Thursday, April 30, 2009

Air Force Take Two

After Air Force One’s buzzing of NYC, which many people noted could have achieved the required “cool picture” for less money and fewer 9/11 flashbacks through the use of PhotoShop, the NY Daily News decided to hold a photoshop contest. Here are some of the entries.


Plane-et Of The Apes

Campaign Photo-Op

Where No President Has Gone...

Last Flight Out

New York by North by Northwest


Take a look!

Sound of Music


Times Square

Kong Force One

What’s good for the People’s General Motors Collective...

Obama press conference: humbled, surprised, enchanted, and troubled

Silvio Berlusconi’s wife has been emailing news organizations complaining about his attempt to fill the European Parliament with hot young women, which she calls “entertainment for the emperor.” Silvio responded that she was being manipulated by left-wing media and said that the hot chicks will be a nice contrast to the “evil-smelling, badly-dressed people who represent certain parties in Parliament.” However, he seems to have dropped several of the showgirl candidates from the official candidate list, retaining only Barbara Matera.

Speaking of entertainment for the emperor, Obama held a prime time press conference to mark his 100th day in office.

He gave some advice to the American people: “So wash your hands when you shake hands. Cover your mouth when you cough.” He’s still trying to wash the Arlen Specter off his hands.

Asked whether waterboarding is torture and whether the Bush administration had sanctioned torture, he answered the first part in the affirmative and wiggled out of answering the second, going only so far as to call waterboarding a “mistake.” He said that “waterboarding violates our ideals and our values,” but evidently letting the people responsible for waterboarding get off scot-free does not violate our ideals and our values.

He said, “we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.” Tickling. Merciless, relentless tickling.

Also, remember to always wash your hands after torturing.

That sort of pragmatic talk about what should be a moral issue always makes me nervous, since he didn’t exactly rule out using torture in circumstances in which information can’t be gotten in other ways.

He applied that pragmatism as well to a question about abortion. He said that the Freedom of Choice Act “is not highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.” In other words, the real problem, as far as Obama is concerned, is not maintaining women’s ability to exercise their rights but tamping down anger.

He added, “I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don’t want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom and that there’s no other considerations.” There may be other considerations, but women’s freedom, i.e. their constitutional right to abortion, trumps them.

Also, remember to always wash your hands after an abortion.

NYT reporter Jeff Zeleny asked what most surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled Obama in his first hundred days. He was surprised by the shitstorm that fell on him, enchanted by the military, troubled by how slowly Washington moves, and humbled by not having the god-like powers he expected. “And so I can’t just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want”. He should definitely work on that, cuz that would be cool.

Also humbling: “I don’t know how to create an affordable, well-designed plug-in hybrid.” Yes, Obama has really been a great disappointment.

Also humbling, or possibly enchanting: somehow everyone who becomes president, even a black guy from Chicago, winds up saying “doggone it”: “But I know that, if the Japanese can design an affordable, well-designed hybrid, then, doggone it, the American people should be able to do the same.”

As long as they remember to wash their hands afterwards.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We’ve ridden that train together again and again

Arlen Specter appeared this morning alongside Obama and Biden.

Specter, perhaps forgetting that people who vote in Republican primaries sometimes show up for general elections as well, said, “I was unwilling to subject my 29-year record in the United States Senate to the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate”. You know, I can’t say I have much respect for Republicans either, but it’s unseemly for an elected official in a democracy to speak quite so disdainfully about “subjecting” himself to voters. Insulting the party leaders is one thing, dismissing the 3,169,194 registered Republicans is something else.

Anyways, the following homoerotic-sounding things were said during the photo op:

Biden: “We’ve ridden the train for so many years... it’s just a delight to have no separation.”

Specter: “We’ve ridden that train together again and again, and we’ve supported that train.”

Specter: “And I appreciate what you have in the stimulus package, Mr. President.”

Specter: “When I talked to the president yesterday, I said, I haven’t seen you in the elevator lately.”

Obama: “I don’t expect Arlen to be a rubber stamp.”

Obama: “And I’m also grateful that Joe Biden paid him a little attention on the train.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First blows

Scalia, in the 5-4 decision that the FCC was not being arbitrary in fining tv stations for fleeting profanity (a lower court detected arbitrariness because the FCC had changed its policy without warning, subjecting broadcasters to fines for shit they’d gotten away with in the past): “There are some propositions for which scant empirical evidence can be marshaled, and the harmful effect of broadcast profanity on children is one of them.” He then went on about the difficulty of performing this experiment on children, exposing some to a non-stop diet of profanity, but only from tv, to determine its effects. Yes, that would be difficult, although it might explain how Glenn Beck came to be Glenn Beck. Scalia continued, “The FCC did not need empirical evidence proving that fleeting expletives constitute harmful ‘first blows’ to children; it suffices to know that children mimic behavior they observe.” The first blows are always the best, aren’t they?

Mitch McConnell, pathetically explaining the insignificance of Arlen Specter’s switch in party affiliation: “This is not a national story. This is a Pennsylvania story.” Katharine Hepburn was especially good in that one.

Fun fact about The Philadelphia Story: screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, who won an Academy Award for the movie, was later blacklisted.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Andy Zaltzman of The Bugle on the logic of waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times: “if the fear of drowning didn’t crack him – and it clearly didn’t – the sight of his fingers going all wrinkly would have been just too much to bear.”

Friday, April 24, 2009


Obama issues a statement for Armenian Remembrance Day. He says, “My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.” However, throughout his statement he fails, as he did in Turkey, to use the word genocide. In fact, the event is actually called Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, not Armenian Remembrance Day. And while he says that Armenians were “massacred” in “one of the great atrocities of the 20th century,” he uses the passive voice a lot, failing to mention who might have been doing the massacring (much like Bush’s Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day statements). Oh well, we know he’s all about the looking forward.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I want new, young faces

As has been noted here before, Silvio Berlusconi tends to promote women into politics for reasons other than competence and experience. Among his picks to liven up the next elections for the European Parliament are Angela Sozio, best known from Big Brother (Grande Fratello),

Eleonora Gaggioli, a tv actress,

Camilla Ferranti, star of soap opera and nudie calendar alike,

and Barbara Matera, a former Miss Italy contestant and tv announcer.

As with his Minister of for Equal Opportunities, you can find topless pictures of some of these women online (hell, it was hard to find a picture of Angela Sozio where she wasn’t topless, but this is a family blog). Sez Silvio, “I want new, young faces.” That was my excuse for this post. But then, I’m running a blog, not a country.

The master of consistency strikes again

I believe him

Israeli Foreign Minister Unholy Avigdor Lieberman says that the US will only work for Middle East peace if Israel tells it to. “Believe me, America accepts all our decisions.”

Super cows and sergeants who love too much

Headline of the Day: “Nazi-Bred Super Cows Roam Farm in Devon.” Heck cattle, they’re called.

The lawyer for Master Sgt. John Hatley, convicted last week of killing four bound and gagged Iraqi prisoners, says: “He loved his soldiers too much, that was his crime.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes

Today Obama visited the CIA. He gave a little talk, standing in front of the wall commemorating the spooks who died in our many, many secret wars.

WELL, IT’S BETTER THAN EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION: “Well, thank you for the extraordinary welcome.”

And why not an extraordinary welcome? He gave them nothing but praise. They’re doing God’s work, they’re “fundamental to America’s national security,” they’re “the tip of the spear,” but not in a gay way. Basically he went to reassure them that just because he released those memos about their having tortured people doesn’t mean he doesn’t love and appreciate them.

WHICH IS TOO BAD, BECAUSE THAT’S KIND OF WHO YOU HAVE TO PROTECT AGAINST: “I understand that it’s hard when you are asked to protect the American people against people who have no scruples and would willingly and gladly kill innocents.”

UNLIKE THE CIA??? “Al Qaeda is not constrained by a constitution.”

WELL ISN’T THAT SPECIAL? “What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy; even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when it’s expedient to do so.” This as he reassures torturers etc etc.

POTENTIALLY: “So don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks. Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes.” Mistakes? Or, rather, some potential mistakes? Okay, I could see how you could accidentally waterboard somebody thirty or forty times, but I’m pretty sure if you do it 183 times, you’re doing it on purpose.

He continued, “That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States, and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the CIA.” So he’s proud because we’re willing to acknowledge torturing people, so long as there are no consequences for the torturers, and then we “move forward.” That’s how we learn.

The United States obviously has a history in this region that’s not always appreciated from the perspective of some

Barack Obama held a press conference at the end of the Summit of the Americas.

SO THEY SHOULD DENY DIGNITY AND OPPORTUNITY AND A CHANCE TO LIVE OUT THEIR DRIVES TO JUST THE RIGHT NUMBER OF CITIZENS: “And too many citizens are being denied dignity and opportunity and a chance to live out their dreams in Cuba and all across the hemisphere.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales demanded that Obama explicitly oppose assassination attempts and coups (he evidently privately accused Obama, to his face, of being involved in one such attempt). Surprisingly, Obama decided not to take umbrage and just do so: “Now, specifically on the Bolivia issue, I just want to make absolutely clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in the hemisphere. That is not the policy of our government. That is not how the American people expect their government to conduct themselves.” Well, the American people who have no idea whatsoever of our history... oh, right.

SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST SO UNAPPRECIATIVE: “But one of the things that I mentioned in both public remarks as well as private remarks is that the United States obviously has a history in this region that’s not always appreciated from the perspective of some”.

SOMETHING BUSH WOULD NEVER HAVE SAID: “but we recognize that other countries have good ideas, too, and we want to hear them.” Although later he said the US is boycotting the UN racism conference because there are some ideas we don’t want to hear.

WHAT IT’S IMPORTANT FOR US NOT TO THINK: “it’s important for us not to think that completely ignoring Cuba is somehow going to change policy”.

That said, because Obama made some rather minimal changes in the US’s Cuban policy, the ball is evidently in Cuba’s court now.

SOMETHING ELSE BUSH WOULD NEVER HAVE SAID: On Chavez’s gift of a book about the effects of imperialism in Latin America: “it was a nice gesture to give me a book; I’m a reader.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Everyone’s a critic

Hugo Chavez gave Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.” John McCain, just to be a dick, twitters this helpful book review: “Chavez’s book - best cure for insomnia!!”

Might want to check the forecast before going outside

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair describes the torture memos as basically historical documents which must be understood in the context of the benighted era of the early 21st century: “Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing.” He added, because it would clearly be an act of ethnocentrism to judge the people of that by-gone age by our own values, “we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.”

So what Blair is saying is that human rights apply only on sunny, safe days. On those rainy, unsafe days when the government might actually want to torture you, those are the days you don’t have the right not to be tortured. On a sunny, safe day when the government doesn’t want to torture you, you have a right not to be tortured. Enjoy it in good health.

In his telling use of the word “graphic,” Blair harkens back to Bush and Rumsfeld’s reactions to the Abu Ghraib pictures, when they were always clearly so much more concerned by the leak of images of torture than they were with the torture itself.

A fleeting moment

Sarah Palin revealed at an anti-abortion event that when she learned that her fetus had Down syndrome, she thought about having an abortion “for a fleeting moment”.

I’m not surprised.

She’s never had a thought that lasted longer than a fleeting moment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama meets Chavez

At the Summit of the Americas. CAPTION CONTEST!

Wherein your humble blogger unleashes some more faux outrage

Karzai explains how that pesky marital rape provision got into the Shia family law he signed: he didn’t notice it was in there because the bill “has so many articles.” So that’s okay, then.

Obama, in a press conference with Mexican President Calderón: “the relationship between Mexico and the United States cannot just be defined by drugs.”

Bush’s CIA director Michael Hayden and his last attorney general Michael Mukasey have an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal condemning the release of the torture memos.

For a start, it gives future detainees advance warning of what they will experience: “There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome.” Little point, because Al Qaida would just give its members anti-waterboarding vaccines.

“Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption.” Evidently they can’t conceive of the possibility that people might oppose torture for reasons other than political gain. They’ve heard of people having moral principles, they just don’t believe they really exist.

They warn that in future CIA officers will be unwilling to torture: “Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.” I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing in law as a “binding opinion,” even from the Justice Department. Kind of a contradiction in terms, really. Although if legal precedent is what they want, a few trials of CIA torturers and their superiors might establish just that, no winks, nods, or handshakes required.-

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reflection, not retribution

Obama on his position of impunity for torturers: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution”; “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” Because the torturers tortured in, you know, good faith. Good-faith torturing. So that’s okay, then.

Well-paid, adult men in our government spent their days sending memos back and forth to each other about whether and how to exploit a prisoner’s fear of insects.

And making up new words for their acts of violence against prisoners: Walling: to slam a detainee into a wall. “A detainee may be walled one time (one impact with the wall) to make a point, or twenty to thirty times consecutively when the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.” To make a point! More significant response!

NYT: “Mr. Ahmadinejad warned Wednesday that Washington should adopt a respectful tone toward Iran. ‘The Iranian nation might forget the past and start a new era,’ he said, in a reference to Iran’s accusations that the United States has meddled in its affairs in the past.”

Accusations? Is there some question about CIA involvement in the 1953 coup against Iran’s democratic government? It’s not exactly a he said, she said, is it now?

Middle East envoy George Mitchell, in Jerusalem today, said that the US goal is “a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel.” What exactly is the American definition of a “Jewish state”? Will Palestinians be allowed to live in it without converting? Will non-Jews have any rights?

Sigh. Now Clement Freud has died.

Here’s a 6-minute audio clip from a 2006 episode of Just a Minute, on which he performed for more than 40 years, with Freud, Tim Rice, Stephen Fry, and Paul Merton speaking on “How to be irresistible to women”:

Sadly, I was unable to find any of his famous 1960s dog food commercials (with a basset he curiously resembled) on YouTube. The Times quotes some of his columns for the paper. (Update): Like me, the Guardian has been trawling YouTube for his appearances on Just a Minute and elsewhere, and put up a dozen or so here.

Too often, Obama uses the word “too”

As in an editorial he wrote about the upcoming Summit of the Americas.

“Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors.” So how often should the US not pursue and sustain engagement with our neighbors?

“We have been too easily distracted by other priorities”. So how distracted is just distracted enough?

“The U.S.-Cuba relationship is one example of a debate in the Americas that is too often dragged back to the 20th century.” So how often should the debate be dragged back to the 20th century?

“Too many in our hemisphere are forced to live in fear.” So how many in our hemisphere should be forced to live in fear? In round numbers?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It’s Tax Day. Right-wingers are celebrating with tea parties, downing cucumber sandwich after cucumber sandwich to protest taxes. Or something.

This picture, which I’m blatantly stealing from Dependable Renegade,

shows one brave tea-bagger who just wants Obama not to be a tranny. I think we all want Obama not to be a tranny.


AP story: “Dozens of young women braved crowds of bearded men screaming ‘dogs!’ on Wednesday to protest an Afghan law that lets husbands demand sex from their wives. ... Mehri Rezai, 32, urged her countrymen to reject the law. ‘This law treats women as if we were sheep,’ she said.”

Dogs, women, sheep: Afghan men just want to be able to demand sex from them every four days. Is that so wrong?

First do no harm

Yesterday, Obama gave yet another speech on the economy. Not that he had anything new to say, but he did have a nifty Bible story.

DUE TO THE RECESSION, ALL THE WHITE HOUSE POETS HAVE BEEN LAID OFF: “This is going to be prose, and not poetry.”

WELL, WE COULD CUT UP THE KITCHEN TABLE FOR FIRE WOOD: “You see, when this recession began, many families sat around the kitchen table and tried to figure out where they could cut back.”

I THOUGHT IT WAS, FIRST COLLECT THE CO-PAY: “Governments should practice the same principle as doctors: First, do no harm.”

FRUSTRATING OBAMA FOR FUN AND PROFIT: “I promise you, nobody is more frustrated than me with AIG”. Then he explained why he was still giving them lots of money.

OH GOODY, A PARABLE: “Now, there’s a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was soon destroyed when a storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when ‘the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.’ It was founded upon a rock. We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock.” So if I understand this correctly, we’re switching to a rock-based economy.

DEATH RAYS FOR EVERYONE! “And, by the way, one of the changes that I would like to see -- and I’m going to be talking about this in weeks to come -- is once again seeing our best and our brightest commit themselves to making things -- engineers, scientists, innovators.” So if I understand this correctly, we’re switching to a mad-scientist based economy.

“MAKE NO MISTAKE” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “So make no mistake, health care reform is entitlement reform.”

ON THE TELEPROMPTER? “But from where we stand, for the very first time, we’re beginning to see glimmers of hope.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

I like to look in and see how the dishes were magically cleaned

Clarence Thomas told some high school students that “I’m one of those people that still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle. What a device! And I have to admit that because I think that way, I like to load it. I like to look in and see how the dishes were magically cleaned.” Oh, and porn, he likes to look at that too.

CONTEST: What else does Clarence Thomas think is a miracle? Antonin Scalia’s ability to divine the original intent of the Founders? Long Dong Silver? The way images of Jesus appear on burritos and pubic hairs on Coke cans? That he got appointed to the Supreme Court entirely on his own merits, with no consideration of his race whatsoever? Hi-tech lynchings?

May 2009 California Proposition Recommendations

Looking for June 2010 proposition recommendations? Click

UPDATE: results added below in purple.

After months of legislative stalemate over the budget, they dumped these six hastily drafted, over-complicated initiatives in our laps. Go into the voting booth assured that whatever decisions we collectively make will destroy people’s lives. Can we just go back to voting on gay marriage and whether to ban horse meat?

Prop. 1A. I’m conflicted on the whole concept of a rainy day fund. On the one hand, it’s kind of like a progressive tax system for the economy as a whole, taxing good years to make up for shortfalls when the tax base contracts in bad years. But on the other hand, it seriously weakens the link between taxation and representation. It doesn’t seem entirely democratic to be collecting taxes (12.5% of the budget) for purposes that have yet to be determined. Either way, right now the idea is irrelevant: these are the rainy days, and they’re likely to continue for a while, and when the economy recovers we’ll have to spend a few years attending to all the, um, water damage from our current budget cuts. Maybe the rainy day fund idea should be considered in a decade or so.

Next, taxes. 1A would keep the recent sales and income tax increases until 2012 or 2013 instead of having them expire in 2011. It is definitely necessary to raise some taxes to maintain services, but it is especially vital in bad times that taxes fall most heavily on those who can best afford to pay them – no regressive taxes. California already gets too much of its revenue from a sales tax that is too high. And even the income tax increase in 1A is a flat tax, adding .25% to the existing rates in each tax bracket.

There’s also a lot of stuff in 1A about when money can be transferred from one fund to another, all way too complicated for me to figure out how it would be play out in practice. Which is a good reason not to carve it into stone. And the governor is given way too much discretion over spending, letting him cut, without any reference to the Legislature, all sorts of outlays, including cost-of-living increases for the lame and the halt (but not for state employees, because guess who wrote this thing).

What 1A comes down to is an attempt to create a lot of rules restricting what our elected representatives can do in setting budgets, without addressing the real reason the budgetary process is broken: the ridiculous requirement that 2/3 of the Legislature vote for a budget. I’m just not willing to consider any prop affecting budget-making that leaves intact the ability of a small minority to obstruct the workings of the state. No on 1A.
Result: No, 65.9%.

Prop. 1B. To pay back – eventually – money the Legislature recently diverted from education (K-12 + community colleges). Yes.
Result: No, 62.6%.

Prop. 1C. You gotta love the title of this one: “Lottery Modernization Act.” Taking money from the innumerate the modern way, who wouldn’t be in favor of that? Basically, diverting $5 billion in lottery revenue 1) from education into the general fund, and 2) from future years (to be repaid with interest) to the current budget, and making changes to the lottery that would, they hope, bring in lots more revenue in the future (but which would probably fail to bring in enough to repay the $5 billion).

When we first voted to create a lottery, I abstained, figuring that while I had no interest in playing it (and I never have), the people who might want to were adults and could decide for themselves. Then it was implemented, and I saw that with the lottery came advertising, that the state of California was actively enticing credulous people to gamble away their money. To make the Prop 1C Ponzi scheme function, they’d have to work very hard indeed at luring us into throwing away a great deal more than the measly $83 per year that the average Californian evidently currently spends on lottery tickets. I don’t wish to see that happen in my name. No on 1C.
Result: No, 64.6%

Prop. 1D. would steal money from various early-childhood programs to fund various other early-childhood programs in order to make the budget numbers look better. Short of examining the effectiveness of each one of those programs, there is no way to tell what the impact on children would be, but 1D would move spending decisions from local commissions to the state, and something tells me that the state government is less to be trusted these days. No on 1D.
Result: No, 65.8%

Prop. 1E would steal money from various mental health programs to fund various other mental health programs to make the budget numbers look better. It could also imperil some federal matching funds. No on 1E.
Result: No, 66.4%. The highest no vote.

Prop. 1F. No pay increases for elected officials in years when the state is in deficit. Look, the problem with the budget isn’t (just) that legislators are assholes who refuse to do their jobs, it’s that 2/3 requirement, which rewards assholery. The idea behind 1F, that legislators should be prodded into compromise by negative financial incentives is just as unethical and cynical and antithetical to democracy as bribing them would be. Any politician this would work on is not worthy of public office. 1F is populism for infants, and polls say it’s more popular than ice cream and puppy dogs and probably the only one of these that will pass. No on 1F.
Result: Yes, 73.9%. Let it never be said that Californians don't fall for cheap populism. Hey, I've got an idea: let's just elect politicians who don't need salaries that keep up with inflation, rich people, like, I don't know, maybe movie stars. I'm sure nothing could go wrong with that.

A warning: there are no good choices here. A-E all involve some form of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Someone gets screwed no matter how you vote, and if the majority of Californians follow my recommendations, terrible things will happen, though a different set of terrible things than if they vote the other way. For example, hocking future lottery revenues, taking from future years in order to plug holes in the 2008-9 budget, is short-sightedness of the first order, but if 1C fails, there will be a $5 billion gap that will require some combination of taxes and spending cuts.

And that choice exemplifies how these 6 initiatives have made an already broken budgetary process downright deranged. I mean, we know what we get if 1C passes but not what the Legislature will do if it fails – how can voters make an informed decision? We’re voting on whether there will be a 3rd year of increased sales tax, but not on years 1 and 2. And since the 6 initiatives are meant to be a package, interesting but unpredictable things will happen if some of them pass but not others.

Comments, rebuttals, and the wailing of the damned are welcome in the comments sections.

(Update: see also the SF Bay Guardian's well-explained recommendations (no on everything).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Beware, beware

Republican chair Michael Steele has sent out a fundraising email that warns of an insidious plot, “the Obama Democrats’ misuse of power and plans to end free and fair elections.” Evidently they plan to “falsify the U.S. Census and manipulate elections in their favor” and “create permanent liberal control of the federal government.”

How will they do that? “President Obama’s old friends from ACORN, the leftist, urban ‘community’ organization with a long history of promoting vote fraud, has been chosen by the Administration as a ‘partner’ with the Census Bureau to determine population counts in cities around the country. ... If the Democrats and their friends at ACORN have their way, the Census will only ‘estimate’ state populations and therefore be subject to political calculations. And surely their estimate will be far higher than the actual number of people, and voters, present.”

“Our democracy, and the principle of ‘One Person, One Vote’ are in jeopardy.”

So, you know, keep an eye out for that.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In front of the children?

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that while Bush’s AIDS initiative in Africa (PEPFAR) reduced the numbers of people dying from AIDS by 10% 2003-07 (compared to non-PEPFAR African countries), averting 1.2 million deaths, at a cost of $2,450 each. Hurrah. The bad news, however, is that it did nothing at all to decrease the number of people who became infected with HIV. So can we stop wasting 1/3 of the PEPFAR funds on worthless abstinence-only programs already?

So this year the White House is inviting gay families and their children to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Must... resist... double... entendre.........

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Obama made one of those “surprise” trips to Iraq, where he gave a speech to some of the American troops occupying that country in which he complained that the Iraqis “need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.” For some reason, they responded “Oo-ah” instead of “So we can go home now?”

Monday, April 06, 2009

Obama declares lack of war

In 1944 Eisenhower’s chief of staff told de Gaulle that French troops could lead the liberation of Paris only if they used only white troops and not colonial ones.

Barack Obama was in Turkey today, giving that “major speech in a Muslim capital” he’d promised. He told the Turkish parliament, “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.” Of course not, it’s an “overseas contingency operation.” Police action?

The other word he avoided, even when prodded by reporters at a press conference, is genocide, as in that little local unpleasantness in 1915. This is the guy who said last year, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide.” He seemed to think that the factual matter of whether a genocide did or did not take place should be decided by negotiations between Turkey and Armenia, and “I’m not interested in the United States in any way tilting these negotiations one way or another while they are having useful discussions.” Heaven forfend that the US in any way tilt for or against genocide deniers.

Including Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who was standing right there, responded with some tilting of his own, equating the massive state-sponsored genocide against ethnic Armenians with the much smaller number of Muslim Turks: “And unfortunately, some citizens of the empire then were provoked by some other countries and there were many internal clashes and many people lost their lives. And we share the sorrow of all those who lost their lives, but we have to remember that the Muslim population also suffered greatly at the same time. ... But unfortunately, these issues politically, especially by the diaspora, have been brought to the agenda as a way to perhaps cling to their identity.” Don’t you hate it when people keep bringing up past genocides as a way to perhaps cling to their identity?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tops in taps

Truer words were never spoken: “Peanuts are really a bipartisan issue.”

Karzai claims to be reconsidering the new marriage law (which my previous posts should have made clear apply only to Shiites, who are a smallish minority in Afghanistan). Today Obama finally spoke out about it (in response to a question at a press conference), calling it “abhorrent.” I could have done without him adding a cultural sensitivity caveat (“And we think that it is very important for us to be sensitive to local culture, but we also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.”), since I can’t think of any instance in which being “sensitive to local culture” about the position of women in society is not likely to be at the expense of equality (and you’ll notice he talked about respect for women, a rather elastic term – the Shiite fundies would claim to have nothing but respect for their chattel women – and freedom and integrity, but did not mention equality.)

It’s interesting that Western news stories have focused almost exclusively on the marital rape aspect, with many reports leaving out the requirement for wives to get their husbands’ permission to set foot outside the family home, and even fewer mentioning the legalization of marriage of girls after they menstruate for the first time.

From the Strasbourg NATO summit, the tap-dance stylings of Sarko and the O Man:

Some world leaders, sadly, simply cannot tap.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Obama and Sarkozy and Berlusconi

Now Iowa has gay marriage, and California does not. Something is seriously askew in the universe.

Pictures from the G-20 and NATO summits. You can caption them, or compare and contrast Obama and Sarkozy’s ears, whatever. I’ve got a headache.