takes Baisden's advice. For those of you who do watch, however, Hey, Jenny Slater! has the drinking game rules posted.

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