Four stories

A grim day in the news

July 23rd 2011

Scanning the top four stories of the day, I found that one left me utterly mystified, another was so inevitable that it hardly even seemed to qualify as news, and one that manged to seem inevitable and utterly unexpected all at the same time. The last one sort of provides a framework for the social milieu in which the first three reside.

I keep trying, and failing, to make sense of the shooting in Norway. There have been so many mass shootings here in America, if not on that scale, that it scarcely seems worth asking “why?” The main question to me is “how?” How did one, or possibly two men build a bomb on that scale, and how did they get it next to the Prime Minister’s office building. How was one man able to get a police uniform, and what was he carrying that enabled him to kill 60 teenagers who crowded around him trustingly in just the first few minutes of his rampage? How did he manage that?

American right wing response was predictable, if in the usual demented fashion. As the story broke, of just the bombing, a loud howl arose about how important it was to do something about the Moslems, and that the bombing was doubtlessly Islamic revenge for those cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. Fox harpy Laura Ingraham tried to link it in some way to Park 51, the “ground-zero mosque.”

Continue reading “Four stories”

The heat is on

By August 2nd we’ll all be sweating

July 15th 2011

I have kin in a small town in Oklahoma, unlikely as that sounds, which is why I know something about the weather in that small town. The forecast for tomorrow is humid and 107. That actually represents a cooling trend; it was 108 today. But they should be used to it—this is the 43rd straight day they’ve had triple digit highs. And I thought Fresno was bad.

There’s no end in sight: the next 10 days all forecast 107 or 108. However, Oklahoma, parched, barren, dessicated Oklahoma, is getting ready to share the wealth.

At NOAA, meteorologists are frantically warning the upper midwest to expect the heat wave to expand over their region, sending heat indices to over 110 over much of Minnesota.

And then it will expand east, reaching Washington just in time for deadlines on the credit limit crisis to begin falling.

Only in America could the weather become politicized. The heat wave and drought in Oklahoma and Texas is the worst those states have ever recorded, far worse than the one that caused the dust bowl of the 1930s. Conservatives are furious when you mention that. Even the weather sites are susceptible: a stat today showed that 72% of Texas is now in extreme drought, and some sites couldn’t resist noting that only 10% of the state was in extreme drought when Governor Goodhair had his day of prayer for rain.

Continue reading “The heat is on”

US, Murdoch near limits

Tie me Kangarupe down, sport

July 10th 2011

  I can’t help but think that over the next month, things will be coming to a crux.  It’s not a sentiment I express often, especially since a friend of mine, one given to apocalyptic conspiracy theories, used words such as “crux”, “crisis” and “crucial” a lot, and I would tease him about the crucifixion imagery that suffused his writing.  It didn’t alter his writing style, but it made me more conscious when I use it.
Nevertheless, we seem to be heading for a convergence of paths that will prove to be a decisive time that will determine our lives for much of our future.  Yes, this is a crucial moment.

Continue reading “US, Murdoch near limits”

The Anthony Trial

Not guilty? So what?

July 5th 2011

 I’ve been watching the public response to the Casey Anthony trial with a certain amount of befuddlement and apprehension.

Understand, I haven’t followed the trial at all. I was only dimly aware of the proceedings, and that it was one of those annoying background whinges that passes for news on the cable networks. Just the fact that the reptilian Nancy Gracie was front and center on the coverage would be enough to assure that I would have no interest in the proceedings. Except I didn’t even know that until yesterday. I barely knew about the trial, and I didn’t care.

So I have no opinion, informed or otherwise, as to whether the jury reached a just verdict or not. Given that it was a murder trial—one of thousands the US has every year—in a state 3,000 miles away, the trial was of no particular importance to me. Yes, even if she was guilty. Not important.

Continue reading “The Anthony Trial”

A Place at the Table

When Horatio Alger fables turn toxic

June 26th 2011

 America’s income disparity is at a record high. Not only is it the worst it has been in American history, it’s the worst it has been in Western history, going back to the French Revolution. The prerevolutionary Russia of the Czars had not seen a constriction of wealth this bad. Nor had the English of Charles Dickens’ time. The aristocracy that the Founding Fathers inveighed against and warned must never be allowed in democratic America did not have as disproportionate share of the wealth as America has today.

It has made a travesty of the American dream, bringing poverty to tens of millions in “the world’s richest country.” At a time when corporate profits are at all-time highs and banks steal billions with seeming impunity, one in six Americans is on food stamps.

Continue reading “A Place at the Table”

The Wizards of Oz

Down under, they know how to work people!

June 11th 2011

 As American labor drifts slowly into outright servitude, Australia is trying something different, and it seems to be working.

Australia passed the Fair Work Act of 2009, which took effect in the form of the National Employment Standards on January 1, 2010. The act covers roughly 2/3rds of Australia’s workers (about 27% of the workforce are deemed “casual workers” defined by a tautology; they are called casual workers because they are paid as casual workers). Some of the provisions are, by American standards, utterly amazing.

The minimum wage is $569.90 per week. (In Australian dollars, which are presently a bit over $1.05 in US dollars, so that wage is $600.56). A work week is defined as being 38 hours, and for part timers, the minimum wage is $15 an hour. It’s higher for temps.

Continue reading “The Wizards of Oz”

Newt’s Palin Next to Cain

Who says train wrecks can’t be fun?

June 10th 2011

Watching the GOP presidential campaign is a bit like watching a train wreck, only to discover the train is filled with circus clowns. You hear thundering crashes, and see hundreds of yards of wreckage, and you take this in with mounting concern and apprehension. Then all these clowns come tumbling out, all red noses and floppy pants and tiny umbrellas, like psychedelic ants, and you can’t help but laugh.

If I hadn’t already compared it to a train wreck, I might compare it to a skeet shoot. Every week, there’s a new front runner, and this name is breathlessly announced to the Teabaggers who are anxiously awaiting the great white hope, and this is the equivalent of shouting “pull!” at the skeet range. The front runner soars, and then explodes into shards.

OK, so I used the skeet analogy anyway. There’s probably several dozen good analogies that could be used. You’re smart: I’m sure you can come up with a good one of your own.

Continue reading “Newt’s Palin Next to Cain”

A Budget for the Rest of Us

The other budget that the House won’t consider 

June 5th 2011

The GOP made about the worst mistake a doctrinaire political party can possibly make. They started believing their own propaganda.

They somehow managed to convince themselves that people were so distressed over government spending and the deficits that they would happily throw retirees under the bus and put Medicare on a for-profit voucher system, effectively destroying it. All the billions of dollars and thousands of manhours the right wing noise machine spent only succeeded in convincing the wrong set of people that Medicare had to be cut.

The Teabaggers said they wanted it, but the Teabaggers are for the most part dupes of the Koch brothers, who haven’t noticed that behind the populist rhetoric lies a Wall Street agenda. And the vast majority of Americans are not Teabaggers. They like Medicare, and would be pissed off if they figured out that most of the debt comes, not from government spending, but slashing government revenues in order to give the wealthy and unneeded and even unwanted tax break, whilst getting into pointless and expensive wars in central Asia.

Continue reading “A Budget for the Rest of Us”

Weather or Not

With global warming, the weather is just the same, only more so

May 31st 2011

   I was pleased when I found a plug-in for my blog that gave the average levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.  I regard climate change to be the greatest threat humanity faces over the next century, and the levels attained, according to the display, were terrifying.  393.18 parts per million.
There was just one problem: it was wrong.  It was out of date, and badly so.
The  US government’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, came out with a report this week that CO2 peaked last week at 394.97ppm. That set a new record for greatest concentrations of CO2.
To give the numbers some perspective, the ice core samples show that for most of the last millennium, CO2 levels stayed within a couple of points of 282ppm.  That was high by Holocene standards.  Over the previous 450,000 years, it usually ranged between 290ppm and 190ppm, in a cycle running between 100,000 and 125,000 years.  Big, dramatic falls were known to occur over the period of 10,000 years, usually triggering an ice age.  Over the past 450,000 years, the highest level recorded prior to the past hundred years was 314ppm, some 4,700 years ago. That may have played a significant role in humanity migrating out beyond the tropics.   Continue reading “Weather or Not”


Where even fools fear to tread

May 29th 2011

I came across a hilarious table today that Think Progress, the liberal web site, gleefully posted on their Yfrog page. ( ) The table was a listing of projections of when Medicare would go insolvent, on an annual basis dating back to 1970, when the Hospital Insurance Trustees solemnly affirmed that Medicare was going to go bust in 1972.

The Hospital Insurance Trustees released this annual report, and in all but three of the subsequent years, declared that Medicare was on the ropes, and would go belly up in the sweet bye-and-bye. The length of time varied enormously. Two years was the lowest, but by 1975 they, with seeming reluctance, concluded that the Trust might last into the late 1990s. The previous two years must have shown sharp improvement, because those were two of the three years they didn’t make any forecast at all.

Continue reading “Brinkmanship”